Sam: Thibodeau a perfect fit for Bulls, Chicago

Sam: Thibodeau a perfect fit for Bulls, Chicago

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Posted: 7:05 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

He could have been talking about a number of things.

The opportunity to coach Derrick Rose and the rest of his selfless team. Being in Chicago in general. Being an NBA head coach. Winning the 2011 NBA Coach of the Year award. But he specifically referenced coaching the Bulls.

If it meant 20 years to get this job, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau at Sundays press conference, where he was presented the aforementioned award by Bulls general manager Gar Forman at the Berto Center. It was well worth the wait.

Whatever questions observers had about Thibodeau when he first accepted the position his hard-driving reputation, his emphasis on defense, his lack of head coaching experience they were all answered this season, as he led the Bulls to a league-high 62 wins. More significant, however, was the fact that he was a perfect fit for both the team and the city.

When you look at the numbers this year, its easy to see the impact Tom had on this basketball team, said Bulls general manager Gar Forman, before listing a litany of statistics that indicated the teams success this season. But to me, its about much more than that.

In order for us to continue to build towards becoming a championship-caliber team, this team needed an identity and a base to it, he continued. You see the pace and the flow that we practice with. You see the attention to detail on a daily basis, the accountability each and every day and you see the habits that are formed.

That is a huge reason why weve had the success that weve had up to this point. Tom has created a culture on the floor with this team of professionalism, of work, of unselfishness and teamwork, of communication, of trust and through that, he has laid a foundation that will not only serve this team this year, but will continue to serve this team for years to come.

In a blue-collar city, coaching a blue-collar team, Thibodeaus understated work ethic stands out. Clearly a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight, he eschews praise and like his players, deflects it elsewhere.

"Obviously Im flattered, humbled and honored to receive this award, but I think it represents a lot more than just me. It certainly reflects our team and our entire organization. It starts at the top and of course goes down to our great management team. Im very fortunate to have such a great coaching staff, said Thibodeau, who proceeded to thank his entire coaching staff by name, before singling out the Bulls ownership for giving me a chance, as well as Forman and Bulls vice president John Paxson for assembling the squad that garnered home-court advantage throughout the current postseason.

We have a great management team here in Gar and John, and I think through their careful planning and selection of players, we not only have talented players, we have guys with high character, he continued. Its a lot more than just selecting talent, its building a team and thats what theyve done. So, when I look at the players we have and how hard theyve worked all season, and how committed theyve been from the start of not only playing together, but playing for each other Im just thrilled and honored to have the privilege of coaching this team.

Not only was he thankful for the opportunity to coach the Bulls, but Thibodeau saw early on that the team had a chance to be a special group.

I realized in training camp, the way we were practicing, how hard guys were going and how well they were concentrating, he said. When I saw their approach, I knew it would be good. I didnt know how good, but I knew it would get better as the season went along. We took on some injuries early, we had a tough early schedule and our bench guys came through with flying colors, so I knew we had quality depth. I also liked the veteran leadership that we had at the end of the bench.

We wanted to have a plan going in and we began with the end in mind. We felt very good about the team that we had in place, Thibodeau continued. We didnt know where wed end up and we still dont. We still feel like theres a long way to go.

Added Forman: I knew the first couple weeks that he was here, that we had hit a grand slam. You could just see the way he related to our players, the amount of work he put in, the knowledge that he had.

The most-overlooked aspect of Thibodeau as a coach is the enjoyment he gets out of coaching. Obviously he loves what he does to have invested so much time in his career, but his intense sideline demeanor and droll persona in front of the media often gives the impression that its more of a duty than a pleasure.

Its an honor and a privilege to coach these guys, said Thibodeau, who also referenced the multiple players in attendance. The fun part is the winning for me, but again, its enjoyable knowing that we have a group of guys that have put a lot into something. Every day, they come in, they study, they prepare, they practice hard and that, to me, makes it enjoyable.

Its their willingness to work, their willingness to share and I saw that from the first day. I saw how serious the team was to its approach, how much they put into it, he continued. When you get a team that truly commits and everybody puts everything they have into it every day, then you dont have to worry about anything else. Youve done all you can do and thats how I measure success. Were willing to live with the results. We know if were willing to do the right things every day, good will come.

Or, to put it simply, it was worth the wait.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.

Watch some of new Bull Zach LaVine's best dunks

Watch some of new Bull Zach LaVine's best dunks

Zach LaVine quickly made a name for himself as a prolific, epic dunker.

The recently acquired Bull won both the 2015 and 2016 Slam Dunk Contests and has plenty of awe-inspiring in-game dunks as well.

The video above has a few of LaVine's best efforts.

His signature dunks in the dunk contests were the 2015 dazzler when he caught the ball from behind the backboard and went through his legs before slamming it and the through the legs from just inside the free throw line dunk in 2016.

For in-game dunks, the time he posterized Alex Len in November was an instant-classic. It's not everyday a 7-footer gets dismissed with such authority.

Of course, LaVine's ability to dunk at this prodigious level is in question after he tore his ACL this past season. If LaVine can come back to anywhere near full strength, look for some impressive highlights from the former dunk champ in a Bulls uniform.