Thibodeau's work ethic gives Bulls an edge

Thibodeau's work ethic gives Bulls an edge

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010
9:37 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

After just a couple days of training camp, one thing is clear about this years edition of the Chicago Bulls: They wont lose games because theyre unprepared or unable to adjust to what opposing teams are throwing at them.

New head coach Tom Thibodeau wont get outworked and he wont be surprised by anything he sees during the course of games. Thibodeau has worked tirelessly since taking over the Bulls job just before the NBA draft in late June. Hes been a fixture at the Berto Center from early morning to late at night, breaking down tape of last seasons games and working individually and collectively with Bulls players. Joakim Noah even joked about being unable to avoid his new coach when he showed up for evening shooting sessions over the summer. Noah says those brief visits to the gym turned into one-on-one tutoring sessions with Coach "Thibs." And the result is Noah will be given even more freedom on the offensive end to shoot his side-spin jump shot and jump hooks in the post.

How many times over the last two seasons under Vinny Del Negro did we see the Bulls slow to respond to the oppositions strategies on either end of the floor? Del Negro never came up with a consistent defensive strategy against the most basic of NBA plays, the screen-and-roll, and he took too long to change defensive match-ups that were hurting the Bulls. That should be a thing of the past with Thibodeau in charge. Hes recognized around the league as one of the top defensive coaches in the game, and the Bulls front office will tell you he also has a number of innovative ideas on the offensive end of the floor.

With Carlos Boozer now on board to provide a consistent low-post scoring threat, the Bulls should have their most versatile offensive attack in years. Thibodeau wants his guys to push the tempo, and you couldnt ask for a better player to do that than All-Star point guard Derrick Rose. With Rose leading the break, flanked by Boozer, Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer, the Bulls should be able to score more transition points than weve seen in recent seasons. The Bulls are also much deeper than in years past, with sharp-shooter Kyle Korver, explosive combo guard C.J. Watson and last years all-rookie first-teamer Taj Gibson coming off the bench.

The preseason schedule starts Oct. 5 with the Bulls traveling to Milwaukee, and it will be interesting to see how Thibodeau plans to utilize his personnel. Dont forget, hes a defense-first coach, and that will determine which players get the most minutes off the bench. But whichever combinations Thibodeau puts on the court, the Bulls should be able to avoid those long scoring droughts that hurt the team over the last couple seasons. Theyre not just a perimeter shooting team anymore, and that should be a big plus when the Bulls go up against the other heavyweight teams in the league.

Training camp observations

It seems to me this whole Carmelo Anthony mess is going to end very badly for Denver. After backing away from a four-team trade that would have landed Anthony in New Jersey, the Nuggets are left with an unhappy star who has no interest in communicating with the front office and will be a distraction for as long as he remains in the Mile High City.

Word out of Denver is the Nuggets will try to trade Anthony as soon as possible, but if hes not willing to sign a contract extension with any team except the Knicks, what kind of market is there? New York wont give away its top young players like Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler once they realize theyre the only team in the bidding. If the Melo soap opera carries into the season, who knows what kind of trade package the Nuggets might have to accept down the road.

The Bulls have inquired about Anthony, but theyre not willing to trade Noah, and its not likely Denver would take the four years remaining on Luol Dengs contract, so basically theyre not a serious contender to acquire the high-scoring forward.

Are you as tired of hearing about the Miami Heat as I am? Basically, its been non-stop LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh ever since teams reported to camp. We hear about how vocal LeBron has been at practices, and how he might wind up playing a lot of point guard this season. Sure, the Heat will be a very strong team this season, but the national attention on Pat Rileys traveling All-Stars will become insufferable before long. Why not wait until the playoffs before crowning the Heat as the best team the NBA has ever seen?

Dont forget about Boston when discussing championship contenders for the upcoming season. Danny Ainge was busy this off-season, adding Shaquille and Jermaine ONeal to his roster, along with scoring guards Delonte West and Von Wafer. He also re-signed Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson. The Celtics are deep and versatile at every position on the floor. And I have a feeling Rajon Rondo will come out with a vengeance this season after basically getting cut from the U.S. World Championship team this summer.

The NBA has made a dramatic shift to becoming a point guard oriented league. The battles between Rose and Rondo should be something to watch this season. And dont forget about Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee, Tyreke Evans in Sacramento, Stephen Curry with the Warriors and rookie John Wall in Washington, D.C. These young stars join the likes of Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul and Deron Williams among the growing ranks of elite point guards.

But in handicapping the upcoming season, how can you pick against the two-time defending champion Lakers? Sure, Andrew Bynum is expected to miss the first month following his latest knee surgery, but the Lakers are still loaded with size, speed and depth. G.M. Mitch Kupchak improved his bench with the additions of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Theo Ratliff. And I dont think Kobe Bryant will be intimidated going up against Miamis "Big 3." Bottom line, the Lakers are the champs until someone knocks them off, and that will be tougher than ever this season, especially since the Western Conference is weaker with the defection of Boozer, Amare Stoudemire and possibly Anthony to the East.

I cant wait for the season to get started. How about you? Please post your comments on the Bulls and the rest of the NBA in the section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail. We will continue to answer questions throughout the season.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Most NBA players have to let their adrenaline come down before the reality of what's coming next begins to hit them, but Robin Lopez had his moment of clarity at the oddest time during his altercation with Toronto's Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night.

When asked when he knew he would be serving at least a one-game suspension for his missed punch in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Raptors, Lopez said, "When I threw a punch."

The process from the NBA to Lopez was pretty straightforward, and Lopez called the one-game suspension "fair."

Ditching the caveman look for a clean shaven appearance at Friday morning's shootaround, Lopez seemed at ease with what happened and wasn't going to contest the one-game decision, especially since the NBA could've gone with two or three games as no precedent has been set for fighting this season.

"I mean, that's what the league gave. I'm going to stick with it," Lopez said, adding, "I didn't change my story."

The multiple camera angles would've made it impossible to believe a different recollection of the events had Lopez attempted to finagle himself out of the one-game suspension that stopped his 71-game starting streak with the Bulls this season.

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

His matter-of-fact statement after an emotionally charged incident didn't hurt the Bulls. They beat the Pistons by 20 as Lopez was serving a banishment that ended his streak of 187 consecutive games played. But he was happy Joffrey Lauvergne got a chance to prove his worth.

Lauvergne had 17 points and seven rebounds Wednesday night, and he'll be behind Lopez against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night as Cristiano Felicio is recovering from a hard fall late in the Raptors game.

"He's very versatile. He's a playmaker, he can score from a lot of different spots on the floor. He's a really smart basketball player," Lopez said of Lauvergne. "I always want to be out there with the guys. But they took care of business and did their thing. So I was pleased to see them pick up the win."

Picking up two in a row shouldn't be a monumental task against the 76ers, though they are 3-3 in their last six games and the Bulls haven't won two in a row in nearly a month as their grip on a playoff spot has loosened.

For the moment, the Bulls sit ninth in the East, a full game behind the surging Miami Heat, with a 34-38 record. Teams with nothing to lose can be playoff spoilers, and the Bulls have lost more than their share of games to lesser teams this season.

"Those teams do play loose," Lopez said. "They kind of just go out there to play basketball, and that can be a bit dangerous. But we've got something to play for, so we've got to be more motivated. The Sixers especially, they play really well, they have a lot of energy. So we've got to go out there, we've got to play motivated."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?