SACRAMENTO -- Coming off a disappointing loss Monday to Golden State, with three days in between to prepare, Tom Thibodeau was subdued when talking to reporters after the Bulls Thursday-morning shootaround at the Power Balance Pavilion (nee Arco Arena) prior to the evenings contest against the Kings.
Dont expect his team to be as docile when they take the court. Thibodeau, who is as intense as they come, even in the context of NBA head coaches, was extremely chagrined at the Bulls effort against the Warriors, coached by first-year head coach Mark Jackson and not expected to be among the leagues elite this season, despite an even more definitive win Wednesday over the Knicks.
Thus, the young and deep Kings are poised to bear the brunt of the Bulls revenge, especially if the well-rested visitors return to last seasons philosophy of treating every team the same way, not to mention Derrick Roses pledge to be more aggressive from the outset of games.
"The thing is, every team in this league is talented and this team has a lot of firepower, said Thibodeau. Theyve added some weapons and they can really shoot the ball, so you have to establish your defense early in the game. Theyve always been tough to play here and theyre young, and theyve gotten better.
Its early. People are still ironing things out. The schedule is different. The Lakers already went through their three in a row. Bostons had a tough early schedule with travel, road games, he went on to explain. So those things do factor into it, particularly when you dont have your eight preseason games. But that being said, your urgency has to be great because all these games are important. They all carry equal importance. So this game tonight is just as important as the game two months from now. Thats the way everyone has to approach it.
Since falling out of the NBAs spotlight after being one of the leagues upper-echelon franchises the previous decade, casual observers might not be aware of whom Sacramento actually features on its roster. Well, while they dont have a true established superstar-type player, the Kings are a dangerous bunch with lots of depth.
Marcus Thornton is a very explosive scorer. Tyreke Evans is a tremendous player, said Thibodeau. DeMarcus Cousins is a very talented guy. J.J. Hickson is explosive off the bench. Isaiah Thomas is another guy who can score quickly.
The shooting is a big concern. Travis Outlaw, they picked up, has the versatility to play multiple positions. So, to me, its a very talented team.
Thornton, who was acquired in a midseason trade last year, was re-signed as a free agent after the lockout and pairs up with Evans -- like Rose, a former Rookie of the Year, as well as a John Calipari protg at the University of Memphis -- for a scoring-oriented backcourt, which also features the diminutive rookie Thomas, the last pick in the draft, first-round draft pick Jimmer Fredette, the nations leading scorer in college basketball last season and already a cult hero.
You cant give him any daylight, Thibodeau said of Fredette.
In the frontcourt, the explosive (as a player and person) Cousins is one of the more skilled young big men in the league and is complemented by the likes of the athletic but raw Hickson, a draft-day acquisition from Cleveland and Northern California native Chuck Hayes, a Thibodeau favorite from his days as an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets.
Chuck Hayes is like one of those guys that get overlooked by everybody and all he does is help you win. Hes underrated, plays great defense, can really pass the ball, very good offensive rebounder, praised Thibodeau, who acknowledged that the veteran undersized power forward -- who had his free-agent contract briefly voided due to a health scare -- has similar attributes to departed Bull Kurt Thomas. Chuck is maybe a little bit different, in terms of offensively. He can pass and put it on the floor, and Kurt is the better shooter. But all the intangibles that they bring -- the physical toughness, the mental toughness, just knowing how to win -- thats what they bring.
But even the thorough Thibodeau, who often gives a mini-scouting report to the media (just imagine what his players have to endure) when asked about an opponent, left out some Kings players who could contribute. Former Bulls swingman John Salmons is back for a second stint in Sacramento -- leaving the longest-tenured King, fellow veteran wing Francisco Garcia, seemingly the odd man out -- and young forwards Donte Greene and Jason Thompson also factor into Paul Westphals rotation.
No, the list of players isnt the most accomplished or experienced, but as witnessed in Oakland, that doesnt always matter when it comes to the NBA. Thibodeau clearly understands that and its likely (through positive reinforcement, of course) that his players do, too.