Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances


Thibodeau discusses Bulls All-Star chances

BOSTON Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isnt one to play favorites usually, but its an open secret in team circles that hes a huge fan of Luol Dengs approach to the game, work ethic and consistency.
That why it was no surprise that when Thibodeau was asked about which Bulls have a chance to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve Jan. 24, when the coaches votes are in, Deng was the first name out of his mouth.
Deng, certainly. To me, hes shown he should almost be a lock, in my eyes, based on the way hes played from the start of the season to the finish, Thibodeau said after the teams morning shootaround Friday at TD BankNorth Garden. I thought two years ago, Luol deserved to make and didnt make it. Then, he ended up making it last year, so sometimes it takes some time to build up and to finally be recognized because people will tend to look at the entire season also.
Deng, a first-time All-Star last season, downplayed the significance of the honor.
I think, as a player, you always want to be an All-Star. I think it just says a lot about your career, it says a lot about your team, people respecting your team with the record that you have and what youve done, so its something that you want to have, he explained. If youre not an All-Star, its not the end of the world, as long as you know youre having a good season, people appreciate what you do, your teammates appreciate what you do. You want to be an All-Star, but if youre not, you still could have a great season without being an All-Star.
Thibodeau also made cases for his other two frontcourt starters, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
I think Joakim started off great, sort of tailed off a little bit with the flu, but is picking it up again. Carlos has been steadily getting better from the start of the season, to where hes playing great right now, he said. I think all three deserve consideration, but those things are so political. As I said, you can make a case for all of them and I think when you win it helps, and winning is the most important thing.
After Thursdays announcement of the All-Star Game starters, there are only seven spots left to go around on each conferences squad, so the competition is stiff. Although the Bulls fourth-place record in the East and the appreciation observers have for how the team has performed without Derrick Rose is considerable, its tough to see two, let alone three players getting the nod to play in Houston next month.
At the end of the day, none of us got voted in. Voting is fans and thats what they think, so thats what it is. But other than that, after that, whoever makes it, its what the other coaches think. Someone whos been playing well against them or someone that they see has had a good season, and as a player, all of us have got to respect that, Deng said. If were all in it, were all in it. But everybody deserves it. If none of us are in it, we know that were still playing well enough to be considered or for some people to think we should be in it.
Thibodeau believes that his coaching peers will take winning into account, which could help his players of the teams currently above the Bulls in the standings, Miamis Chris Bosh, New Yorks Tyson Chandler and Indianas Paul George have good chances to be named as reserves which could help his frontcourt stars be named ahead of players with better statistics, but worse team records.
I think most coaches do and I think coaches will look at what a guy brings to the team overall, have they done it consistently and then, some guys, its a build-up, too, he observed. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and theres certainly a lot of guys that are playing well, and are also deserving, and not just our three.

Adjusting to bench role, Nikola Mirotic made big defensive play to seal Bulls win

Adjusting to bench role, Nikola Mirotic made big defensive play to seal Bulls win

Anytime Nikola Mirotic is on an island defensively in a crucial moment of a game, there’s a general sense of nervousness and doubt that’s palpable inside the United Center.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when Mirotic defended Boston Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown well enough to force a travel in the final minute of the Bulls’ 105-99 win Thursday night.

With the Celtics down two, Brown started his drive from the top of the key and pivoted back to his right. When he rose up for a jumper or pass, Mirotic was right in his face and Brown, a talented rookie playing in his second NBA game, didn’t know where to go.

He came back down with the ball still in his hands for a traveling violation, and the stage was set for Dwyane Wade’s closing heroics.

Wade, the closer was set up by Mirotic, the stopper—well, let’s not go that far just yet.

“I tried just to play good defense, to make him drive the ball because we want him to shoot a contested shot,” Mirotic said. “It was big-time defense. We needed that one. After that, Dwyane Wade has huge stop and made that 3. It’s a team job, team defense. I was just trying to be a part of that. I’m very happy about the game.”

In all fairness, Brown is a rookie and the Bulls would rather not see Mirotic in a one-on-one situation late in games defensively. But it appears as if Fred Hoiberg will give him the opportunities to close games so Mirotic will find himself in instances where he’ll have to make plays on both ends.

Hoiberg called it the defensive play of the game, and agreed with the assessment of Mirotic being an underrated defensive rebounder despite his struggles on that end of the floor.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It just goes to show you even when your shot isn’t falling, you can still have a positive impact,” Hoiberg said. “I loved his attack. He was getting in the paint and got some offensive rebound tip-ins as well so just overall solid game.”

Although Hoiberg had to make the decision to insert Taj Gibson as a starter at power forward over Mirotic, it’s not hard to see scenarios like Thursday where both are together to close games—Mirotic will be needed to spread the floor for Wade and Jimmy Butler to create shots in one-on-one situations.

Mirotic missed five of his six 3-point shots but was flawless inside the line, scoring 15 with nine rebounds.

“To be honest, I didn’t feel very comfortable with my 3-point shot,” said Mirotic, although Hoiberg said Mirotic’s attempts were good looks. “I tried to find a way to score, make an impact on the game---rebound the ball, play unselfish. My goal was to play good defense because I know that’s the next step.”

Getting over the idea of losing a starting job many believed would’ve been his given the composition of the roster seems to be behind Mirotic, who was a starter last season before acute appendicitis forced him out of action before the All-Star break.

“It doesn’t feel right to be honest. But no disappointment. It is what it is,” Mirotic said. “I want to not think and be focused and play my game. Now that I come from the bench, it’s like, ‘All right, figure out how you’re going to do that, how you’re going to help your team and play well.’”

Gibson and Mirotic were the only Bulls to shoot over 50 percent, as Gibson’s strong preseason play carried over to the opener. Make no mistake, if the Bulls are to exceed modest expectations, Mirotic will have to step up, as his production is no longer a luxury.

“It’s going to be a long season. But I told Fred it’s no problem,” Mirotic said. “I respect your decision. Taj is an amazing player. He’s playing so good. He’s in great shape. He deserves to be the starter. He has played a lot of years here. So I respect that. I’m cool with that. What I want to do is play my game, improve this year, make my team win more games. That’s all I can do.”

Watch: Dwyane Wade's boyish exuberance comes out after his first win with hometown Bulls

Watch: Dwyane Wade's boyish exuberance comes out after his first win with hometown Bulls

NBA superstar Dwyane Wade showed just how happy he was to capture his first regular season win for this hometown Bulls as he walked to the locker room on Thursday night.

Wade was unable to contain his excitement as he left the court, blurting out the following.

"Thats the way to do it. That's a homecoming right there. I like that one."

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Wade finished his Bulls debut with 22 points, including hitting four three-pointers, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists.

All capped off by a postgame hug with mom too.

Now that's one heck of a homecoming right there.