The reality of the Bulls' rumored 'rift'

The reality of the Bulls' rumored 'rift'
July 5, 2013, 2:15 am
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Let’s not blow things out of proportion, if that hasn’t happened already.

Even with free agency here, apparently there isn't enough going on in Chicago to prevent rampant speculation about disharmony at the Berto Center.

Look, it's no secret that Bulls general manager Gar Forman and head coach Tom Thibodeau aren't best buddies, but that doesn't mean their personal relationship will affect their working one to the point that it will affect the Bulls on the court, which is all that really matters.

If the team underachieves next season and blame for the poor performance can be pinned on the duo's inability to work together, that's a story.

But unless that happens, regardless of whether they're at each other throats behind closed doors, bringing Mike Dunleavy Jr. aboard is a much bigger deal for the time being.

How many people get along with all of their co-workers?

And if one of the co-workers is among the best in the business in his field, as Forman acknowledged Monday about Thibodeau, certain things have to be tolerated.

If the other, who is clearly is more than the figurehead or proxy some observers have long and incorrectly assumed he was, makes a personnel move that doesn't appear to be in line with how things typically go in the league, what's done is done.

[MORE: Bulls plans clear with free-agency approach]

That's the only way Thibodeau, or anybody else for that matter, can regard Forman's decision to not renew the contract of now-former Bulls lead assistant coach Ron Adams.

Adams is a good man, experienced coach and well respected in NBA circles for his knowledge of the game and his manner in general.

He's served as a loyal, trusted assistant to Thibodeau, with whom he goes back a few decades to their days in San Antonio and Philadelphia (pre-Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson, respectively, to give you sense of how long they've been colleagues), and other head coaches, building a solid, if understated reputation along the way, but for his departure to be painted as a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back type of situation is going a bit overboard.

He wasn't simply Thibodeau's "guy" when he returned to Chicago in 2010, having previously served as a Bulls assistant coach under Scott Skiles. Thus, he was a known commodity to the front office, meaning deciding to part ways with him, whether it was due to his strong opinions or any other reason, wasn't just a power play to knock Thibodeau down a peg.

In fact, not to put words in Adams’ mouth (when, not if, one of the top assistant coaches in the game lands a new position on an NBA bench in the near future, he can decide whether or not it’s worth explaining), but his rundown of what transpired may not exactly match the multiple theories that are currently circulating.

Therefore, despite his stellar reputation around the league, if Bulls management, the same general group that was in place during Adams’ first stint with the organization, saw fit not to retain him, regardless of whether it was justifiable or not, Forman had his own view of the coach independent from any perceived strife with Thibodeau.

[RELATED: Dunleavy, Bulls reach agreement on two-year deal]

Thibodeau and Forman don’t have to be the best of friends to work together, as evidenced by Dunleavy comments to the Racine Journal-Times about how the Bulls recruited him to Chicago.

“There was a lot of interest; it (the number of teams) was well into the double digits. I had some good opportunities, but Chicago blew me out of the water,” the veteran, who received calls from both men, told the newspaper. “I don’t think it’s fair to say it was one thing that determined my choice; it was just the entire package they presented me. There was high interest from them right off the bat. I knew they wanted me and that meant a lot.”

As long as the Bulls’ duo can work together in the interest of winning and put internal disagreements aside, they don’t have to be walking arm-in-arm together throughout the Berto Center, something that didn’t occur during even the franchise’s most successful era, its run of six championships.

Sure, issues like Thibodeau’s minutes distribution and the coach’s opinion of which players the front office should add or subtract will continue to be discussed throughout the offseason, but nothing is more pertinent to both parties than winning a title, something they believe is possible next season.

It's not about choosing sides here -- Thibodeau is rightfully credited for being a brilliant coach, yet is also criticized for supposedly overworking players, while the moves Forman and the front office made last summer were widely panned, then praised as the season went on; and although Thibodeau's coaching will be the focus next season, how management handles the crucial summer of 2014 will be watched very closely -- and again, as fans in Chicago should know from past Bulls success, a "Kumbaya" duet isn't a prerequisite for a title, as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and of course, Jerry Krause can all attest to.

[MORE: Bulls' 'Bench Mob 3' figures to have a completely new look]

Perhaps because it’s the summer and with the Bulls almost done with free agency — expect the team to sign a backup big man, then be done, heading into the training camp with 13 players under contract, including draft picks Tony Snell and Erik Murphy, Dunleavy and the returning Nazr Mohammed — the idea of a budding controversy sounds good.

In reality, it hasn’t been all roses for a while and if Adams’ contract was renewed, that wouldn’t have changed anything, though the perception of the front office having control of what happens with Thibodeau’s staff was certainly illuminating and while it gained a lot of attention, it’s not much different than what’s happening around the NBA, as even some of the best coaches, if they don’t have a huge say in personnel, can’t always influence the decision-making process, even if they are feted with recognition, such as being named to the USA Basketball coaching staff.

Thibodeau is easily one of the best in the game at what he does and while he has a long-term deal, one could imagine him either moving on before it’s up to pursue an opportunity with more autonomy or as crazy as it sounds — but not more crazy than Denver and Memphis letting go of George Karl and Lionel Hollins, something observers would have scoffed at not too long ago — the Bulls deciding he’s run his course and whatever negative characteristics they see outweighing the considerable good he does.

That’s not to say anything is imminent, particularly with Derrick Rose returning to the lineup, as the coach has a close bond with the superstar.

But keep a close eye on who eventually replaces Adams, as Forman made it clear earlier in the week that typically, Thibodeau’s staff recommendations are just a mere formality, so if the Bulls hire an assistant that seems to be more of a management pick than the coach’s choice, then this issue can be legitimately revisited.

Until then, fans should be content with the knowledge that the roster being assembled has contender potential and regardless of reports about a rift being exacerbated, if the end result is a parade down Michigan Avenue in a little less than a year’s time, all will be forgotten.