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Report: Bulls front office taking an ‘active role’ in telling coach Thibodeau how to manage players’ minutes

Nov 3, 2013, 9:00 PM EDT

Nets Bulls Basketball AP

No one in their right mind has questioned the coaching ability of Tom Thibodeau, who was the defensive coordinator of sorts with Doc Rivers and the Celtics during their 2008 championship run, and is now in his fourth season as head coach of the Chicago Bulls.

Thibodeau is a motivator who gets the most out of his players, and is more than solid on the Xs and Os side of things. If he has a weakness, it’s that he’s guilty of playing his guys heavier minutes than usual, even in times where they may not be playing at 100 percent.

That issue may or may not be a contributing factor to the injuries suffered to the likes of Joakim Noah and Luol Deng last season, and with Noah battling a groin issue since early in the preseason, it appears that those in the front office have deemed it time for Thibodeau to make an adjustment.

From Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

Tom Thibodeau is one of the NBA’s top coaches, but when it comes to managing minutes of his top players, he is going to get some help. Even if he doesn’t want it. The Bulls’ front office has been taking an active role in telling Thibodeau how he’ll dispense minutes to Joakim Noah, among others. And these are two parties that have had their differences in the past.

The differences the piece refers to cost Thibodeau one of his top assistant coaches in Ron Adams, who was let go by GM Gar Forman this past summer.

This latest intrusion may ultimately for the best of the players on the roster, but you can bet that Thibodeau won’t appreciate his bosses interfering in day-to-day basketball decisions. If at some point the relationship ends up with Thibodeau coaching elsewhere, we’ll have witnessed the steps along the way that ultimately contributed to that potential parting of ways.

  1. adamsjohn714 - Nov 3, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    They should take a more active role in not drafting players named Marquis Teague and not picking up players named Rip Hamilton.

    • miamatt - Nov 3, 2013 at 9:16 PM


    • redbaronx - Nov 4, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      @adamsjohn714 – Agreed. The Bulls have had a lot of time to surround Rose with talent and they’ve literally done zippo, or worse. Like an aging Rip. A move for a real center would be nice so that Noah could play more 4 and cut his minutes to keep him healthier. I’m starting to see Deng as good trade bait these days. It might be finally time for the Bulls to pull the trigger on Deng.

      They could get a lower cost player at the 3 that could better man up on a guy like LeBron. Kawhi Leonard might be a good player to aim for. He played LeBron really well in the Finals last year. I also like their salary difference too (2 mil vs 14mil for Deng), though San Antonio might want Chicago to throw something in or ask a lot for Leonard based on potential and Deng’s point in his career.

      • miamatt - Nov 4, 2013 at 6:51 PM

        It’s hard for me to envision the Spurs wanting to swap those two, at any price. Pop has said more than once that he believes Leonard is the future face of the franchise, a superstar in the making.

        Also, salaries have to balance out in NBA trades, so, unless the Spurs are desperate to dump salaries- and I don’t believe they are- your trade suggestion just isn’t feasible.

        You are on point that Deng is somebody they need to think long and hard about moving.

      • redbaronx - Nov 5, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        @miamatt – I agree with everything you said. It was wishful thinking for the most part on my part, although there are still ways to get around a salary gap (like extension sign and trade which would raise Leonards base salary) But as you said, this is just very unlikely.

        The reason I proposed that scenario is that there just aren’t too many guys that can defend LeBron in the NBA. I can’t think of too many other options for the Bulls, but they have to solve the roster puzzle if they want to elevate themselves to legit contenders.

      • adamsjohn714 - Nov 4, 2013 at 11:40 PM

        There is 0 chance Pop lets Kawhi go for anyone on the bulls team.

      • redbaronx - Nov 5, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        @adamsjohn714 – I know you’re right at the end of the day. It would be nice if Leonard could be cloned. It’s really tough to find guys in the NBA who you could pick out and say, “I could put this guy on LeBron” and get both offense and defense out of him.

        What I do know is the Bulls need a beefier guy at the 3 that can keep up and contend with LeBron if the Bulls ever want to get past the Heat. I think the Bulls need moves at the 3 and 5 spots (@ center to help deal with Indiana.) It’s frustrating to see a guy so talented like Rose and Bulls management doing zippo to make the team better in any significant way.

  2. miamatt - Nov 3, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    I’m sure that Thibs, like most professional head coaches, is not a control freak at all. How could this go wrong?

    Still, he does need to treat the NBA season more like a marathon and less like a 100 meter dash.

    • belleby123 - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      And the myth of the unproven correlation to minutes played vs. injuries sustained continues. In this age of saber metrics and statistics out the wazoo there is still zero evidence of extra minutes played vs. injuries sustained. It doesn’t even make any sense. “If player X plays an extra 3 minutes per game for 82 games the chances of him blowing out a body part goes up astronomically.” To quote a line from a Steely Dan song, only a fool would say that.

  3. adoombray - Nov 3, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    seems like there is smoke around this Chicago situation every year. I hope it doesn’t boil over ; that’s a great team with the perfect coach for it.

    • 00maltliquor - Nov 4, 2013 at 12:57 AM


      It’d be a damn shame if they part ways with him, eventually.

      • sportsfan18 - Nov 4, 2013 at 5:58 AM

        I agree to an extent… I’m a Bulls fan, born and raised just outside of Chicago…

        But ALL coaches are let go at some point. I mean Phil Jackson left the Bulls and coached the Lakers more than once…

        All of those guys have egos, coaches and most of the front office guys too…

        It’s difficult to last 10 seasons in one place professionally. Sure, some do, in all of the sports, but most of the coaches do not…

        So he’ll leave eventually for one reason or another…

      • 00maltliquor - Nov 4, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        @ sportsfan18

        I know, I know. You are 1,000% right. And I hate that fact. Consistency is the key to success and for some reason GM’s don’t get that. You can have even the most mediocre team look great if you keep the same core players and coach together (see MEM before Lionel Hollins got the boot.Now look at them) for a while.

        Even Jerry freakin’ Sloan was run out (spare me the semantics).. It’s like, is Gregg Popovich on borrowed time?

      • belleby123 - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:11 AM

        As long as loony tunes John Paxson is around they will keep burning through coaches and other personnel.

  4. johngalt1783 - Nov 3, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    That is what Colangelo did in Toronto. He forced Casey to play the likes of Barngnani, now gone and start Valanciunas, now playing limited minutes due to his ineptitude on the court. Ujiri is letting Casey decide the rotations and minutes. A wise decision.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 3, 2013 at 11:36 PM

      Well they let Thibs decide minutes for about three years. So it’s not as if he wasn’t given the opportunity.

      • adamsjohn714 - Nov 3, 2013 at 11:51 PM

        and in those 3 years they had the best record in the East 2x, went to the ECF and lost to the eventual champs, and lost in earlier rounds the other years due to injuries to crucial players. It wasn’t like he was doing a bad job. Was the Deng complication/infection his fault? NO.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 4, 2013 at 1:07 AM

        You don’t win anything for having the best record. So just saying that isn’t going to make Reinsdorf more comfortable. He’d gladly sacrifice the #1 seed for a finals birth. I think they just want their players healthy during the second season, and that has not been the case for the Bulls the last two years, for whatever reason. It’s impossible to assign blame, but unnecessary minutes doesn’t help so this is a way to remove that as a concern or a culprit.

      • adamsjohn714 - Nov 4, 2013 at 1:26 AM

        Everyone wants their players healthy for the playoffs, but injuries are largely due to chance. Neither Rose, Noah, or Deng are older players, so the odds are that those injuries were just a result of chance. For having the best record you win a lot. You get more home playoffs games (aka more $$$) as well as more fan support/attendance/jersey sales (aka more $$$), and in a business that’s the goal for an owner. Also, having the best record is an indicator that you have one of the best teams and a great chance at a Finals berth. It takes 82 games to decide the best regular season team, yet it only takes 7 games to decide who the better team is between the top ranked teams in a series? Mathematically, you cannot say with much certainty that one team is better than another without a large degree of error. Thinks just aren’t that clear cut, and the playoffs include a large element of luck. The Bulls best bet is to win as many games as possible, hope they don’t get hurt, and win in the playoffs.

        In fairness, basketball is far less reliant on chance and luck than baseball, where it would take something like 300 games to decide who was actually the better team in the world series with 95% confidence.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 5, 2013 at 10:36 PM

        Cool story. Jerry Reinsdorf and I disagree with you. For true contenders the best record is only a luxury, not a necessity. If you think you really need it that much then you have some personnel or coaching issues that need to be addressed.

      • adamsjohn714 - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:53 AM

        Home court is worth between 3-4 points a game. Teams that win fewer than 54 games have a horrible track record of winning the finals. Having the best record generally means you’re the best team. Being the best team with home court advantage is pretty advantageous. Saying that isn’t important because it somehow prevents you from being healthy (meaning you can somehow control random events) makes no sense.

      • antistratfordian - Nov 6, 2013 at 5:23 AM

        “Having the best record generally means you’re the best team.”

        That’s ridiculous. Having the best record only means you have the best record. There is always so much more to consider than just wins and losses. Things like strength of schedule and point differential, etc – and you must consider their offensive and defensive ratings as well. Just a few simple examples:

        •If a team has the best record and poor strength of schedule, they might not even be the third best team in the league (and maybe worse).
        •If a team has the best record but only have a +5.0 point differential, they are probably not better than the team 4 wins beneath them that has a +8.0 differential (especially if that team has a higher strength of schedule).
        •If a team has the best record in the league with a top defensive rating but a middling offensive rating, they are going to struggle to score in the playoffs, so I don’t think it would be prudent to call them the “best team” either.

        …and so on and so forth.

        Now, if a team has the best record in the league, strong strength of schedule, an impressive point differential, and top 10 offensive AND defensive ratings – then that is most likely the “best team in the league.”

        (And, of course, all through this you must also be considering personnel and their performance history, etc.)

      • sportsfan18 - Nov 4, 2013 at 6:07 AM

        Just look at Pop in San Antonio… Yes, his stars are older… but there is a method to the madness…

        It isn’t like Thibs isn’t a smart man… and it isn’t like he couldn’t have called Pop in the off season to have a discussion with him (who knows, maybe they did once and we’ve never heard about it, but somehow I doubt it).

        Also, the Bulls should keep things like this in house… not let the press get a hold of it…

        Also, upper management in all places has a right to influence and make decisions for their organizations… Now they shouldn’t consistently micromanage things, but an overall direction, a min’s cap for some players, yet let the coach decide how he plays those min.’s etc…

        Maybe you only want Noah to play 72 of the 82 games or whatever… or only average 32 min’s per game… instead of the 36.8 min’s he averaged per game last season…

        Maybe they only want Deng to average 32 min’s per game instead of leading the league in min’s played the last two seasons at 38.7 min’s a game and 39.4 min’s a game. 3 yrs ago he averaged 39.1 min’s a game and 4 yrs ago he averaged 37.9 min’s a game…

      • belleby123 - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:13 AM

        > Was the Deng complication/infection his fault? NO.

        Were all the other torn ACLs in the league because of playing horribly excessive minutes?

      • heat256 - Nov 4, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        @ Sports:

        Perhaps the reason Thibs plays those guys so much is that the depth behind them will get woefully exposed if they play more minutes. Taj Gibson is a great complimentary player, but if he plays 25-30 minutes a game, will he be the same player/ Some guys just work better in shorter spurts. Even if managing minutes costs the Bulls a few games, they will still make the playoffs in the East. But I don’t think that’s his style. Plus, with the background that is there with the Bulls’ front office meddling in coaching decisions may have aggravated Thibs already. He probably will not like the move.

  5. papichulo55 - Nov 3, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Too many good coaches lost their jobs this past off-season for Coach Thibs not to have noticed. Hope he decides to bend with the wind. The League needs the diversity of his ‘Defense First’ style.

  6. bhester1906 - Nov 3, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Here we go. This is where the Bulls downfall starts if they don’t reach some compromise. They need more talent, they are already balking on resigning Deng, now this crap with Thibs….

  7. dmwhite2 - Nov 4, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    I don’t really see this as a huge deal. Love Thibs, but the evidence indicates over the last few years that he’s playing guys too much and at some really stupid times. I watch just about every Bulls games and many instances where the game is clearly over, yet he keeps many if not all the starters in. Stuff like that is just unnecessary and dumb.

  8. belleby123 - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    I’m from Chicago and watch just about every Bulls game, but if Thibs leaves I will follow him and give up on the Bulls as long as Thibs is in the league. We see this crap in every sports franchise–upper management is always the last to be blamed. And in real companies they are always the first to be blamed. Does anyone think Ted Phillips has done a good job getting the Bears to another SuperBowl, for example?

  9. belleby123 - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    P.S. Joey Crawford needs to go to Bulls HQ and call a foul on Gar-Pax for excessive cheesiness.

  10. itouchedthenet - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    When his contract expires?

  11. davidly - Nov 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Shades of the Ditka-McCaskey era.

  12. valeb2012 - Nov 4, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    I’ve never seen a study on nba players’ minutes and injuries. Has anyone else?

  13. openseason51 - Nov 4, 2013 at 6:28 PM

    You sign a contract to play ball. If you are injured you tell the coach you can’t play and let the others play. It is the players’ fault that they play injured not the coach. The players are worried about their stats or if they are team players then they worry about winning. So executives need to stay out of it.

  14. csbanter - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    Wow the season is young and already its panic time in Chicago. Bulls can be the new bad boys if they stay healthy

  15. eugenesaxe1 - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Coaches do what they think they have to in order to win. Thibs wins.

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