Are players tuning out Tom Thibodeau?

Are players tuning out Tom Thibodeau?

The Bulls haven't played well for much of the season. They've had a nice streak against quality teams and a 13-2 run, but they haven't been dominating anyone, and their poor defense has let other teams stay in and win games against them.

The interesting question with the defense is whether it's bad because of personnel or whether the team simply isn't motivated. While I haven't been a fan of Pau's defense, it's hard to argue that he's worse than Boozer was. He actually contests and blocks shots at the rim.

Joakim Noah may simply be severely limited with his knee, and if so, that's a problem the Bulls may have no solution for. He's traveling with the team to Boston tonight but will hopefully rest.

Joe Cowley, of the Sun Times, noted on the score that several players seemed to have notes from their trainers which had them stopping certain types of drills in practice. The insinuation was that Jo and Derrick had Jen Swanson telling them not to do certain things with many of those being some of the monotonous defensive drills.

That may be impacting the team. Derrick and Jo have been two of the guys you'd expect quite a bit from defensively who haven't delivered. That said, I think the Bulls do need to protect those guys since Derrick and Jo both clearly look well under 100% in terms of health.

The Bulls used to be able to count on Kirk Hinrich for pesky defense, but it seems like more nights than not he's simply over matched physically and unable to do what he used to.

Perhaps a better question is what has happened to Butler's defense. Butler was hailed as an all defensive team candidate. Early in the season he was smothering players on both ends of the floor. In January the reverse is true.

As pointed out in the comments yesterday, Butler hasn't been the same since returning from bereavement. I'm not sure who Jimmy lost as I haven't seen it reported anywhere, but death can hang over people's heads and maybe his head is simply not fully in the game.

However, when you start going up and down the roster and find an excuse for every player on the team as to why they aren't defending well, are you searching for excuses or are these guys simply not tuning in with the same intensity they were in the past?

This was a team built on defense with largely the same core players on defense it had the past few seasons when it was an elite defensive team. Rose and Gasol should in fact upgrade the players they've replaced (Augustin and Boozer primarily).

It hasn't come together, and Pau Gasol recently went on a rant about how the team isn't where it needs to be and the effort, trust, and communication aren't where they need to be.

Gasol may have simply been reacting to the loss. If the Bulls defense was porous in a 121 to 117 win then there probably isn't a rant, but he seems to be hinting that the Bulls are tuning out the coach too.

I posted previous articles where it appeared Rose and Gibson were in various disagreements with the coach.

With Cowley pointing out that there seems to be some disagreements between Swanson and Thibodeau on practice habits, several player/coach clash incidents, and the long running management/thibs feud, the Bulls house isn't falling down like Cleveland, but it doesn't look so great either.

Winning likely cures everything, it always does. The Bulls are more than capable of winning plenty of games as well. However, their splits don't show them as an elite team.

Chicago has all the pieces to become one. We see the signs in glimpses here or there. Rose, Gasol, Noah, and Butler have all shown quality play at various points, but the Bulls have a long way to put it all together, and the season is officially half over for Chicago.

There's still time left, but there's not a ton of it.

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  • Firing Thibs would be bigger than firing Collins for PJ. He is so respected around the league, mostly bc it look him something like 20 years to get a shot at a head coaching gig. He's an underdog and people like underdogs.

    I feel like the organization would definitely take a PR hit by firing Thibs. Coaches and players would think twice about coming here.

    Now, if the Bulls were .500 like Cleveland, it would be another story.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Right now through end of season, I think I'd agree. A firing would be pretty bad PR-wise. However, if the Bulls flame out in the playoffs (say 1st round bounce against CLE or 2nd round bounce vs. either WAS or TOR...both looking like realistic scenarios), I think the mood would shift. Definition of insanity and all that.

    Thibs has seemed more prone to throw players under the bus this season (Rose and Taj, notably). That, coupled with his unyielding stubbornness (Hinrich, rotations, etc) leads me to believe he's seen more days in Chicago then he is going to see as head coach.

    While I am not his biggest fan, I am not sure there is someone that would be as good, let alone better, that you could bring in next year. Blatt is going to serve as a cautionary tale for quite some time. If you're not getting a Calipari or the coach from VCU (Shaka Smart, I think) to jump to the pros, I am not sure any move would be worth it, regardless of what happens in the post-season.

    Perhaps a topic for another column: potential head coaching candidates (not necessarily just for Bulls...in general).

  • In reply to Salvamini:

    Thibs is the type of coach that players generally, eventually tune out. He will have to prove he's not another one of those. If he doesn't get tuned out, he's still one of the 5 best coaches in the game, flaws and all. Some people think they're very smart and anti-homer by pointing out Thibs' flaws but a really smart person would propose a better alternative. I have yet to hear of one.

  • I also like how Thibs and GarPax run the show for the organization. It starts at the top with Reinsdorf. They carry a lot of weight and it's hard for players to cross them. In contrast, someone like Blatt is a sitting duck. Thank God for stability.

    I would be proud of a franchise like SA, the Steelers and the Patriots that carry stability and organization first. This is one of the longest tenured coaches in the NBA now, so I think the Bulls are high respected for how they run the show.

    You can tell that Reinsdorf knows how to run a company. He does not pander to the LeBrons of the league. Even MJ didn't get his trade target wishes answered.

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    Good Question to ask...

    Derrick Rose is the appointed team leader and an extension of Coach Thibs on the court. How he plays, how he acts, how his response is to Coach Thibs is how others on the team will follow. That being stated, Derrick Rose is really starting to piss me off with his nonchalantness. Between him and Joakim the two pillars of the team, and both seem to be having subpar seasons and subpar attitudes about urgency of playing defense, and winning regular season games. Add Taj to the list and one would start to suspect a mutiny against Thibs, and him demanding the players be more aggressive, and take the game more seriously.

    IMO the team is too old. They started off the season slow, like old teams do, gathered themselves, began to play really well, and near the half way point of the season they ran out of gas. Yet, even during their winning streaks, the team ran into younger, more athletic teams which ran circles around the Bulls... Increase the pace on the Bulls and the Bulls fail to keep up.

    Thibs and the Management should consider making lineup changes and riding a healthier lineup for the rest of the season, in order to build continuity. A major trade is in order to find some younger, more athletic players to add to an aging core. Do that and we won't see the Bulls giving up 55 & 60 pt halves anymore.

  • Gasol isn't replacing Boozer, he's replacing Noah. And it's a pretty big downgrade. Noah is replacing Boozer, and while it's an upgrade, the 4 is not nearly as impactful defensively as the 5.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I think this is an astute observation. Noah has much more impact defensively at the five position. True, Gasol gives them more offense but you wonder if net/net the Bulls are a better team with the current lineup.

    What's the remedy? Platoon Noah and Gasol at the five position. Some of us have already discussed this many times. Unfortunately, it's apparent that Gasol chose the Bulls in part because of assurances of major minutes. And how do you tell a first team all NBA player he has to either be a back-up, or otherwise share his job with someone else? A dilemma, no doubt.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Thank you for getting the point(s) that some of us have been making all season.

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    Ehhh??? Im not sure if they are tuning the coach out..but I think that the players are pretty much protecting themselves.......I mean honestly think about it they completely sold out for Thibs and what did they get....two seasons being the Top seed to go 4-1 against the Heat and eliminated by the Sixers...Meanwhile Rose got 2 season ending knee injuries an ACL tear when he had no business being in the game because Thibs said "He needs to learn how to finish" hmmm.... Bulls up by 12 with a minute left rose with what like 27 9 and 9 sounds like finishing to me sure he became the youngest to receive MVP but with all the scrutiny he has gotten in return due to injuries hell its like give and take...what did Noah get? DMVP and a knee and injury which is clearly showing...Dunleavy is injured ..Mcdermott injured! it is said that Thibs has some of the toughest practices throughout the ENTIRE SEASON... then when the team runs out of gas in the playoffs people act surprised truth is Thibs is not on the court! he does not get injured....people forget that Doc Rivers and Thibs had disagreements in Boston because having an older team Rivers wanted to rest the players and Thibs didnt...Rivers rested them anyways and what did u get a trip to the finals in game 7 which i believe the fix was on because the Lakers lived at the freethrow line! Im just saying we fans always talk about the playoffs is what matters and now I believe the Bulls players have bought into that....and now we r mad about them being nonchalant during the season? LOL come on now which one is it? I say lets get to the playoffs and be HEALTHY!

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    definitely agree with your points, team may be tuning Thibs out a little just to prepare for playoffs, not because they have some desire to have a rebellion against him. They will play for him when it matters most!

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    Great comment, Webb. As a former player (ok, starting center on h.s. team), I can tell you that having to hear my coach constantly barking instructions EVERY trip down the floor would tire quickly. And these dudes are professionals. Hence, the nonchalantness we see is a response to this overcoaching, I believe.

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    I don't think anyone here has ever forgotten about Thibs' disagreements with Doc Rivers but yeah, Thibs seems to think there's only one gear and it's all about effort and intensity. That's not how the truly great coaches, the Phils and Pops, went about their business.

  • I too think that the Bulls are simply preparing for the playoffs early, which is smart. Look what going hard all the time has gotten them? I am repeating myself from previous blogs and so are others with their concerns, so this is nothing new for anyone.

    Thibs will not get fired, basically as close to 0% chance as you can get, silly to even think that would happen this year, but I don't think most people believe that at all anyways, and I know Doug doesn't believe that.

    The whole "Bulls are too old" argument is somewhat valid, but really, they aren't that old! As always, you can point to the Spurs or even 90's Bulls with the 2nd repeat as examples of not needing youth, but it's more about how they execute on the court and how they match up against other teams. Sure, they struggle with young athletic teams like the Wiz, but really it should be different in the playoffs when they take it up a gear and are all healthy (which is the big IF of the year and really my biggest concern).

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    In reply to Keep:

    Lets be honest its not the athleticism that the Bulls struggle with..its strong physical downlow presence! Gortat NeNe and even Serrafin (however u spell it) owns the Bulls bigs because the bulls bigs are slow on rotations and do not like coming out to guard the midrage jumpshot this leads to second chance shots... trips to the freethrow line etc etc... what also happens is it gives the guards more confidence...once the inside game is not only established but is dominating Wall and Beal get started..... do i think Rose is a great defender...NO but it makes him look ten times worse when no one rotates over and meets the guards at the basket! same with Butler! but at this point Butler knows his $$$$$ is not going to be based on him be being a great defender its based on his offensive ability lets just be honest!

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    yes, I also noticed how the help defense has been real poor. Really, isn't the entire defense based on funneling the offense to the baselines and trapping there so the middle stays a strong point. That's what you saw in the past, but this season there is so much room in the middle for the opposing teams and the help defense has been atrocious. I always see Rose and Butler guiding their player to the baseline or going around screens and expecting help when their defender gets a step on them, but the help does not come over on time. Stacy King, although very catch-phrasy (if thats a word) always points this out and it is the biggest concern for the D, which also leads to poor rebounding position.

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    Actually the Bulls struggle against the Wizards is both physicality up front and athleticism in the backcourt. That's why I see no hope of beating that team going forward other than injuries to Nene, Wall or Beal.

  • *meant, when the player they are guarding gets a step on them

  • I think they have tuned him out, about the 6th game of the season I noticed it. You guys realize that if the Bulls axe Thibs, he's going straight to CLEV to replace Blatt, whose days are numbered.
    Keep Thibs, and yeah, if you don't practice then you shouldn't play.
    And the guys who don't want to practice, get rid of them.
    The D looks like nothing like a year ago.
    I do however strongly support them firing Jen Swanson...

  • In reply to rtblues:

    Look, Thibs can be a genius on D and unreasonable on practices. Nobody excels at everything, not even Martha Stewart. Great coaches adapt - to the opposing team on the court, to the players they have, to health and fatigue issues.

    It seems to me, from stuff I have heard, that Thibs does not believe in health and fatigue factors. If so, he will never become great unless he changes.

    He apparently feels that Kirk is still the defender he once was. Maybe Noah too. Who knows. He may be trying to adjust because he is playing Snell more to see if he can develop. It's a good try, at least.

    If the Bulls play well in the next 4 weeks, IMO the FO will get a starting caliber wing player. If not, why should they? Hang on to their assets for summer trades or next season.

  • I wouldn't call what the Bulls are doing now an out and out tune out of Thibs. I think that they are older now and can't make the physical commitment to play that style of ball. The grindiness of Thibs ball always had a shelf life and it appears that the shelf life has passed it's expiration date.

    Side: Given the aging of some of Thibs core players and the Gasol acquisition, re-signing an aged, over the hill, never that good Kirk Hinrich was a real boner.

  • I also believe the shite will hit the fan after the season and Thibs will be gone, especially if the Bulls don't make it to Eastern Conference Finals. Too much acrimony between Thibs and GarPax and too much wear and tear on the players will result in a mutual parting of ways. For all the praise Thibs gets around the league, to me he is just Scott Skiles with better players.

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    In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    WOW..... Scott Skiles tho? lol yeah pretty much when it comes to the stubborness.....but to be honest I always thought Vinny Del Negro got the shaft he got it in LA as well lol the players just werent developed yet or jelled...I mean he did take the young bulls to game 7 with the defending Celtics didnt he? but hey thats the name of the game have the pieces set for take off get fired and the next coach reaps the benefits....shotout to Avery Johnson another coach that got screwed...oh and Mark Jackson!

  • If the Bulls want to move Thibs, they should be able to trade him for a decent draft pick!

  • Yes, they probably need to make ECF or Thibs is gone - if all players are healthy.

    The last few years have been meaningless due to injuries as far as judging playoff performance.

    However, Bulls have essentially loaded up this year and next year with Gasol - especially if they sign Butler long-term.

    Thibs needs to make an impact in the playoffs this year!

  • One thing about players "taking it easy" and winning championships... most of those players have a ton of experience and have won championships before. So, they know what it takes.

    You can't half-ass it. Yes, it would be nice for the Bulls to have a 5th gear in the playoffs, but it's a fine line.

    Jordan and Pippen played a ton of minutes for PJ in all 6 championships. It's definitely a grind.

    It's one thing to sit a game here or there, or keep minutes down, but when guys aren't giving effort on D, that's a problem. I side with Thibs here.

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    In reply to Granby:

    Yeah I hear ya but here is the difference: Jordan was the BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA AND IT WASNT EVEN CLOSE... Pippen was Top 10... Rodman best rebounder in the league! and before Rodman u still had Jordan and Pippen which none of them having serious knee surgeries!

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    Jordan being the best player, pippen top 10, and Rodman the best rebounder doesn't make a case for anything. If anything it speaks to the hard work they put in.

    All the stories you hear from Jordan was that he was a perfectionist and would find different things to motivate him for each game and he played hard and he expected everyone around him to play and practice the same.

    Yes, the bulls had another gear but you don't win 72 games by jogging and taking it easy.

    The reason the bulls have been worn down the past few years isn't because of Thibodeau pressing too hard on them it's because they've been devoid of talent so they had to essentially use whatever playoff gear they would have had during the regular season.

    The bulls wasn't that worn out during the 2010-11 season they just had bad luck. In March or April Boozer jammed his toe And played the rest of the season with turf toe, Rose, who hadn't had an injury almost the whole year, had a grade 2 ankle sprain in the playoffs first game, and I believe Joakim Noah sprained his ankle in March or April.

    2011-12 Rose tore his acl but his injury misfortune started against the timberwolves when Corey Brewer landed on his foot and hurt his toe but he only played what 31 games that year? I think he set out an adequate amount of time that year but even if he didn't it was his decision and Luol Deng said as much when he said he and Jo would beg Derrick not to play.

    Does some things about the way Thibodeau coach bother me? Yes. Jimmy doesn't have to play as much as he does nor did Luol and when they didn't play and the bulls won with someone else filling that role says as much. Also, his merchant for keeping with Gasol even though the other team is obviously going at him. And no I'm not with any of you who says Kirk shouldn't play. He's the only guard out there stunting the big on pick and pops and digging at the ball during post ups. If his man makes a move to the basket it's because the defense isn't tied together you have to help the help make them make the extra pass to the corner then run them off the three point line and its not happening.

  • Last time I looked the Bulls were 28-15. Nuttin' to sneeze at.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    The Bulls are currently 26-14, so apparently the last time that you looked was either several years ago, or last century.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Good point.

  • So many opinions here, so I guess I must add mine. I do think the players feel Thibs does not care about them, I stated here before that he overused and abused Deng, and now Butler has put in huge minutes, when he could have lower minutes with Snell getting court time. How many position plays are ran for Butler or Snell when in that position.. Butler could feel that Thibs has no regard for his career just like he did with Deng, but does anyone get any consideration for having an opinion other than maybe Rose..

    Thibs only seems to care about winning now--and not the playoffs. There are no set offensive plays for anyone but Gasol--even Rose creates on his own. When, a coach gives a position player a set of offensive plays--a player can feel like he's given some attention and consideration--but when defense is all that a player hears and sees he may feel distant--as in taking his part of the overall team offensive effort.

    Players are not part of a video game--they have a human element that Thibs has not figured out yet. Everyone wants to be considered as a professional without someone hollering out instructions every minute in a ball game. These guys are making millions of dollars and they respond but--when and where is the point when their intelligence is totally disregarded. This is a new generation of basketball players who are smart--old theories seem to alienate them--when no one considers that they too have opinions--that they too have brains and thoughts about winning..

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    We will find out in about an hour . If they can't beat downs this tanking celtics team, then th y are truly in trouble.

  • Wow, great game against the Cs. Granted, watching the game in Boston, Vernon Maxwell continually said the game was wide open like the 1980 and how the D was very poor. So, that's a concern.

    However, very impressed with Rose. He's not quite as explosive, but he can still make plays. We knew he was not a 26% 3 pt shooter.

    I am still worried about matching up with DC bc their bigs crush ours.

    Overall, great offensive game and hopefully they can pick it up a notch on D as the season progresses.

  • In reply to Granby:

    yep, just one game, but better. I see Rose progressing slowly as predicted, will get better and better, wonder if anyone will give him credit for knocking down 3's? Only 2 games, but everyone goes wild when Niko has 2 nice games....If he can just keep it steady for a few weeks, maybe people will finally cut the guy some slack. He knows what he's doing, slow and steady progression leading to a playoff explosion, keep it up D Rose, as always, Bulls success depends mostly on his health and rhythm....

  • In reply to Keep:

    Yes. We need progress and if he can string a few games like this together we all feel better. Butler needs to regain that swag.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Butler seems depressed because of a personal loss. It may have cut him deeply.

    I remember when Favre lost his father and he went out and threw 5 TD passes in a Monday night game! But we are not all wired the same. Few could do what Favre did even if they had the talent.

    The Bulls have got hit with a ton of garbage this season - actually that seems to happen every season - still they are 27-14 after the win over the Celtics. All the injuries have cost them at least 5 wins, IMO.

    Nevertheless, fans have noted MANY problems, and at minimum several of these will need to be fixed to win a title.

  • In reply to Granby:

    No but he is a 32-33% shooter, and not a 63-67% shooter as he was the past 2 games.

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    In reply to BigWay:

    Yup and I betting we see the sub 35% shooter tonight. God I hope the Bulls don't get embarrassed tonight. If they keep the Hawks under a 100, I will consider it a positive

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    Great team effort last night. We are going to need a similar effort on offense and a much better defensive effort in order to have a chance tonight.

    Hawks coming in as the hottest team in the NBA

    The UC better be rocking tonight cuz the Bulls will need all the help they can get

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    Considering all the horrible first half turnovers, th and Bulls D showed up for almost a full half..........

    Too bad the wheels fell off coming out of half time.......looks like Thibbs made some great adjustments

  • After watching the Atlanta game I don't really see the players tuning Thibs out. Instead, I see a team that is still trying to gel and understand each other. The effort is there but the communication and cohesion is not.

    Since there is a lack of communication I'd say this team either doesn't like playing together, is not truly in the game or simply need more court time together to figure each other out.

    Rose is looking more confident and demanding the ball but not looking dominate physically. His numbers do look great the last three nights and he is not making 'so many' oh my gosh dumb turnovers.

    Aaron Brooks looks likes the bull's best player besides Gasol. He gets around his defender with ease and can finish and find the open man. His ball pressure on defense is great and I've never seen him truly exposed besides anyone other than Andre Miller.

    I'd like to see Aaron Brooks in the starting lineup and playing around 25 minutes a game.

    To be a coach for a game...

  • Here is what everybody has seemed to miss about our beloved;

    1. The Eastern Conference has gotten much better and its tougher. Atlanta, Toronto, Washington all got better. They are young teams that have developed. Yes the Bulls have gotten better as well but they were gauging their talent improvemnet based on what their team was a year ago in a bad East, not based on what the current state of the Eastern Conference. And we still have not even talked about Cleveland yet. What happend if they get their at together soon?
    2. Pau Gasol is playing center instead of power forward and it places Joakim Noah farther out on the floor playing the four. He can't guard fours with that bad knee. And it's worse if it's a strech four. He has no chance. Gasol and Noah are not interchangable, at least from Gasol's position. Gasol is very slow to rotations and he is as stationery as Boozer was. He has no foot speed. Finally teams are playing at a faster pace when Gasol/Noah is on the floor based on everything I've said in this paragraph. To solve this problem, They need a physical defensive big to help protect the rim. Jo's better days may be behind him and they may have to deal with that issue if they want to make a run this year. As a result, when Jo get's back, he needs to come off of the bench. I think he can help there a lot.
    3. The loss of Dunleavy and McDermott from an offensive standpoint has been a huge loss. Spacing on the floor has been very bad. Because of it there have been no driving lanes for DRose. This explains the proliferation of 3's he's been taking and the turnovers he's been making. Teams have packed the paint against him and they have been dropping below the screen to only give him the three to shoot. With that he has seen a lot more double teams at the baseline because of the lask of 3PT shooting. When they get either of them back the offense should improve by osmosis.
    4.The bench has a major problem with E'Twan Moore. He needs to play a lot more minutes and Thibs has to cut the cord with Hinrich. Moore is a better defender, better shooter and doesn't dominate the ball like Kirk does. When Moore has played has done so very well. Kirk has to go....to the far end of the bench. He's done.
    5. Niko's played OK, but he needs to settle down and play to his strengths. He's a finesse player who's a lot like Dirk and they have to play a different style while he's on the floor. Thibs seems to be bent on making him a stretch four. I only see that in small doses. He's a big three. He can run shoot, has a little handle but he's non athletic. I would like to see him in the post more.

    6.Jimmy Butler is not the same after missing that game for bereavement issues. Management needs to check to see if that's affecting him.

    Injuries have been the biggest culprit to this team. Yes they went 13-2 during a stretch, but they have had a real important piece out of their rotation all year. Hopefully the injury bug will go away. Right now the Bulls have to do all they can to avoid falling into the #4 slot in the East. That would bring them LeBron and you do want to chance getting them at the wrong time.

    There are fixable issues but time is starting to waste away. The season is half done already....Also they may only be this good.

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