Thibodeau named East's Coach of the Month; Noah likely to play in Detroit?

According to multiple media outlets, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for March, in which the Bulls went a conference-best 13-3.

This is the second time Thibodeau has won the award, as he did it back in January as well.

With the Bulls holding an East-best 54-20 mark and the top spot in the conference, Thibodeau has to be one of the leading candidates for the Coach of the Year award.

The Bulls have improved by 13 games (and counting), and not many followers predicted a season in which the Bulls would contend for the East's top spot and an NBA championship.

Thibodeau has some competition for the Coach of the Year award, however, with Gregg Popovich, Doug Collins and Nate McMillan doing great jobs with the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively.

Popovich's chances could be going down the tubes, though, as the Spurs have lost six of their past 10 games and have let the L.A. Lakers (two and a half games behind) back in contention for the top spot in the Western Conference.

The bad finish by the Spurs could leave a bad taste for some voters, but if the Spurs, who have gotten Tim Duncan's worst season (statistically), can hold onto the best overall record in the NBA after having it for nearly the entire season, the Coach of the Year is Popovich's to lose.

It's been extraordinary what Collins and McMillan have accomplished. Collins has brought the 76ers from what seemed another lottery season (3-13 start) to being a playoff team, as the 76ers currently hold the sixth spot in the East with a 39-36 record.

McMillan, meanwhile, has dealt with several injuries to key pieces all season. Brandon Roy has missed 34 games with knee issues and former top pick Greg Oden -- in what's becoming a seasonal ritual -- has missed the entire season.

Still, the Trail Blazers, who are 43-32 going into Friday's game against Oklahoma City, hold the seventh spot in the loaded West and can move past sixth-seeded New Orleans as both teams have identical records.

However, with Thibodeau and Popovich as Coach of the Year candidates on top teams, the odds that Collins or McMillan win are not likely. Historically, it's usually a top-tier team whose coach wins the award, and a winner from Collins' six-seeded team or McMillan's seven-seeded (possibly six at season's end) isn't likely.

Thibodeau is one of the front-runners for Coach of the Year, and if the season ended today, it'd be tough to see voters not go with the first-year head coach. Although, just like Derrick Rose's MVP candidacy, the first-year factor could also work against Thibodeau.

Noah likely against Pistons?: Joakim Noah, who missed the Bulls' last game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a swollen right ankle, seems likely to play tonight in Detroit. However, he's still listed as a game-time decision.

"[I feel] a little bit better," Noah said to ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell. "I got a little of the swelling down.
I'll probably sit out shootaround and see how I feel tonight ... it's
still really blue, so I guess that's a good thing. The swelling's out.
Not all the way, but it's healing."

Noah's a gamer and it sure sounds like he's ready to go against the Pistons. Although, he sounded the same way before Wednesday night's game against Minnesota as well.

As the case with the Timberwolves, the Pistons are a team the Bulls should defeat fairly handily with or without Noah. The Bulls -- as we know -- need Noah for the postseason, not for game number 75 against a Detroit Pistons team that's 26-48 and has struggled to win games all season.

It would be a smart move by the Bulls to sit Noah for one more game and hope to have him on Saturday as Bulls will play a back-to-back against the Toronto Raptors in Chicago; although, even that game isn't one the Bulls should need Noah for.


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