Thibs watches officials hand Kings a win over Bulls

Thibs watches officials hand Kings a win over Bulls
Chicago Tribune

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau must be a closet Sacramento fan, because he stood there and let the officials hand the Kings a victory over the Bulls Thursday night.

At least Joakim Noah showed that he has a pair, picking up a well-deserved technical after getting called for his complete bullshit fifth foul on a Demarcus Cousins flop. That was about a minute after Jo got whistled for his fourth foul because apparently the official thinks it’s a foul to have your face in the way of Cousins’ swinging elbows.

The Kings had been whistled for more fouls than any other team in the NBA entering the game, and apparently the three zebras calling this game decided to make it up to them. The Bulls only attempted three free throws in the first half, and through the first three quarters the Kings had attempted 20 free throws to the Bulls’ 10.

I’d like to get a copy of the game that the three officials – #35 Kane Fitzgerald, #40 Leon Wood, and #55 Bill Kennedy – were watching, because it certainly wasn’t the same one I was seeing on TNT.


Give the Kings their due

The Bulls weren’t playing a great game for sure, as the Kings were shooting 55.6% from the field through 3 quarters. Then again, it’s hard to play any defense when you’ve been called for 21 fouls in 36 minutes.

And it’s hard to score if the officials refuse to call a foul on the other team when they hit you on a shot attempt.

But let’s give credit where credit is due, the Kings played very well tonight. They shot 51.4% (38/74) from the field, 66.7% (4/6) on 3’s, and 85.2% (23/27) from the free throw line. It’s certainly not their fault that the officials were giving them most of the calls over the first three quarters, it’s up to the other team’s coach to get a technical (or two) if necessary.

That’s the way professional sports works, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Period.

But that’s not the Bulls’ biggest problem when it comes to coaching – it seems like it’s finally time to find this generation’s Phil Jackson.

Thibs is a great Doug Collins

Thibs certainly deserves all of the accolades he has been showered with over the last 4+ seasons. He took a .500-ish team and turned them into a 60-win team his first two seasons, getting his team to play the tough-nosed defense that any championship contender has to play if they hope to win a title.

And he was actually the perfect coach for this team the last two seasons without Rose, because a star-less team needs to be driven to win on the defensive side of the ball.

But this roster now has plenty of talent, more than enough to win a championship this year if Rose were healthy. They know how to play defense. Now it’s time to bring in a coach who knows how to coach top-flight talent. Who is a “player’s coach”, if you prefer. A Phil Jackson to 1988-89 Doug Collins.

Thibs has too many flaws

Thibs just keeps showing that he has too many flaws to coach a championship team.

Among them:

Wearing players out. Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah play as hard as any player in the league, on both ends of the floor. Now that Noah is healthy and his minutes restrictions seem to have been lifted, Thibs would have played him 40 mintues tonight if he weren’t in foul trouble. And he would have played Jimmy his usual 40 if he didn’t pull the starters (FINALLY!!) in the last 90 seconds of a game that was lost.

Jimmy was outstanding once again tonight, with a game-high 23 points (11/18 FG) and 8 rebounds in 37 minutes. He might have scored 30, but he only attempted TWO free throws as the officials didn’t bother blowing any whistles when he was under the basket on offense.

I wonder how far along Jimmy would be now if Thibs had bothered playing him at all his rookie year? If Thibs had played him in his second season before he was forced to do so because Deng and Belinelli were hurt?

The entire world (except for Thibs, apparently) can see that Nikola Mirotic is an offensive superstar in the making. When he gets minutes, he puts up points, and he does so efficiently. But even when Gasol sits out a game, Niko can’t get 20 minutes. Completely inexcusable.

Niko had another mostly outstanding game tonight (outside of two or three “fouls” that he didn’t deserve), with 7 points (3/6 FG, 1/3 3’s), 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 18 minutes. He once again embarassed Taj “Please Trade Him GarPax” Gibson on the defensive glass, matching Taj’s 5 defensive rebounds in 1/2 the playing time.

Not developing rookies. A carryover from Niko, but lately this is more appropriate for Doug McDermott.

McDoug has struggled as of late, no doubt about it. But this goes back to the November 4 game against the Magic. Doug was outstanding in the first half of that game, knocking down 4/6 shots from the field (1/2 on 3’s) and 3/3 free throws for 12 points in 10:19 seconds. It marked the second time in his four NBA games that he scored in double-figures, and it was only halftime.

His reward? A measly 1:20 of PT in the second half.

The next game, he gets less than 7 minutes of playing time.

The following two games, he played 17:08 and 15:06, and his numbers for the two games combined:

32:14, 6/8 FG, 2/3 3pt, 14 pts, 4 reb, 3 to

That was followed by two games where he played less than 5 1/2 minutes in each game, followed by the Pacers game where he played 13:50 and scored 7 points (3/4 FG, 1/1 3pt). Yes, he had three turnovers in that game, but that’s still 7 points on 7 possessions, PLUS keeping a defender from helping on his teammates, because not one single team has left him alone behind the arc.

Tony Snell has also shown flashes, but for some reason lately Thibs insists on playing Snell, McDermott and Mirotic at the same time, without any starters on the floor.

Thibs still thinks every game is Game 7 of the NBA Finals

Before the season, Thibs promised to coach the Bulls more like Pops coaches the Spurs – you know, developing young players, resting veterans, not playing guys 40+ minutes in the first month of the season.

But he can’t help himself, once the game starts, it’s the NCAA tournament, single-elimination, and the Bulls must win.

Thibs is one hell of a defensive coach, he can teach guys to defend like very few before him. But he’s not the guy to be coaching a talented, deep, contending team.

He’d be perfect for the Sixers, teaching their young guys how to be professionals. Imagine trying to score on Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid if Thibs were coaching them?

But he’s not the guy for this Bulls team, it pains me to say.

We need a Doc Rivers. A Phil Jackson. A veteran coach who played the game and understands what it’s like to be a player. Who understands that guys need rest. Who understands that if you want a rookie to succeed, he needs successful minutes – and that’s not going to happen if you’re playing him with nothing but bench players and other rookies.


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Thibodeau image courtesy Chicago Tribune


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    You lost me with Thibs... Derrick Rose is resting. Pau Gasol is resting. Jimmy Butler has rested. Joakim Noah has sat out games too. He played his rookies (including Bairstow) last night, and Doug McDermott doesn't deserve more mins. He's playing lousy! I would rather see more mins out of Tony Snell than Doug. Both were drafted to shoot the ball and both tend to pass up the open shot, and when they do shoot, they miss. Mirotic is playing well but tends to get into foul trouble. 4 Fouls in a qtr and a half is ridiculous! He'll learn tho. Sacramento always seems to play the Bulls tough at home, and DeMarcus Cousins has been a handful for the Bulls frontcourt players to handle.
    The Bulls lost, but it won't get any easier tonight against Portland. They also tend to play well against the Bulls @ home.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    Thanks for commenting, sorry I was too busy to respond earlier.

    I think the late 1st and early 2nd quarters of the Portland game I'm watching helps prove my point - if Thibs would leave his young guys on the floor and allow them to play throug a mistake or two, they have skills and talent.

    And back to Thibs, I just watched Niko get mauled on a layup attempt without getting a call, and Thibs just stood there and let Portland go to the other end for a 3. GET A FUCKING TECHNICAL, THIBS!! The big-time coaches know when to get called for a T when your team isn't getting any calls. Thibs still hasn't learned, and this is year #5, what's he waiting for?

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    And Thibs' indifference led to a big huge run that led Portland expand their lead back to 20. THEN he calls a time out.

    It was reported as early as training camp that the team was starting to tune Thibs out, when the Bulls fall short again in the playoffs this year, it's officially time to bring in a veteran coach who knows how to deal with lots of talent.

    Thibs would be perfect in Philly, I bet he could get them to the playoffs next season.

  • With a bench as deep and as strong as the Bulls'--several could be starters on other teams-- there's little excuse for not using it more to wear out the other team. Agree with you about Butler not being given enough of a chance as a rookie. He's proving now that the Bulls cannot even think of losing him next season.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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