Coach Tom Thibodeau has his players’ attention
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter November 17, 2013 9:56PM
Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
BOBCATS AT BULLS
The facts: 7 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: November 18, 2013 12:15PM
Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed pointed to the locker of point guard Derrick Rose, who was getting dressed somewhere in a swarm of media.
‘‘One of the big reasons [our system] works is because of that guy right there,’’ Mohammed said. ‘‘Our superstar is an amazing person. He’s bought in, and that says it all right there.’’
Any NBA coach will tell you a big factor in the success of a team is having the superstars buy into what you preach. And when it comes to coach Tom Thibodeau, Rose is all in. And he’s not alone.
‘‘It all comes down to the player,’’ backup big man Taj Gibson said. ‘‘If you want to be coached and pushed to the limit, this is the team for you; he’s the coach for you. If you want to nonchalant it, have a guy not push you, just go out there and freelance how you want, not get better, then this isn’t the team for you. Because every day he’s going to push you, yell at you. Every day is a grind on this team.’’
That’s why there was no panic among the players when the Bulls opened the regular season 1-3. They knew Thibodeau would make adjustments, coach them up and push them to work harder. He would grind them, then they would grind the opposition. That’s the relationship.
The Bulls have responded by winning four consecutive games, including a 110-94 rout Saturday of an Indiana Pacers team that came into the United Center as the last unbeaten team in the league.
‘‘[Thibodeau’s] the type of coach that’s a pro,’’ said Mohammed, who has 16 NBA seasons under his belt. ‘‘You can tell that by his work ethic and how much time he spends in the gym scouting, breaking down film. So he expects that from his players. So if you’re a pro, you can play for him.’’
The bigger question is, do players want to play for him? That could be answered if the Bulls opt to break up their core of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Rose by letting Deng leave as a free agent next summer. With what might be a deep pool of talent available in free agency, will Thibodeau’s style attract big-name stars?
‘‘Without a doubt,’’ Mohammed said. ‘‘He was a well-respected assistant, and he’s a well-respected head coach. I talked to [Oklahoma City Thunder center] Kendrick Perkins about him. When we were in [Oklahoma City] together, Kendrick raved about him from the Boston days. He was like, ‘Hey, man, he’s the greatest coach I ever played for.’ That’s his reputation, and that speaks for itself.’’
Gibson said he can’t remember how many opposing players had asked him about Thibodeau in the last three seasons, with the first question usually being, ‘‘Does he really yell that much?’’
‘‘We have a good group of guys that are real unselfish and worry about the team, so we don’t get caught up in ego,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘We can’t afford to be having issues of guys not liking the coach. At the end of the day, he wants us to get better. He wants us to win games, we want to win games, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship.
‘‘All I know is everyone that’s played for him, won championships with him, they know Thibs just loves the game, man. He just loves it.’’