Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau back in chemistry lab
BY NEIL HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org September 30, 2012 9:44PM
DALLAS, TX - MAY 17: Nazr Mohammed #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a shot in front of Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first half in Game One of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 17, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Eric Gay/Pool/Getty Images)
Omer asik — OUT
Years MPG PPG FG% FT% RPG BPG
3 20.6 2.9 .529 .484 4.4 .8
Vladimir Radmanovic — IN
11 22.5 8.2 .416 .759 3.9 .4
Nazr Mohammed — IN
14 17.4 6.6 .493 .639 5.2 .7
C.J. Watson — OUT
Years MPG PPG FG% 3FG% APG TO
5 20.6 7.8 .422 .372 2.6 1.14
Kirk Hinrich — IN
9 33 12.5 .417 .378 5.4 2.04
Nate Robinson — IN
7 23 11.2 .425 .354 2.8 1.44
KYLE KORVER — OUT
Years MPG PPG FG% 3FG% APG TO
10 24.2 9.5 .412 .387 1.6 1.0
MARCO BELINELLI — IN
6 21.5 8.9 .424 .393 1.3 1.0
Updated: November 2, 2012 6:15AM
Kyle Korver called it the most selfless team he had ever played for. Chemistry was the Bulls’ MVP last season.
As disappointing as the season turned out, it also included a great accomplishment. Leading the NBA in regular-season victories despite Derrick Rose spending long stretches in a full body cast is a testament to the NBA’s best chemistry.
If coach Tom Thibodeau can re-create that elusive quality starting Tuesday, when training camp opens at the Berto Center, he should be allowed to name his price before signing a long-overdue contract extension. It’s the biggest challenge of his career, considering half the roster was replaced and the Bulls’ unquestioned leader is rehabbing a torn ACL.
The team’s signature under Thibodeau has been defense, effort and unselfishness, which must continue if these Bulls are to fulfill their potential. The problem is, before he can establish expectations or growl, “Do your job,” introductions will be in order. Players can’t play well together until they get to know each other and each other’s games, which is priority No. 1.
Playing Korver’s role of long-range bomber will be Marco Belinelli. Kirk Hinrich replaces C.J. Watson, and Nate Robinson is this year’s John Lucas III. Omer Asik will be difficult to replace everywhere but at the free-throw line. Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic won’t be able to duplicate Asik’s defensive presence but should bring more scoring punch. Jimmy Butler is the new Ronnie Brewer. Marquis Teague replaces Butler as understudy.
If chemistry was the team MVP last season, depth finished a close second. Considering the games lost to injury by Rose, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and Watson, finishing with the most regular-season wins for the second straight year was an amazing feat and a testament not only to Thibodeau, but the personnel department, as well.
Vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman carefully assembled a roster that fit together seamlessly when everybody was healthy, which was rare last season.
They undoubtedly tried to build this roster just as meticulously, but whether this one will be as successful as last season’s version remains to be seen. Complicating the process is the void left by Rose’s absence, which extends beyond his considerable ability.
Rose is the player most responsible for setting the pace and holding teammates to a high standard, which he won’t be able to do until he recovers from ACL surgery, and nobody, least of all Rose, knows when that might be. In the meantime, he’s going to try to lead from the training room, which is never easy.
In a way, Thibodeau is preparing his team for two seasons --- one without Rose and one when Rose returns, which only increases the degree of difficulty.
Continuity was a big reason for optimism heading into last season’s abbreviated training camp. No more. If Thibodeau hopes to duplicate the chemistry that helped him become the fastest NBA coach to win 100 games, he’s going to have to produce it from scratch.