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All-Star coach Tom Thibodeau in it to win it

Updated: March 18, 2012 8:22AM

Don’t be fooled into thinking the fun-loving nature of the NBA All-Star Game will do anything to lighten the mood of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who will coach the Eastern Conference in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 26.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers recalled how much Thibodeau wanted to win the game when he was an assistant on the East staff in New Orleans in 2008.

Thibodeau, only two years removed from being on Rivers’ staff in Boston, should remember that the bonus from winning the All-Star Game means something to his lesser-paid assistants.

“Thibs kept saying in the fourth quarter, ‘Hey, we want to win this game; don’t you forget it,’ ” Rivers said. “I wonder if he’ll do the same thing now that he’s a head coach.”

So, with his staff in mind, the stoic Thibodeau has the right idea.

Rivers also said he hoped Thibodeau played Luol Deng and Derrick Rose the whole game.

He also poked fun at Thibodeau’s practice habits.

 “I think he’s going to run the hell out of them,” Rivers joked. “He’s going to have a good speech; they’ll have a hard practice.”

Obviously, Deng is well aware of how taxing a Thibodeau-run practice can be. Thibodeau is so obsessive about using every single minute that he brought stationary bikes into the Bulls’ film sessions this season so the players could work out while having a team meeting.

That left Deng with an idea that might help the Bulls in the second half of the season.

“I told him he should sit me and Derrick out in practice and have [the other All-Stars] practice hard,” Deng said. “That would be fun.”

In typical nature, Thibodeau deflected any attention from himself and credited the organization. Of course, he was uncomfortable talking about the game at all. It’s way too early.

 “It’s a game that’s for the fans,” Thibodeau said. “When we get there, we’ll start thinking about it.

“It’s more a testament and byproduct of what the team has done. Anytime you can participate in something like that, it’s always good. It’s an honor. I’ll look forward to it.”

All-Star Weekend is known for its Hollywood-style parties and red carpet, so it’s easy to see Thibodeau as being out of place.

Then again, anybody who thinks so should just ask Thibodeau’s ­assistants.

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