suntimes
CRACKLING 
Weather Updates

Noah, Bulls are listening to what coach Thibodeau is screaming

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau center Joakim Noah have discussisidelines during free throw fourth quarter Chicago Bulls-SacramenKings NBA game Wednesday

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and center Joakim Noah have a discussion on the sidelines during a free throw in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Sacramento Kings NBA game Wednesday October 31, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

storyidforme: 41257553
tmspicid: 15250602
fileheaderid: 6922069

TOnight

BULLs AT PISTONS

The facts: 6:30, CSN, 1000-AM.

Updated: December 11, 2012 7:56PM



Here are some of the words used to describe Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau this season: “dictator,’’ “overwhelming,’’ “stubborn.’’

And they all belong to center Joakim Noah.

During a game in Minneapolis last season against the Timberwolves, Noah, who was waiting to check in, turned to a screaming Thibodeau and calmly said, “Thibs, you got to [expletive] relax.’’

The NBA is a players’ league. Players will get a coach hired, and they’ll get a coach fired in many instances. If there was one player on the roster who would lead a revolt against the “dictator,’’ it would be Noah.

He’s the rebel of the group and has a following in the locker room.

Noah’s not afraid to question the methods behind Thibodeau’s madness. He’s not afraid to roll his eyes when Thibodeau is repeating himself over and over again.

Noah is the perfect candidate to bring about the fall of the Thibodeau Era . . . if he didn’t respect him so much.

“Thibs doesn’t know any other way than to grind,’’ Noah said. “He’s a hungry dude, and it’s reflected in his teams. Look at how things are coming along. Look at the defense the last few weeks. Guys are getting it.’’

That seems to be the case, and the numbers verify it.

Through the first 11 games, the defense was allowing 94.1 points per game, and the Bulls had a 5-6 record as a result. Since allowing 93 points to the Rockets on Nov. 21, the Bulls are holding opponents to 85 points. The Bulls are 4-2 in that span, and only the Bucks broke the 90-point mark in that home meltdown almost two weeks ago.

The messages Thibodeau preaches on a daily basis finally seem to be sinking in.

“We have some new guys here, and they weren’t ready for it,’’ Noah said. “Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming, but you get used to it.’’

Going into the game in Detroit on Friday, the Bulls are once again in a familiar spot — atop the league in points allowed, holding the opposition to 90.9. Ten days ago, they were 11th.

“I’ve never been around a coach that stresses defense that much,’’ guard Marco Belinelli said last week. “I keep working, keep working.’’

Maybe that’s why Belinelli is getting playing time again after seeing his minutes dwindle at the end of November. Maybe that’s why Vladimir Radmanovic only gets off the bench to wave a towel.

It’s Thibodeau’s way or the bench. There’s no middle ground.

Maybe that’s why Noah said there’s no other coach he’d rather have. Noah’s style of play, his energy, there’s no middle ground there, either.

Noah and Thibodeau might have a lot more in common than they think.

As Noah sat at his locker after the victory Wednesday in Cleveland, he was asked how the Bulls were able to bounce back after a heartbreaking home loss against the Pacers the night before.

He looked up and said, “Our coach is Tom Thibodeau.’’



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.