Jerry Reinsdorf knows what he’s got in Tom Thibodeau.
After all, you’re talking about the guy who led the Bulls to records of 62-20 and 50-16 in his first two seasons. “Thibs”, as his players like to call him, spearheaded a renewed effort on the defensive side of the ball. Along with attaining the raspiest voice on god’s green earth, Thibodeau learned from Doc Rivers the kind of coaching acumen that propelled him to a head coaching position. To be fair, a balanced team (led by an established Derrick Rose) surely didn’t hurt.
Because of Thibodeau’s success at the helm of Bulls basketball, the club is reportedly in talks concerning Thibodeau’s extension after the 2012-2013 season. Signing Thibs to a long term deal is a no-brainer that should bring some sense of certainty in a time when Chicago lacks (and sorely needs) it.
With Derrick Rose sidelined for up to a year after tearing his ACL, the Bulls face a difficult season. Sporting a roster highlighted by Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng, this Bulls squad looks vulnerable on paper.
Consider some of the recent developments in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The 76ers maintained their young core and found themselves a franchise player in Andrew Bynum. The Nets moved to Brooklyn, extended some kid named Deron Williams, and acquired Joe Johnson. The Pacers held on to big man Roy Hibbert and are fresh off of a season where they were (for a second) considered favorites in a series against the Heat.
Two of those teams (Pacers, Sixers) have already tasted success in the play-offs. They’re hungry for more. The Nets at the very least are looking at a season of relevance (and if you’re a Nets fan, that’s all you can ask for).
Boston is still a scrappy team that looks like they can make one more run at a 2nd round exit, Detroit boasts talented bigs and a renewed backcourt, Milwaukee somehow acquired Monta Ellis last year and drafted its way into a decent front court, and the list goes on. For the teams that made no real leap forward in talent, there was good news in terms of finances, i.e: The Hawks managing to get rid of Joe Johnson’s toxic contract. The point is that even Atlanta, who by no means has gotten more talented, made some sort of progression.
In contrast, the Bulls lost one of the best back-up bigs in the business (albeit to a silly contract) to the apparently filthy rich Houston Rockets. Though it was the right move financially, the Bulls took a step back talent wise. Joakim Noah has made his value on defense and the boards very clear (9.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and Taj Gibson had a respectable season filling in at the 4-spot. Nonetheless, with Asik gone, the defensive emphasis is amplified on Noah. Worse yet, his frontcourt mate is among the league’s worst defenders (Boozer).
Are the Bulls looking at a season where they are fighting to stay above .500 in a quickly improving Eastern conference?
Proving Ground: Thibs’ Time
Though the prospects for next season aren’t very positive on paper, there is something to look forward to for Bulls fans.
Tom Thibodeau has established himself as one of the premier basketball minds in the Association. In his two seasons as head coach, he’s led a Bulls team that would be done little justice with the label, “scrappy”. Under the focused, persistent approach of Thibodeau, the Bulls found themselves among the NBA’s defensive elites.
This team’s lack of its superstar point guard is more than an ominous sign. It’s a test. Thibodeau is a coach who rarely mentioned offensive production when discussing team success. True to the “ubuntu” preached by former mentor Doc Rivers, Thibs emphasized a defensive approach based on a brotherhood on the court. The guards were the first line, but they needed their frontcourt brothers to be there, willing to help on defense, and shut down opponents.
Such an approach lacks the need for superstar talent. Though Derrick Rose’s production on the court will be missed, this is a proving ground for Thibodeau. He has preached the same defensive values to a team that won on the shoulders of one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons. As such, there is some understandable hesitation among a few in giving Thibodeau as much credit as we give him. But most of us, like the majority of you Bulls fans, believe the same thing: Thibodeau is worth every penny he’s paid.
One man’s depleted roster is another’s exercise in coaching brilliance. It’s Thibs’ time.
Mohamed Abdihakim is a journalism student at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Phoenix Suns fan, who is not prepared for the possibility of Nash winning a title in a Lakers jersey. Mohamed is also a contributor at “Les Snobs”. Interests include International basketball, Mad Men , and blues music. Twitter handle: @Abdi_hakim