Are Tom Thibodeau's Postgame Comments on LeBron, Refs Setting Right Tone?

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 11, 2013

May 2, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts to a call against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center. The Nets beat the Bulls 95-92. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is none too happy these days. And with his team losing its composure on a nightly basis and now trailing the defending champion Miami Heat 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it's easy to see why.

UPDATE: Sunday, May 12, 2:45 E.T. by Ethan Norof

Thibodeau has been fined $35,000 by the NBA for his public criticism of the officials after losing Game 3 to the Heat.

--End of Update--


After piling up 27 personal fouls, six technicals and a pair of ejections in Game 2, Thibodeau's Bulls amassed 30 personals, two technicals and yet another ejection in Game 3.

Joakim Noah shoved Chris Andersen, and Nazr Mohammed momentarily lost his mind, leaping to his feet after tangling with LeBron James and pushing the MVP to the floor.


That last incident wouldn't seem to be one open to much debate; Mohammed basically charged at James and knocked him over right in front of a pair of officials who were already on edge because of a chippy history between these two teams.

Yet Thibodeau spent much of hist postgame press conference complaining about the unkind whistles his team received during the contest. In particular, he fixated on the play that earned Mohammed an ejection, isolating James' possibly exaggerated reaction to the shove as evidence that the officials were giving the Heat preferential treatment.

Whether James sold the contact or not, Mohammed still rushed at him and shoved him. It's possible that an ejection might not have been the result if James hadn't gone to the floor, but really, Thibodeau is missing the point: Mohammed put the refs in a position to toss him by making a stupid play.

The fact that James lurched backward isn't really all that important.

This is nothing new for Thibs, who whined in a similar fashion about what he perceived to be some biased officiating in Miami after a blowout loss in Game 2.

It's hard to surmise whether Thibodeau is taking the tack Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson successfully employed during the first round. Jackson's pleas to the officials cost him $25,000, but he managed to force them to monitor some of the rough play the Denver Nuggets were using to bother Stephen Curry.

Thibodeau doesn't seem like the type to engage in that sort of gamesmanship, as his general no-nonsense demeanor would attest. But that only leaves the possibility that he really does think Chicago is being treated unfairly by the refs.

If we only look at Game 3, which seems to be the basis for his latest gripes, it's difficult to find any instances of unfair officiating. After all, there's no scenario in which Noah and Mohammed wouldn't have received technical fouls (and in the latter case, an ejection) for their blatant shoves against Miami players.

James was whistled for a technical foul when he and Mohammed tangled, which he probably deserved. And other than that play, there really weren't any other instances in which the Heat put themselves in position to be hit with a violation.

Ultimately, Thibodeau and his team are pathologically competitive, and it's entirely possible that neither party is seeing things clearly in the afterglow of a couple of physical games. Plus, both Thibs and the Bulls are probably struggling with the dawning realization that they're simply not healthy nor good enough to hang with the Heat.

So perhaps Thibodeau's complaints are born of a combination of frustration and desperation. Either way, it's not a great look for him.