The Chicago Bulls missed many opportunities in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night. Perhaps the most monumental occurred when LeBron James was called for an offensive foul with the game tied and eight seconds left to play.
The call represented one of LeBron's few mistakes in the series and put the Bulls' MVP Derrick Rose in position to make a game-winning play. But rather than coordinate for an open shot, Rose tried to take James one-on-one.
He was unsuccessful, and no one was really surprised.
As amazing as Rose can be, even a simple out-of-bounds play would have given the Bulls a much better look at the basket, and potentially, a tied series heading home. This is one of many ways in which Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau failed his outstanding team this postseason.
The Bulls owe much of their strength on defense to the coach's guru status in this regard. However, defense seems to be all that he knows and all that he talks about when he is interviewed in-game or is broadcast from the locker room.
Thibodeau's failure to draw up the right play at this critical moment cements his reputation as a poor offensive coach. His tactical skills are dwarfed by those of every coach who has won a title in the last generation, at least.
For instance, Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson would never play for the winning shot by working one-on-one against the best defensive player in the game.
Gar Forman and John Paxson did a truly brilliant job re-tooling the Bulls bench, which went mostly unnoticed during Lebron's hangover last summer. The team has the depth and chemistry to return as contenders next year.
If they want to go all the way, the Chicago Bulls need another second coming.
Phil Jackson's triangle offense has a brilliant way of getting the most out of its players by putting them in the best spots on the floor to shoot. With a brilliant point guard in Rose and a big scorer in Carlos Boozer, Phil's offense could really serve to boost the production from the role players.
No one will argue that you give up something defensively with Jackson. The Doberman Defense of his Bulls teams was well known, and in recent years the Lakers have had some of the NBA's best defensive teams. His ability to handle players and his motivational skills are unmatched.
Although Phil Jackson has insisted throughout the season that he plans to retire, he also seems to have left his door open to a return for a chance at more rings. Speculation regarding where Phil may end up, either this fall or in 2012, is definitely a sexy subject. If Erik Spoelstra doesn't bring it all home for Miami, then they enter the discussion. If the Knicks add another piece, say Chris Paul, then Phil's return to New York could make a great story.
Predictions seem almost useless considering what's gone down this past year in the NBA. But the conclusion that Tom Thibodeau is not the championship coach the Bulls need should still be one of the big takeaways from the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Chicago Bulls really did win the lottery with Derrick Rose. They've built a terrific core of role players.
And there is no question that with Phil Jackson on the sidelines, the Chicago Bulls would again be on the verge of a dynasty.