Chicago Bulls: 9 Reasons Tom Thibodeau Deserves To Win Coach of the Year
More and more, the Chicago Bulls are looking like "legitimate conference contenders."
That's something they haven't heard in 13 years.
The Bulls have pulled ahead of the Orlando Magic, sitting third in the conference and have gone as far as tying for second with the Miami Heat.
They've defeated the top teams in the Eastern Conference, though those were against a Kevin Garnett-less Boston Celtics and LeBron James-less Miami team.
Yet, let's not forget (and we probably won't) that the Bulls have had injury issues of their own. Once they get back to full strength, who knows what heights the Bulls will reach.
Derrick Rose deserves plenty of credit for the Bulls' recent winning successes, but there's a bigger name behind it all - Tom Thibodeau.
Though he is up against Greg Popovich and Doc Rivers for Coach of the Year, Thibodeau is seeing immediate success in his first year as a head coach.
And if Erik Spoelstra’s name is hanging out there as a candidate, then Thibs' name should be thrown in the bag as well.
8. Turned Bulls Into Potential Conference Contenders
In the Bulls past playoff appearances, no one picked them to play against Boston or Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls were a joke.
This season, that's not the case.
Tom Thibodeau has put together a conference-caliber team that Chicago hadn't seen since 1998.
Still, in the beginning of the season, still, no one truly picked them to win the conference and even possibly face the Lakers and Phil Jackson in the NBA Finals.
Doubters didn't believe in Derrick Rose, and more so, in the Thibodeau's ability's as head coach.
ESPN pundits were raving the Miami Heat, and the only teams that could contend against them were Boston or Orlando. They didn't believe in the Bulls.
Well, the Bulls have beaten all three teams of the East.
Thibs has molded the Bulls to rightfully earn their way into the list of teams to fear from the East, especially once Joakim Noah returns.
7. First-Timer Coaching a Winning Team
Thibs hasn't had a full season with the Bulls, and already, he is turning the franchise around into something that fans haven't seen since the Jordan-Phil Jackson Era.
That winning feeling is back, and it's legit.
Around this time last season, the Bulls struggled to make it to .500. Under Vinny Del Negro, the Bulls finished 41-41, which was just enough to earn them a pity spot in the playoffs. Even if the Bulls were to make it past Boston in the legendary 2009 playoffs, they wouldn't have lasted.
It took Scott Skiles a few seasons to finally give the Bulls their first playoff berth after an eight-year drought. But the Bulls were without a superstar to take over.
Now, just before the All-Star break, the Bulls are well above .500 ... no... make that .600. They are under the leadership of a rookie head coach who had some doubting his ability to transform a winning team in one season, from scratch.
Some felt more comfortable with Doug Collins as head coach, but could he have led the Bulls to:
-Third in the East
-Fourth in the entire league
6. Playing Around Loads Of Injuries
The Bulls have been dropping like flies with all of their injuries.
Their top summer prize, Carlos Boozer, missed the first eight weeks because of a fractured right hand, and once he returned, Joakim Noah's thumb popped.
Taj Gibson missed a couple of weeks with an ankle injury; Ronnie Brewer wasn't at full strength to begin the season; Boozer missed a few games, again, because of an ankle injury.
Even Derrick Rose sat out a game, which made the Bulls desperate to make a last minute call and fly in John Lucas III.
It's easy to blame the struggles of a team based on its injuries.
But the main struggles for the Bulls amid these injuries were mostly intensity, not lack of positioning.
Despite the injuries, Thibs demanded that his bench step up. He became the brains behind the adjustments and plays on the drawing board.
In January, the Bulls were without both Noah and Boozer, and many believed that the Bulls' lethargic plays in December would carry over.
Suddenly, Thibs was named Coach of the Month. The Bulls went 12-4 then, including big wins against the Eastern-Conference leading Celtics and Miami Heat. Of course, a large portion of January's success was due to Rose taking over games.
But the Bulls put up impressive defensive numbers, ranking second in the league in rebounds and third in holding their opponents to the least points per game. And there's only one guy on the team who eats, sleeps, and breaths defense -- Thibodeau.
5. Found a Way To Mesh The New Guys With The Rest Of The Bulls
Somehow, Thibs created a formula that has enabled the Bulls to play together.
Half the team barely knew each other coming into the season, and neither side was familiar with its new coach -- except Brian Scalabrine.
Rose, Gibson and Luol Deng were mostly familiar with VND's triangle, pick-and-roll offense, and never truly valued the significance of lockdown defense.
Boozer and Kyle Korver got off easily by not playing defense in Utah.
CJ Watson and Kurt Thomas were the last-minute buys, and the Bulls brought in Omer Asik, who was in for some serious, aggressive NBA-style of play.
Somehow, Thibodeau managed to make them play by his books, and meanwhile enhance the chemsitry of the team. He even broke the language barrier with Asik.
His players speak fondly of each other and of Thibs, which is impressive, considering, again, half the team didn't know each other.
4. Turned The Bulls Into a Defensive Powerhouse
People call him the defensive guru.
He turned Derrick Rose from a poor defender to a smart defender. (Notice how Rose hasn't been giving into shot fakes lately?).
Thibs solidified Deng's defense, giving Deng the honor of covering the guys like LeBron, Paul Pierce, and Kobe Bryant.
Despite the offensive spark that Korver can provide, Thibs doesn't put him in as late as the second half.
He'll bench you no matter who you are (i.e. Boozer) to send a message that 'despite your high-scoring, high-rebounding, you'll be sitting next to me if you don't play defense.'
Keith Bogans. Nothing else to add here.
As a team, the Bulls lead the league in fewest points allowed per game, No. 2 in rebounds per game, No. 2 in holding their opponents to the fewest field goal percentage, No. 3 in fewest 3-point field goals per game and No. 2 in holding their opponents from assists.
Basically, they rank high in most of the defensive categories.
3. He's Serious About His Job
(Quote taken from Hoopsworld.com)
"Our coach keeps the big picture in mind, and that's to win a championship," Boozer said. "Not to be second in the East or have 30-something wins before the All-Star break. Him having that vision, we keep that same vision too."
Thibs came in with one goal in mind, and that's to win an NBA Championship.
It's no wonder why he spent countless hours watching and analyzing tapes on the first few days of his new job. He had the front office worried about him overworking himself.
He instills his determination on his team, and the team spits back to the media what he tells them. That's not great Public Relations work. That's just reflective of the respect that the players have on their coach.
He has strict work ethic, a high basketball IQ and stays true to his defensive philosophy.
He even booked an early flight out of Chicago before the city was struck by the Midwest blizzard just to get to Golden State in time. And he did it all by himself. That's dedication.
2. His Own Payers Are Individually Developing
(Quote taken from Hoopsworld.com)
"We're learning a lot, not just to win games but how to be successful in life," Luol Deng added. "He always tells us, don't be content. Have an edge every time you play. It's easy as human beings, with the way we're playing right now and the way everyone is praising us, it's easy to relax. But he's challenging us every day to get up, and our challenge is to get up for that."
Many wondered what kind of respect LeBron and the rest of the Miami team have for Erik Spoelstra. But that doesn't seem like the case for Chicago's first-time coach.
Thibs seems to have found a way to connect with his own players off the court, and he's not even half way through.
As the season unfolds, we're seeing players step into their roles and embrace it, all while acknowledging the coaching of Thibs.
Kurt Thomas, one of the oldest players in the league, slowly earned more minutes, filling in the role of Noah and Boozer.
It's difficult to see Keith Bogans' production, and despite fan growls, Thibs has stuck with Bogans as a starter. This only feeds Bogans' confidence and reminds him that his role is to play defense, not score.
No one seems to be calling Luol Deng an "overpaid, mediocre" player. His defense and offensive game are becoming more irreplaceable. He's finally living up to his contract, and has honed on his 3-point shot, and area where the Bulls need a punch.
The list can go on, but there's one key player who makes Tom Thibodeau a true candidate for Coach of the Year.
1. Thibs Is Coaching a Potential MVP Candidate -- Derrick Rose
After three seasons, is it a coincidence that Rose is at full bloom under Tom Thibodeau?
It's easy to credit Rose for the Bulls' recent success, but there's no doubting Thibodeau's influence on Rose.
Stated earlier, Rose's defense has picked up, and having that balance is crucial if Rose wants to be this season's MVP.
Again and again, Rose speaks of improving and doing better in the next game. (For example, not missing the game-tying free throw against the Clippers).
Who else talks about room for improvement, all the time?
Indeed, part of Thibs has rubbed off on Rose, and he has given Rose more flexibility on the floor to display his talent and heart, which is something VND couldn't do.
If Rose were to win MVP this season, it'd be cruel to ignore the Thibs' role in Rose's achievement.