With so many questions surrounding the return of Rose, Chicago’s season all circles back to coach Tom Thibodeau, whose masterful control of the locker room has helped seamlessly rescript the narrative from lost year to playoff threat.
Thibodeau is once again displaying the coaching virtuosity that has him in the running, if not the favorite, to win his second coach of the year award in the last three years. “Thibs” has been unblinking in confronting a myriad of injuries this season, and has brilliantly rejiggered his lineup game after game after game.
Thibodeau has taken last year’s 12th man, Jimmy Butler, and made the second-year forward a viable starter – Butler finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds against Golden State.
He’s rejuvenated Nate Robinson’s once hopeless NBA career into his irrational confidence spark off the bench. And thanks to his masterful, world-class defense – 3rd overall – the Bulls have the leagues best road record at 12-5. If history tells us anything, the recipe for postseason success is an unrelenting defense and an ability to win on the road. Of the last 10 NBA champions, only the 2005-06 Miami Heat (17th) ranked outside of the top seven in defensive efficiency.
But most importantly, Thibodeau has instilled an attitude of trusting your teammates instead of trusting only your talent, like so many in this star-driven league fail to do.
Are you reading, Mr. D’Antoni?
Circumstances don’t make you, they reveal you. And somehow, someway, Thibodeau has the Bulls sitting pretty at 26-16, good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference and just three games behind Miami and New York for the top spot.
Chicago has done more than just stay afloat as it hoped expected to without Rose. They’ve played so admirably and consistently well over the last month that bossman Chris Sheridan believes they are the sleeping giants in the East.
Men are much slower to recognize blessings than evils, and as the basketball world continues to revolve around the panic in LakerLand, these Bulls have become easy to miss.
Just as they expected.
Around the NBA:
- Ray Allen prepares for an intense return to Boston Sunday afternoon, from NBA.com: Not only will his trip there Sunday be his first as a former Celtic, but it will come with him donning the colors of perhaps the team’s biggest rival these days, the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat, the club that has ousted Boston from the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
- TNT broadcaster Marv Albert is suspicious of Celtics pumping sound, from the Boston Herald: Marv Albert, who has called more games in the old and new Garden than just about anyone outside Boston, let last night’s TNT audience in on a suspicion he has about the building’s game night sound. Based on what Albert has heard, he believes Celtics management pumps in extra noise.
- Raymond Felton tests finger, ready to play Saturday against Philly, from the New York Times: Now here comes Raymond Felton, their point guard and steady hand, who at once balances the offense, negotiates touches and allows his teammates to return to their familiar positions and roles. Felton’s right pinkie, which he broke on Dec. 25, was no bother during a practice Friday at Temple University. Barring a late setback, he will start Saturday against the 76ers.
- NBA All-Star game back in Dallas? Per ESPN Dallas: After the 2010 weekend, Cuban had been enthusiastic about bringing the game back to Cowboys Stadium and holding the Saturday showcase events at the AAC again. However, he has reconsidered, wanting to have all events at the AAC the next time the Mavs are the host team for All-Star Weekend.
- Lakers won’t buyout or fire D’Antoni, from the Orange Country Register: There’s plenty of heat and speculation — and plenty for Mike D’Antoni to hash out as far as better utilizing his players, including 2013 free agent Dwight Howard — but I was told Thursday the Lakers are not considering a buyout or firing of D’Antoni as head coach. The Lakers signed D’Antoni to a three-year contract to replace Mike Brown, who was fired Nov. 9.
- Billionaire Ron Burkle meets with David Stern about Sacramento Kings, from NBA.com: A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press earlier this week that Burkle, a Southern California-based businessman and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, was in “serious talks” with 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov to collaborate on a counteroffer for the Kings. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the discussions.
Ben Baroff is an aspiring sports journalist and marketing professional who blogs and writes columns for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.