By Frank McLean
Every team in the NBA has disagreements amongst the coaching staff and the General Manager, but with what is going on right now with the Da Chicago Bulls, you might want to call them “Team Turmoil”.
It’s a fact that in all of pro sports a healthy discussion about which direction a team should take is good. The most important thing is that when the talking is over coaches and General Managers are on the same page.
A coach in any pro sport usually plays his best players and usually rides them hard. That’s because he feels it gives him the best chance to win on any given night. A coach’s job description is to win and if he doesn’t, he will not be the head coach for very long.
This is where the Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and his boss General Manager Gar Forman are in a bit of a disagreement.
Thibodeau is as tough a task master as you will find coaching in the NBA. Now that Scott Skiles is no longer coaching in the league Thibodeau has taken over as the “Poster Child For Intensity”.
It’s that intensity the Bulls have shown night in and night out during Thibodeau’s time in the Windy City that concerns Forman. The NBA is built on championships being won by the superstar of that specific team and in Chicago that man is Derrick Rose.
Last month Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. It’s the second time in 15 months he would need surgery and the third since 2012. Nobody really expects Rose to come back this season.
This is where the coach and GM are butting heads. Due to a long line of injuries to the Bulls stars, Forman has implemented minutes restrictions on his key players. The feeling is that Thibodeau is playing his stars too much and the players are breaking down. This goes against the old time coaching philosophy of playing your best players as much as possible, but in the modern age of the NBA this may not be the prudent thing to do.
Teams play as many as 17 to 21 sets of games on back-to-back nights which balloon into several grueling four games in five nights and five games in a week series.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich will sit out his star players on nights where the game is not as big in the standings. Usually against a non conference opponent, so they are fresh when they have to take on conference foes like the Warriors and Trail Blazers.
It’s no secret that teams have millions and millions of dollars tied up in their rosters and you get no value when 30 or 40 million dollars of talent is sitting on the inactive list.
It all came to a head earlier this week when the Bulls lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Joakim Noah’s knees have started acting up again, so Forman placed a 32 minute restriction on him. As a result he did not play in the fourth quarter and it was felt that if he had played, the Bulls would have had a better chance to win.
After the game a perturbed Noah did not speak to reporters. Wednesday night the Bulls beat Indiana and Noah, who played 29 minutes, did speak to the media post game.
“It’s frustrating,” Noah said. “I think I’m not the only one who’s frustrated sometimes. I think its part of the grind. I’m just trying to stay focused on what’s important and trying to win basketball games. I’m not trying to get caught up in any noise or anything like that. I don’t want to be a distraction. We’ll figure it out internally and do what’s best for the team.”
On Friday night Team Turmoil totally dominated the Toronto Raptors. That meant the Bulls passed the Raptors for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
After the game Pau Gasol, who is used to playing heavy minutes during his time with the Lakers, told the Chicago Sun-Times that it’s no big deal.
“People make a big deal out of it,” Gasol said. “We have players that play a substantial amount of minutes, but we also have a deep team with guys that prove that they can play at a high level when given the opportunity. You got to let the coach a little bit do their job, do his job, and manage the team. I think that’s what Tom is trying to do to the best of his abilities.”
This is all going to come to a head sooner or later.
In his 5 years in Chicago, Thibodeau has a .646 winning percentage. That’s the positive. The negative is the Bulls have won zero NBA Championship Title’s.
Word is that with Thibodeau and Forman not seeing eye-to-eye there is a possibility Thibodeau could be fired. If the Bulls make a quick exit from this year’s playoffs, the result may be a head coach opening in Chicago.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.