Prior to the Chicago Bulls season, few people could say that with a brand new roster without Derrick Rose the team would be 26-17 in January and sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Many pundits – myself included – figured the team would tread water for most if not all of the season until D. Rose returned and would be hovering somewhere around the .500 mark.
But the Bulls have done the exact opposite and their success to this point in the season is a direct reflection of just how good of a coach Tom Thibodeau really is.
Instead of treading water, merely trying to survive, the Bulls have managed to keep pace with the defending Eastern Conference and NBA Champion Miami Heat and the surging New York Knicks, while holding off the much improved Brooklyn Nets and conference rivals, the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks.
After a slow start and many doom-and-gloom, “I told you so” reports, Thibodeau somehow managed to shape and mold his new team – with players who don’t exactly have a reputation for being defenders – into somewhat of a mirror image of his old one. The results of this have the Bulls near the top of standings, but even better, Thibs has managed to create a “pressure-free” environment for Rose once he returns so he can actually take his time getting himself re-acclimated to the NBA again.
Of course, Thibs has had his moments where fans, and even media, have questioned his coaching decisions, most notably, the continuation of Luol Deng logging heavy minutes and now, throwing Joakim Noah into the minutes fold as well. Obviously the Bulls are elite, professional athletes, but fatigue can take its toll on anyone and physical breakdowns are an unfortunate side effect of placing such a heavy burden on your players (see the aforementioned Deng).
Beyond that, it’s hard to have any quarrel with Thibs and the magnificent job he’s done this season. The coach has literally done more with less and if the Bulls continue to play as well as they have, Thibodeau will once again be in consideration for Coach of the Year for the third consecutive season.
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