What exactly was Tom Thibodeau thinking this playoff series?



Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has accomplished quite a bit in his first four years as an NBA head coach. He’s been very successful. But watching his team lose in the first round of the playoffs this season, one has to wonder if maybe he actually wants out?

The Bulls were picked by almost everyone to win this series, but they went out in five games. Thibodeau’s refusal to make any more than very minor adjustments to his rotation was a huge reason the team couldn’t advance.

In his first season of 2010-11, Tom Thibodeau led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals, their first such appearance since the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen era.


His second Bulls team had the best record in the NBA and was primed for another run at the Conference Finals until Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the first game of the playoffs. The Bulls went on to lose that series, minus Rose and later Joakim Noah (sprained ankle).

Rose missed all of last season, yet Thibodeau still got his team into the second round of the playoffs (where they actually won Game 1 in Miami before losing four straight).

Rose again missed almost all of this season, and Tom Thibodeau did another great job in the regular season, leading the team to 48 wins and home-court advantage in the first round.

D.J. Augustin was the Bulls’ savior after Rose tore his meniscus 10 games into his season, leading the team in scoring after he was signed on December 13th. But he could not have played any worse in the playoffs, capping his nightmare series by making only 1/10 shots (0/4 on 3’s) in the game 5 elimination. He wound up shooting 29.2% for the series, 26.9% from behind the arc.


Jimmer Fredette is no superstar, in fact he may not ever be a starter in the NBA. But the one thing he can do is shoot the rock, and with Augustin playing so horribly, why not give the kid a chance to make a few shots? He couldn’t have been any worse than Augustin on defense, and anyone could have shot better than D.J.

And once again Tom Thibodeau insisted on starting Carlos Boozer instead of Taj Gibson. I already covered that abomination yesterday here on The Sports Bank, so I won’t complain about that one any more- I will just point out that the Bulls were outscored by 16 points in the 28 minutes that Boozer was on the floor tonight (in what was hopefully his last game in a Bulls uniform).

Even the most inexperienced basketball novice could see that Thibodeau needed to give someone, anyone a chance to score some points for the Bulls in this series. Thibs is obviously a very competent coach, could he have been tanking to try and get out of the long-term contract extension he just signed one year ago? Is he that upset that the Bulls front office chose not to overpay Omer Asik and Luol Deng? Still holding a grudge over Gar Forman dismissing Ron Adams even though Tom Thibodeau wanted him to stay?

The question has to be asked.

Don Ellis has been covering sports in high school for the Eddyville (KY) Herald Ledger and the Attica (IN) Ledger Tribune. Other credits include Bulls4Ever.com and InsideHoops (columnist) and ESPN Florida (guest analyst, co-host, SportsCenter anchor). In addition to running Bullsville, he’s currently a Kentucky High School Athletic Association umpire. He’s been a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier, Sloan, Love, Walker and Boerwinkle.

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  1. Z Abedin says

    Chicago Bulls has many players like Taj Gibson, Noah, Kirk, DanLevy, .. to win NBA championship. The problem is that the coach is completely unable to chalk out strategies for play off since he is ignorant of finding principal component of each player of the team and others on basis of all game variables like scores, rebounds, steals, metal strengths, assists, promptness, IQs, etc. Also, Mr. Paxon is not a useful president to evaluate principal component.

    For future, please release Mr. Paxon and Coach
    Tom Thibodeau and don’t weigh Mr. Rose. Get going for better future for Bulls.

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