The Bulls spent most of the last week being told how great they were and receiving hardware as evidence.
Hope it doesn’t happen again.
Tom Thibodeau was named Coach of the Year. Derrick Rose was named MVP. Two-day galas to follow, one day for the announcement, the next night for the presentation in front of the adoring home fans.
That’s all done, right? Because it’s one of the worst things you could imagine, other than Rose suffering a season-ending injury or Carlos Boozer trying to play defense. Neither Thibodeau nor Rose likes the individual stuff. Thibodeau is happy to get mad at his team for not pitching a shutout. (Hey, pal, you’re the one who starts Boozer remember). Rose is happiest when holding a ball, not something that requires speeches.
And it was all about them, and it looked like it got to the Bulls. They weren’t prepared to start Game 1 and they almost weren't ready to finish Game 2. Part of being great involves compartmentalizing such happy diversions, but this is new for these Bulls. I think it got to them. It might be a bunch of hooey. It might be an excuse. But it also might be expected, given their inexperience with such things.
Thibodeau had not been a head coach before. Rose had not been the league’s MVP. The Bulls had not been the No. 1 seed since Rose was in the third grade (and I believe Jerry Krause was reiterating his vow not to draft local kids).
And suddenly, the NBA handing out goody bags to all the kids.
It’s not that Rose and Thibodeau botched this thing. In fact, both of them handled their individual moments like veterans. Thibodeau showed he could smile. Rose wowed everyone. They thanked everybody everywhere for everything. Meanwhile, the rest of the roster watched and responded and felt good for the coach they believe in and the superstar they follow.
Which shouldn’t seem like a problem until you read the Thibodeau Thought Police Manual. It was a celebration before there was any real reason to celebrate. Thibodeau is not a treat parent. The coach trained this team to play defense and look only at the next game, but now he is forced to endure a week of hailing past accomplishments. It couldn’t have been worse if someone had ordered a team road trip to Dairy Queen.
Bulls guard Kyle Korver described the off-court activities as a distraction during a Comcast SportsNet piece taped after Game 3 on Wednesday night. Given what we know of Thibodeau’s mentality, Korver gave me the idea that the players thought this week was Mardi Gras. Or maybe it was inmates getting out of solitary. Korver indicated they didn’t handle it well, but I think we figured that out when the Bulls lost Game 1 and held on to take Game 2 while shooting badly in both games against a Hawks team that isn’t that good defensively.
Now, it might sound like Korver is making an excuse for his dreadful 1-for-9 shooting in Game 2, but the interview didn’t come off that way. Korver seemed matter-of-fact, almost like he was confessing something, admitting some dizziness to the near-daily coronations.
I’m not big on excuses, especially in the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the home team is happy to get out of Chicago with a split. No awards, no speeches, no nothing in Atlanta except defense, rebounding and Rose’s driving to the hoop, just the way Thibodeau wants his Stepford Bulls.
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