I wasn’t rooting for the Bulls’ worst effort of the season in Philadelphia, but thank goodness it happened.
Specifically, thank goodness it happened to Tom Thibodeau.
Nothing personal. I love Thibodeau as a coach. He knows how to run a practice and knows how to run a game.
With two exceptions: knowing when to give up a dead-bang loser of a game and when to ease up on a gimme, both of which come down to knowing how to get rest for his starters.
A coach’s mentality --- heck, his very survival --- is wins and losses, and Thibodeau is a coach first, last and always.
He has broken down video in order to arrive at the most efficient way his players can put on sneakers and he has given each player a DVD to show the proper technique for pregame removal of jewelry.
I just made that up.
But you believed it. At least for a second, admit it, you believed it based on what you’ve heard about Thibodeau.
And so, when a guy puts in that much effort into every part of practice and has that much riding seemingly on every possession in every game on every night, then it would be easy to rail at the coach for his team’s slow, unmotivated and largely heartless play Wednesday.
I mean, the Bulls played so dumb that you’d swear they still had Tyrus Thomas in uniform for the 98-82 slaughter by the surprising Sixers, who, look at that, are tied with Miami and Atlanta one game behind the Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
By any number, the Bulls stunk: outscored 21-4 on fast breaks, 17 turnovers that led to 29 points, a pathetic 26-11 third quarter.
But the number that mattered was 31:04. Derrick Rose’s minutes, which marked the most of the legitimate starters, those who are left, anyway. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer played 27:10 each.
Thibodeau conceded. Alert the media.
Wait, I am the media.
Whatever, Thibodeau gave up on his starters when giving up was the right thing to do.
Maybe it was disgust with Rose’s horrific ballhandling.
Maybe it was aggravation with Boozer's and Noah's embarrassing shooting.
Or maybe it was a critical moment of wising up.
Thibodeau said his starters were done, no matter what. If the subs had brought the Bulls closer than 12, the coach said later, the bench would’ve been allowed to finish game. The starters could start thinking about the second half of this back-to-back in New York tonight.
Point is, Thibodeau showed that he’s not a total loon. He’s not some crazed hoop head who believes that the answer to all deficits is to play harder and faster and more reckless and more minutes.
Thibodeau does a great job of coaching the game that is there each night. Last night, he did a great job of coaching the minutes of his best players in a season where rest is more important than rotations.
Common sense --- what a concept.