Bulls pick up option on Thibodeau, but the chess match continues

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
Tom Thibodeau had his option picked up. Getty Images!
The Bulls are notorious for playing hardball with negotiations. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Ben Gordon, Joakim Noah -- the list goes on. At the end of the regular season, Tom Thibodeau had not been signed to an extension, despite the fact that he earned the best regular season record in his conference two years in a row with a team hit hard by injuries. Thibodeau repeatedly sloughed off suggestions regarding reports that he was unhappy with the situation.

Now it appears that the Bulls are taking care of the problem in the short-term while still promising to get the job done in the long-term. From the AP:

General manager Gar Forman says the Chicago Bulls will exercise their contract option for next season on coach Tom Thibodeau and will try to negotiate a new deal.

Forman says Thibodeau is "one of the finest coaches in the league" and the Bulls are "hopeful he'll be our coach long-term." He spoke Tuesday at a news conference to update Derrick Rose's recovery from knee surgery.

via Bulls GM: We'll pick up Thibodeau's option, negotiate new deal - NBA - CBSSports.com News, Scores, Stats, Fantasy Advice.

It's possible that this is what's actually going on, that Thibodeau will have a new deal by the end of the summer. But why hasn't a discussion already been held? The option year gives them more time to work on bringing down Thibodeau's value. This is important. Bulls ownership has never been comfortable with paying coaches top value. (Again, freaking Phil Jackson had a dispute with them over money after winning five titles.)

The Bulls aren't the type of organization that lets good coaches go because owner Jerry Reinsdorf is cheap. They're the kind that pushes their talent to the furthest limit and then gets the guy they were going to get from the beginning for less than market value because of their draconian approach. This gives them more time.

There's one more element here.

Thibodeau has won the most games in the East two years in a row. His team plays consistently, brilliantly, and features the best defensive system in the league. They are a legitimate title contender when healthy.

But they have not made the Finals. The first year, Noah wasn't 100 percent, Rose was beat up and exhausted, and the Miami Heat were really, really good. This year, obviously, Derrick Rose tore his ACL and that was that. But questions lingered throughout the year about the minutes the team's stars played, with Rose sometimes logging 38-minutes-plus in his first game back from repeated injuries. You can't blame Thibodeau for a freak injury like the ACL. But the cumulative time lost did raise an eyebrow given Thibodeau's sometimes obsessive approach to winning and commitment. The Bulls never paced themselves. Not with Luol Deng's torn wrist ligament, not with Rose's myriad injuries, not with the Bulls' intensity.

If anything is going to give the Bulls pause about going all in with Thibodeau, that has to at least be on the radar.

 
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