Opening Tip: Williams learned from Thibs

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
10:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Monty Williams learned firsthand this summer just what kind of basketball life Tom Thibodeau leads.

As has so often been the tale throughout Thibodeau's rise to prominence with the Chicago Bulls over the past four seasons, Williams couldn't help but smile while reminiscing about his time around Thibodeau last summer in Las Vegas with Team USA.

"Really cool," said Williams, the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans and an assistant with Thibodeau for Mike Krzyzewski's Team USA staff. "I learned a lot just being with him every day for a week. Just talking basketball, family, some of the people he knows that I know, and just listening to the way he goes about his business, for me, was beneficial."

There was one particular encounter with Thibodeau that stuck out in Williams' mind.

"We had to compete against each other in the blue-and-white game," Williams said. "And he snuck a trade in on me the day before the game. Thibs is a slick dude, man. He caught me in the hallway in the hotel in Vegas. I'm just trying to get to my room and get away from all that stuff, and he comes up to me with a trade and I'm like, 'OK, Thibs. Whatever, man. I want to get to my family upstairs.' He got me, but I learned a lot from him.

"And I'm sure we're going to become even closer as the years go on."

As for Thibodeau's plight with the hard-luck Bulls, Williams can empathize with what his counterpart is going through.

"We know better than anybody what injuries can do to your team," Williams said. "You just got to figure out ways to put guys on the floor to help your team compete. I just remind guys all the time: It's the NBA. Nothing's changed from that standpoint. Guys have to step up.

"All the guys that wanted more playing time, they're going to get it. So they got to back up all that stuff they've been talking or thinking. That's the nature of the NBA."

Don't expect to see Butler yet: Jimmy Butler has been out for two weeks now because of turf toe, and Thibodeau doesn't sound optimistic about his return in the next couple of days. He said Butler still hasn't practiced and is just able to take some shots. With the recent solid play of rookie Tony Snell, Thibodeau is going to have a decision to make whenever Butler is ready on whether to put him back into the starting lineup.

"I'm just concerned Jimmy's been out a long time," Thibodeau said. "So when you miss a lot of time, it's hard to come back."

The last word: Mike Dunleavy on the recent Bulls' woes, having lost six of their past seven games.

"We're finding a good rhythm; we're doing well. We're really unselfish offensively. Defensively, we're doing a pretty good job protecting the paint and rebounding, for the most part. Our Achilles' heel right now is the 3-point shot. We're just giving up so many 3s at such a high clip, that's really been our downfall. That's what got us tonight. We had some untimely -- and in their case timely -- 3s that were too much to overcome."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5