Opening Tip: Thibs talks injury mentality

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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NEW YORK -- Tom Thibodeau is the Bill Belichick of the NBA.

He is a hard-charging coach who has spent most of his life around the game. He expects his teams to play tough, physical basketball all the time. He also wants to give his teams every advantage he can to produce a win. That's a huge reason why Thibodeau is so guarded with his daily injury reports. He doesn't want any team to know exactly what is going on with his team's injuries. That's why media members have to read between the lines of his comments day after day.

After Tuesday morning's shootaround, Thibodeau, after giving updates regarding injured players Luol Deng (Achilles), Jimmy Butler (turf toe) and Mike James (knee), was asked if anyone on the roster was dealing with any kind of injury.

"No," he replied.

Only problem was that only a few hours later, Bulls center Joakim Noah revealed that he was dealing with a knee contusion. Thibodeau said he was just as surprised as fans and media were when he found out Noah was sitting.

"The thing is I found out when I was going back to my office," Thibodeau said. "He was in the shootaround -- and he had taken on that injury, it was a bruise in the New Orleans game so he had played two games after that where he played great. I thought he was moving along in a positive direction so that was a last-minute thing that came up."

But even Thibodeau seems to understand that his desire to withhold certain information is starting to rub people in the media the wrong way.

"But I just think that I focus in on the guys we do have," he continued. "Injuries are a part of this league. So a guy could get nicked up and as the season goes along every player in this league is dealing with something. You play hard and you play physical you're going to get bumped up. I guess I'm old school in the sense that I don't see the need to advertise what's ailing you. I know a lot of the teams I played with, they looked to attack the guys that were saying those things. So I don't want to put us at any disadvantage. To me, that's the reason why I do it."

The race isn't over yet: Despite the recent poor play from the Bulls, Thibodeau said before Wednesday's game that it's too early to count out everyone from the East with the expectation that they’re all fighting for the six spots behind Miami and Indiana.

"Because it's a long season," Thibodeau said. "Teams that have injuries now, they get healthy as they go along. Anything can happen at the end. Just seeing [Larry Johnson] reminded me of '99. We had taken on a ton of injuries early in that season and actually played very well down the stretch. I believe we won eight out of 10 and were playing great basketball. And we beat a 1-seed [Miami] and we went to the Finals."

"The thing about the NBA is you're trying to build the right habits each and every day. Then it's the teams that are playing the best and are the healthiest going into the playoffs. So that's what you're aiming for -- to continue to improve and anything can happen."

What's next: The Bulls have the day off. They'll fly from New York City to Milwaukee on Thursday morning and get ready to face the Bucks again on Friday night.

The last word: Deng, on not being able to be on the floor with his teammates right now:

"It's tough. The whole thing is tough. It just felt like we beat the Heat, we're starting to play well, we're starting to click as a team, we know what we're trying to do. And all of a sudden you just have another setback."

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
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.5 3.6 1.5 40.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 10.6
AssistsD. Rose 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.5