SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Tom Thibodeau lives his basketball life on the edge. It's what makes him a great coach, it's what pushes his Chicago Bulls players day in and day out. But, as evidenced by Monday night's blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings, it's what makes his life miserable sometimes. Like many great coaches, Thibodeau's desire to see his team succeed pushes him past the breaking point sometimes. Monday night's postgame media session with reporters was one of those times.
Thibodeau couldn't believe his team performed as poorly as it did. He couldn't believe the players looked as lifeless as they did at times on the floor. He certainly couldn't believe he spent a majority of his pregame commentary on the fact that veteran Carlos Boozer called out the coach earlier in the day for not playing him down the stretch in games. With all this on his mind, Thibodeau got angrier the more he spoke. He had a lot of things to get off his chest after the 99-70 defeat.
"You got to bring a mindset on the road with a lot of toughness," Thibodeau said. "It's hard to win on the road and you've got to have that toughness with you at all times. You can't pick and choose, 'I'm going to ease into it,' or, 'It's not going my way,' and then you're allowing guys to play to their strengths."
Thibodeau was rolling now. There were times at Sleep Train Arena where he couldn't believe he was watching his own team. The Bulls didn't play with the fire that has defined them, and when they did show that fire, as Joakim Noah did after getting tossed in the second half, they couldn't regain the composure that has set them apart in years past.
"To me, that's preparation," Thibodeau continued. "You're guarding a great shooter and you're going under on a screen -- it doesn't make any sense to me. Or you're just wacking at a guy after he's already buried you in the paint. To me, that makes no sense. That makes no sense. You got to play this game with energy and toughness, and intelligence. And you got to get yourself ready, and you're on the road. You have to have a mentality. This is business. This ain't hanging out having a good time. If you're serious about winning you prepare yourself the right way."
Part of the Bulls' preparation for Tuesday's game against Phoenix is finding a way to fix a broken offense. They shot just 28.2 percent from the field and continue to play without the rhythm that Thibodeau preaches about.
"Tonight we just couldn't buy a basket," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "I don't think we were taking bad shots. I think we were getting good shots. I just think we started pressing a little bit. Human nature is when things aren't going good, you kind of want to do something yourself to get us going. The reality is we have to rely on each other and find different ways to win on nights like this. It's still tough to shoot as bad as we did and win a game, but in the third quarter we were down nine, 10, 12, and then just spiraled out of control."
Boozer, meanwhile, said after Monday's game he did not feel he needed to speak with Thibodeau again regarding the minutes issue.
"Me and Thibs, we're both -- we're on the same page, man," Boozer said. "We compete, we just want to win. I'm a competitor. Of course I want to be out there when the game's on the line.
"Tonight, throw this one out the window and get ready for the next one, but Thibs understands. We've talked about it before. He wants to win, we want to win. It's only us -- nobody's coming to save us this year. We got to do it with what we've got in the locker room, we're all aware of that. We'll be ready for the next one. It's a long grind of a season. We're in the hunt trying to climb up a little bit. We've got a chance to make a little progress, we've got to shake these two off and move on."
Having beaten the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of this trip last week, few in the Bulls' locker room believe the sky is falling. But they do know if things don't get better soon, all the goodwill they've built up over the past few weeks will disappear.
"The one thing about this league is that things can change quickly upon you and they have," Thibodeau said. "It can go from good to bad very quickly, just as quickly as going from bad to good. We got to change it. We got to have more urgency. We’ve got to work our way out of this.”