- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has fired off plenty of praise for Tom Thibodeau over the past year, but his biggest praise for Thibodeau's team might have come before Monday night's game, when he compared what he's seen from the Bulls to what he saw from his own team during their run to the NBA finals in 2009-10.
"Chemistry is a very hard thing to explain," Van Gundy said. "I think it's one of those things, you know it when you have it. You have an idea how to build it; putting guys in roles that will hopefully make them comfortable in what you're doing. But ... there's a lot of unknowns. That team did have very, very good chemistry and very, very high character and that's what I see in the Chicago team now too.
“When I'm talking high character, I'm talking basketball character; guys who are unselfish, willing to play roles, not worried about how many shots they get. Guys who can come in not having played a lot and come in and be ready and help a team win, like a John Lucas is doing now for Chicago. Like a Jimmy Butler's doing. To me, those are the great teams and not necessarily even record-wise, but those are the great teams and that's what chemistry's all about. I thought we had it that year and I certainly see it in the Bulls and I think that's why they've been able to overcome the number of injuries they've been able to overcome."
Thibodeau sees it as well, and he's not about to mess with it.
"I think Chuck Daly had this line, it was a great line about chemistry," Thibodeau said. "He said something along the lines of, 'I don't know how you get it, but when you have it you know it. And when you have it, don't do anything to mess it up either.’ I think there's a lot of truth to it. We're fortunate; we have great guys, we have high character, they all play for each other, they play to win, and I think it fits well for us."
Thibodeau appreciates the kind words from Van Gundy and others among his peers, but he isn't letting it go to his head.
"The respect from your peers is important, but I think all that stuff, whether it's praise or criticism, it shouldn't affect you,” Thibodeau said. “I think you really only answer to yourself. And only you know whether you're putting everything you have into something. Once you do that, you should be fine with everything and I am.
“I love the group that we have, I think they work hard every day, they give you everything they have and if we're doing the right things, the results will be positive."
Thibs doesn't care about 100 wins: To no one's surprise, Thibodeau didn't seem to care much that with a win on Monday night he would become the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 100 wins.
"That doesn't mean anything other than I want to win," Thibodeau said. " That's the only thing that matters. All that other stuff ... meaningless. With stuff like that, it's more a reflection of the team and the organization. We have a good team. We have good players, great management, great ownership, so that's a reflection of the organization really."
Bulls learning to win without Rose: Thibodeau acknowledged that the Bulls have gotten better because they've found ways to win without Derrick Rose in the lineup.
"Last year we had a lot of injuries and our bench played great last year so I think they gained a lot of confidence from that,” Thibodeau said. “Last year it was our big guys, this year it was our perimeter guys and I think we're learning from it. Obviously, we'd prefer to have Derrick with us, but injuries are part of the game and when you're shorthanded you have to figure out how to win."
The last word: Van Gundy on the Bulls: "They're the No. 2 offensive team in the league and the No. 2 defensive team in the league. You see those numbers, you're saying, 'Championship contender.' We're the No. 11 defensive team in the league. That says, ‘Mediocre.’"
21hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com