Tom Thibodeau hopes his Chicago Bulls, who are on the verge of their second straight No. 1 seed in the East, don't have to rely on any perceived feelings of disrespect for motivation as they head into the playoffs.
"The thing is you'd like to get ready the same way," Thibodeau said Monday on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on ESPN 1000. "Sometimes if you feel slighted it can be motivation, but I think if you're relying on that stuff then you haven't done your work all year long. Hopefully you've put the work in and when you're ready to go you play well."
At 48-16, the Bulls have a two-game lead on the Miami Heat in the loss column with two games remaining for each team. The Bulls close out the season on the road against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday and at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. Miami, which appears intent on resting its Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, wraps the regular season with road games at the Boston Celtics on Tuesday and at the Washington Wizards on Thursday.
The New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are jockeying for the final two spots in the East. If the playoffs started today the Bulls would face the eighth-seed 76ers and the Knicks would take on the Heat. Knicks forwardJared Jeffries made headlines last week when he said he would rather play the Bulls than the Heat in the first round.
"I still think the Bulls," Jeffries said Friday on ESPN New York 1050's "Ruocco & Lundberg." "Whenever you can have an MVP candidate or former MVP player be out on the team, I think that's what you've got to go for. I mean, they're still playing very well without him, but I'm not sure over a seven-game series they can keep that high level of playing without Derrick Rose."
Thibodeau said he doesn't put much stock in what others are saying about his team.
"Whether it's praise or criticism it really doesn't matter what other people think. The only thing that matters is what we think," Thibodeau said. "We began the season with the end in mind. We've strived for improvement every day. I think going into the playoffs it comes down to who's playing well and who's healthiest. We know we'd like to be a well-balanced team at both ends and hopefully we'll be ready."
If there is a general lack of respect for the Bulls nationally it likely comes with the uncertain health of Rose, who has missed 26 games this season with five different injuries. Rose returned Saturday after missing three games with an ankle injury and had 11 points and eight assists in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
"He's doing a lot better," Thibodeau said. "The big thing is we were off [Sunday], and he came in and got treatment. We'll see where he is [Monday]. Hopefully he will be fine. He's done a great job with his rehab. It's been one of those seasons where every time he's come back there's been another thing coming along. Hopefully everything will be shored up now."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau discusses Derrick Rose's health, Chicago's success without Rose, his team's depth, the impact of the shortened season, Metta World Peace's ejection for elbowing James Harden and more.