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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Thibodeau's Bulls to follow Jordan's lead

By Doug Padilla

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The six championship banners that hang over the west end of the Berto Center are more than just a token of what has happened in the Chicago Bulls' past.

For coach Tom Thibodeau, it's a reminder of the attitude he wants from his current team.

"When you look at the championship teams, they have a lot of mental toughness," Thibodeau said. "I've studied the (Michael) Jordan teams, when he was here. No one had more mental toughness than Michael and that's what it takes to win.

"Sometimes, I think to those viewing from the outside, it's incomprehensible as to how much goes into it. When you look, you say, 'Geez, that's a lot.' Well, it takes a lot to win it and you have to have the willingness to make that type of commitment if you want to do something like that."

But it isn't just about the mental toughness. Thibodeau will require the physical side of it as well.

The return of Derrick Rose and an added emphasis on more outside shooting might have signaled a kinder, gentler team this season, but nothing could be further from the truth.

As long as Thibodeau is at the helm, the Bulls are going to pound on their opponents, even if it means they take a pounding themselves.

So just because the Bulls are quicker at getting into transition this season and telling their shooters on the wing to catch and release, bruising play will continue.

"Well, I think you have to be inside-out," Thibodeau said. "You have to force the defense to collapse, so you're trying to attack before the defense is set. Then, you have to get the ball into the paint, either through post-up or dribble penetration, then make the right play. Once you get the defense to collapse, you're going to get a much higher-percentage shot. Then, we have to share the ball, take the right shots."

More than anything, though, it's about the attitude of the Bulls' title winners.

And just how did the coach study those championship teams?

"My eyes, just watching film, talking to people that were involved," he said. "And then I had a perspective from sitting on the opposing bench. It's good just to study it, too. And when you analyze the things they went through, the hurdle of getting past Detroit, what went into that, you see that the thing that probably stands out the most is not only Jordan's talent, but his drive, his mental toughness, his leadership. That's what it takes. It's a special commitment to get that done."

Perhaps the biggest criticism of Thibodeau's coaching style is the burden he puts on his star players both in minutes played and a physical style that seems to have them worn down come playoff time. Thibodeau won't apologize for it. That's where the mental toughness comes into play.

"The NBA is constant change and it's how quickly you can adapt to the change, so that's the nature of the league," Thibodeau said. "Sometimes it's injuries or there's change in the roster. Whatever it might be, you have to be ready to adapt and adapt quickly. That's why it's a team sport. So if one guy goes out, you expect the next guy to step in and get the job done, and I think that's the mindset that you have to have.

"I think to be successful in this league, you have to have a lot of mental toughness and it's a physical league, and you're going to get hit and there's going to be soreness, and you have to get through all that stuff. I think the way you train and the way you prepare are important."