Thursday, April 3, 2014
OT: Approach never changes for Thibodeau
By Nick Friedell
ATLANTA -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and his players are creatures of habit. The opponents change night to night, but the team mentality never does:
Play solid defense -- especially late; take care of the ball; and hit clutch shots.
Rinse and repeat.
That was the formula again in Wednesday night's win over the Atlanta Hawks. And that's the way it has been since Thibodeau came to Chicago four years ago.
That's why it should come as no surprise that Thibodeau showed little public emotion when told of the fact he had racked up his 200th win.
When asked for his thoughts about the milestone, Thibodeau's expression barely changed.
"None," he said, before adding with a chuckle. "I got a good team."
Thibodeau has a good team, but he also has a team that cares.
Those two characteristics aren't always as intertwined as fans may think. Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson have done a good job identifying players who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for the greater good of the team. For the past four years, Thibodeau has done a masterful job of meshing all those pieces together each year.
It's why guys like D.J. Augustin continue to thrive in big spots, as the diminutive guard did again, scoring 23 points against the Hawks.
"We're having fun, man," Augustin said. "Whenever you're winning, it's always fun. But at the same time, we're a real serious team. Once the lights come on we're serious and about our business; but we're having fun.
"I think when you're winning, everything is better."
Everything has been better for the Bulls since Augustin showed up in December. He has found his confidence again on the floor and his teammates believe in him. It's a combination that has proved lethal when combined with the hard-nosed defensive system Thibodeau has instilled within his team.
"He's been terrific," Thibodeau said of Augustin. "He's saved our season. He's a big shot-maker. He's made big plays. But not only his shooting, his playmaking, if you trap him he'll hit the open man.
"D.J. can beat you a lot of different ways. He can beat you with the shot. He can beat you with the pass. He can beat you with his penetration, so it's a big plus having him."
The play of Augustin and Joakim Noah have been huge positives for the Bulls.
But neither has been as big as the jolt Thibodeau gave this organization when he was hired in the summer of 2010. He has helped shape this team in his image, and he continues to push it to new heights. His players trust the plan he has put in place, and they believe in his system.
"We felt the pressure of trying to get that 200th win for him," Noah joked after the game. "We felt the pressure. It kind of hurt us in the beginning of the game. So it was just really important for us to relax and stay together, and we got it done at the end."
The jokes are a little easier to take when the wins pile up the way they have over the past four years.