Chicago Bulls: Gregg Popovich

OT: Belinelli wanted to remain a Bull

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN ANTONIO -- Marco Belinelli may be playing in San Antonio this season but a piece of his heart remains with the Chicago Bulls. He made that clear before Wednesday's game against his former team.

"I was almost sure, 100 percent, that Chicago was [going to] offer me good money, good [years]," Belinelli said. "But the NBA is a business. I got a little bit of offers from other teams and when San Antonio called me I didn't think too much, honestly. Having a team that really wanted to win a championship and I can really improve my game, so I think I [made] a really good decision to come here and try to be a better player. Play with great players that know how to win championship and a great coach like Pop."

Belinelli said he spoke to the Bulls about coming back but no offer was actually made. Instead of bringing Belinelli back, the Bulls decided to sign veteran guard Mike Dunleavy because they believed he was a better fit playing alongside Derrick Rose. Specifically, they thought Dunleavy's ability to shoot 3-pointers would be key. The irony is that Belinelli came into Wednesday's game shooting 46.7 percent from the 3-point line.

"Maybe they were thinking about another player, like Dunleavy," Belinelli said. "I don't really know. It's a business. You never know 100 percent. I was happy to stay with Chicago this summer, but at the end of the day I'm on a better team, a great team. I feel really good right now, I'm so happy."

Belinelli laughed when asked whether playing for coach Tom Thibodeau last season helped prepare him for playing for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He answered "yes" before the question was even finished being asked.

For their part, both coaches sung Belinelli's praises before the game.

"I thought he did well in Chicago," Popovich said. "I watched him play there and I thought he got involved in a lot of different ways: pick and rolls and obviously [he's] a good shooter. I think he's a really fine all-around player. He's a very good passer, a great teammate, and I think he plays to win. He's got no fear at all, so I think he's been a really good addition for us."

Thibodeau never had a doubt Belinelli would succeed in Popovich's system.

"We hated to lose him," Thibodeau said. "I think anyone that's serious about basketball and serious about winning, they're going to thrive with Pop, they are. The game is so important to Marco. He plays for the team, he plays to win, and when I heard he signed here I knew he would be a great fit."

Belinelli has enjoyed his time in both places. He admitted he gained confidence in his defense by playing for Thibodeau.

"I think they are great coaches," he said. "Thibs was great with me. Pop is great. But I've got a really good relationship with them. We can speak about everything. I was [anxious] a little bit this summer because I didn't know much about Pop, but I know right now he's a great coach and I think he's a great person."

What's next: The Bulls have an off day Thursday in New Orleans. They will find out whether Joakim Noah makes his second straight All-Star team or not.

The last word: Thibodeau, on Noah being able to play well after not feeling well during Wednesday morning's shootaround.

"He's fine now," he said. "You guys all know -- he's not a morning person."

Thibs tries to emulate Spurs' 'gold standard'

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
1:28
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
SAN ANTONIO -- All Tom Thibodeau had to do to see what he wanted to become during his professional career was look to his right on Wednesday night.

That's where San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was standing as Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls pulled off one of their most impressive wins of the season.

Thibodeau tried to downplay just how much a win over the perennial but injury-depleted powerhouse was on Wednesday night. He knows winning is tough any night in the NBA. But a win on the road against the Spurs is different for Thibodeau and his team.

[+] EnlargeThibodeau
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesBulls coach Tom Thibodeau is a big fan of his counterpart with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich. "To me, the mark of greatness is to have the ability to do it year after year, and he's done that," Thibodeau said after Chicago's win in San Antonio.
That's because Popovich isn't just one of Thibodeau's coaching role models. The system that the future Hall of Famer Popovich has put into place in San Antonio, and the principles that he stands on, are things that Thibodeau tries to emulate in Chicago.

Like Popovich has instilled in the Spurs, Thibodeau wants his team to believe it can win each and every night -- no matter who is on the floor -- something they showcased again on Wednesday.

"I give him a lot of credit, because he came in with a plan," Thibodeau said of Popovich. "And a lot of times people come in and they talk about the things [they want to do], he's done it. They established their core values. If you look at his entire time here, there's certain characteristics in all the players that he brings in, all the coaches that he brings in, they have a great system, their management. It all fits together. He's a great leader.

"To me, the mark of greatness is to have the ability to do it year after year, and he's done that. Their organization, they're the gold standard -- from everything they do. Every aspect of how they run an organization."

That's what makes this particular win even more satisfying for Thibodeau & Co. The Bulls beat the Spurs at their own game. They were physical with them, they played solid defense and they got contributions from almost everybody.

Joakim Noah almost sat out the game due to the flu, but instead nearly racked up a triple-double. Kirk Hinrich, who hadn't played in more than a week because of a hamstring injury, made several big shots down the stretch. Jimmy Butler, who has been in the middle of a bad shooting slump, had 19 points and played solid defense all night. D.J. Augustin, who didn't have a job a month and a half ago, had 15 points. All seven of the Bulls who played significant minutes scored in double figures.

As has been the case all season, Thibodeau and his players have rallied around the notion that very few people around the league believe the Bulls can do anything of significance this season without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. Thibodeau has gotten his players to buy into his message, much the same way Popovich has done for years in San Antonio.

"We want to win, man," Noah said. "Winning's important here. Who knows what's going to happen? It doesn't matter who we're playing in the first round. All these playoff experiences are things that we can't take for granted.

"Our careers are short, and every time we play in the playoffs it's special. That's what it's all about. It's like the reward for all the hard work you put into the season. I think that we're a young team and all those experiences in the playoffs, they make your young guys better. They make all of us better.

"So I think there's a lot of positives that can come in, and who knows what can happen in the playoffs?"

While advancing in the playoffs is still an admirable goal for a squad that has hovered at or below .500 most of the season, the fact that the Bulls continue to have success hasn't come as much of a surprise to Popovich. When he speaks about what Thibodeau and the Bulls have accomplished, it sounds a lot like the plan he and the Spurs have been following for the past decade and a half.

Popovich believes there are three key reasons why the Bulls have continued to have success without Rose and Deng in the fold.

"And it would be the same with other teams, I think, if they have these three characteristics,” Popovich said before the game. “One is, Thibs does a great job. He's going to make the same demands, keep the same standard, be relentless in trying to get better and better at every aspect of the game. Secondly, he's got a group that -- they've got character, and they care. And they're going to keep giving it to him. And thirdly, as a group, they play outstanding defense. And that keeps you in games on nights when maybe you can't put it in the hole and they're really good night after night consistently in a defensive sense."

The difference is that many teams don't have Thibodeau and Popovich running the show. Many teams don't have the talented groups of players that care about winning like the Bulls and Spurs do. Many teams don't have front offices that can pick up players that will fit well into those respective systems, like the Bulls and Spurs do.

Thibodeau has seen how great the Spurs have been over the years, and he knows a huge reason for that is because Popovich knows exactly what he wants to do each and every night. He knows there's a certain plan he wants his teams to follow.

That's why Thibodeau has to be so pleased with his team's spirit and the way they executed Wednesday. That's why it must have felt so good for Thibodeau to watch as Popovich walked toward him at center court to shake his hand on a job well done as the final buzzer sounded.

"It's hard to win any game and it's very difficult to win on the road," Thibodeau said. "So when you go on the road, any time you can get a win it's terrific. But I like [that] right now we're developing some pretty good habits, and we have to keep building. I see a lot of possibilities for our team, I really do.

"They have a good fighting spirit. We're playing hard, we're playing together, we're playing for each other; that goes a long way in this league. If you can do it every night, that's a big plus."

Thibodeau understands Popovich's choice

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
6:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DEERFIELD, Ill. – San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's decision to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home in advance of Thursday night's nationally televised showdown against the Miami Heat caught the eye of everyone around the NBA, including Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

"I think it's each individual case," Thibodeau said after Friday's practice. "There's two sides to it. I certainly understand where Pop's coming from. Pop's one of the all-time great coaches so I would never question what he's doing with his team. I think he understands his team, he understands the makeup of his team and he understands the age of his team. Those things are all critical. And then I think the commissioner's always charged with doing what he thinks is best for the league and so there's two sides to it. So hopefully in the end it will be resolved in a good way."

(Read full post)

Popovich edges Thibodeau for top coach

May, 1, 2012
5/01/12
2:26
PM CT
By Associated Press
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
SAN ANTONIO -- Gregg Popovich is the NBA's Coach of the Year after leading the San Antonio Spurs to 50 wins in the lockout-shortened season and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Read the entire story.

Coach of Year: Thibs or Popovich?

March, 25, 2011
3/25/11
11:36
AM CT
By ESPN.com
ESPNChicago.com
ESPN.com's Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard debate who is more deserving of Coach of the Year honors, the Bulls' Tom Thibodeau or the Spurs' Gregg Popovich.

Read the entire story Insider.
Tom Thibodeau & Greg PopovichUS PresswireJon Greenberg believes Tom Thibodeau has been the NBA's top coach this season.
Does Tom Thibodeau or Gregg Popovich deserve to be considered the NBA Coach of the Year at this point?

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.6 3.4 1.5 40.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.5
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0