Chicago Bulls: Jeff Van Gundy
"There's nobody that does a better job with his team in the whole league," Van Gundy said Monday on The Carmen & Jurko Show on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I would suspect that he would be back for a long time. I know he loves the city, he loves his team, you can tell. Everything I've ever heard about Jerry Reinsdorf as an owner is that he's a man's man. I'm pretty good friends with [former Bulls coach] Tim Floyd, and Tim Floyd raves about him as does Tom.
"I would suspect if [general manager] Gar Forman or [executive vice president] John Paxson have an issue with Tom, what it could be I don't know, but if they do, they should try to get it resolved in a positive manner because Tom's an exceptional talent, and one of the reasons the Bulls have been so good and so overachieving since he's been there is because of his great work. I hope it works out because it's a great place and it's a great basketball city."
Reports have surfaced this season that there is more friction in the relationship between Thibodeau and the front office. The team parted ways with assistant coach and Thibodeau confidant Ron Adams before the season, and the Bulls traded a Thibodeau favorite, forward Luol Deng, to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January.
Thibodeau has also had to deal with questions during his tenure in Chicago about how he manages playing time for many of his players. One report even claimed Thibodeau has a deal in place to coach the New York Knicks next season.
Van Gundy brushed off the notion that Thibodeau is thinking about anything other than what's right in front of him.
"The nonsense is certainly that he has a deal in place," said Van Gundy, who has remained good friends with Thibodeau after the Bulls coach was an assistant on his staff in New York and Houston. "First of all, if anybody knows Tom, he's thinking about tomorrow's practice, not about next year.
"The friction between he and their front office, I can go only on what I read, and enough has been leaked out to the media to say that something is wrong. The Bulls have leaked out some negative stuff about how he's maybe too hard on players. He's not totally in charge if he comes back obviously because they can fire him, which I wouldn't think they would do, but listen, the NBA is a crazy place. You never know."
The former Knicks and Rockets coach who is now an analyst for ESPN pointed to the Carmelo Anthony trade from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks in 2011. The Nuggets received forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, guard Raymond Felton and center Timofey Mozgov, plus New York's first-round draft pick in 2014, second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 and cash in exchange for Anthony, who, like Deng, was playing in the final year of his contract. For Deng, the Bulls received center Andrew Bynum, whom they waived for financial savings, and a protected first-round draft pick.
"Even if you don't believe that Luol Deng is as good as Anthony, he's pretty close because he's a two-way player. ... He's not as good, but they didn't get much back for him," Van Gundy said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "They only got rid of Bynum's contract, and to me, when you're trading no question your second-best player, and I don't think anybody can question that, and you get very little back for him ... I was surprised they didn't explore trading for guys who have similar-sized contracts that weren't going to expire to see if they could have gotten more of a Carmelo Anthony-type haul where they had real valuable assets."
With Deng off the books, the cap savings from the Bynum deal and the potential to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer's contract this summer, the Bulls could be in position to add another star player next to Derrick Rose. But Van Gundy says it's not that easy.
Forman fired Ron Adams, who was part of a staff that guided the Bulls to the NBA's best regular-season record in two of the past three seasons, on Tuesday without any explanation.
"I would liken it to if you have the Chicago Bears and you have a head coach who wanted to have a certain offensive coordinator and in an embarrassing fashion the GM came in and fired that guy," Van Gundy said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I would say certainly it seems like something is wrong. I read something in one of the Chicago news (stories) today that it does seem like a shot at Thibodeau, and for what reason I don't know. I don't pretend to be in the know there, but it certainly seems like something is amiss.
"And it's unfortunate because when you get in the situation the Bulls are in with a great player and pretty good players that surround that great player in Derrick Rose, you really have an opportunity. But most teams beat themselves from within, versus another team beating them. These types of little dust-ups and grabs for power usually get in the way of what's best for the team, and unfortunately it really harms the end result. And you hope if there is a problem or a rift that they're able to solve it, because they do have a pretty good team with a great player coming back, and really those three years there have been remarkable."
The Bulls and Thibodeau agreed to a four-year extension last October, but he didn't sign it until April, which raised eyebrows. Thibodeau said it just took time for lawyers to review it, but there had been stories that Thibodeau was upset he had to wait so long to be offered the extension considering his success and winning coach of the year honors.
"They have a remarkable coach and I'm not sure why you would want to hurt that remarkable coach or hurt that relationship with a remarkable coach, particularly one you've just given a long-term contract to," Van Gundy said.
Thibodeau was an assistant to Van Gundy in New York and Houston, and their friendship gives Van Gundy's analysis on the matter more weight.
"Management throughout the NBA now is taking more and more control over coaching staffs," said Van Gundy, who is an ESPN analyst. "I know this about Ron Adams, without knowing the inner workings of the Chicago Bulls, he is a great, great coach. He is completely devoted to the game of basketball.
"He and Thibodeau have a great friendship and working relationship, and so when you put all those things together, it seems like really strange timing. You just signed Tom Thibodeau to a long-term contract, and simultaneously you've taken away this guy who has meant so much to him and the Bulls' success. It's really, really odd too that it comes a day to two before his contract was to run out, so it really looks punitive in that it prevented him from going out and looking for other jobs. I find it very unfortunate, because Ron Adams has been a true credit to the coaching profession."
The Bulls introduced their two draft picks on Tuesday and Forman initially was not going to talk about the Adams dismissal, but he came back down and said it was his decision.
"I think Tom and I have a very good working relationship ..." Forman said. "We're not always going to agree on everything. But at the end of the day I think we both have the best interests of the Bulls moving forward as what our goal is, and we unite and move forward."
Thibodeau's only comments came via a statement the Bulls released.
"Ron is a great friend, an outstanding coach and I will miss him," Thibodeau was quoted as saying.
"As far as the drop-dead date, the only drop-dead date I would give him is if he drops dead he shouldn't play," Van Gundy said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Other than that, when he's ready, come back."
He's not ready. And he may not be ready at any point this season. Rose said Wednesday his status is the same it's been for a couple months. He's been medically cleared to play from his May 12 ACL reconstruction, but he's not ready.
"I don't know if I'm surprised, I think 'concerned' would probably be a better word," Van Gundy said. "Because ever since the end of January they've been saying it could be the next week, or the next week. That he's still not back to me is concerning, because you don't know if there's been a setback or if he doesn't have the confidence yet. So certainly there is a concern there."
When I said before the season that the Bulls could win 50 games, in large part due to Thibodeau, Van Gundy couldn't believe his ears and suggested I was hit in the head and needed help.
But when Van Gundy joined ESPN 1000's "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on Thursday, he had a different perspective as the 25-16 Bulls are on pace for 50 wins.
"I have to say that if we're going to judge it off half-way, that Nick was much smarter about this than I was," Van Gundy said. "But it's only halfway, so we'll see how it pans out. ...
"I underestimated three things, the first one is how great Thibodeau is. I'm sitting there saying I think he's going to go down as one of the best coaches to ever have coached, but that being said, they lost six starters. They lost (Derrick) Rose and (Luol) Deng, (Kyle) Korver starts for Atlanta, (Omer) Asik starts for Houston, (Ronnie) Brewer started for the Knicks for a while, and C.J. Watson proved himself as a starter last year when they continued to win without Rose. I'm amazed. You're talking a coach losing six starting-quality-type players and he's still able to beat other teams and have the road record they have. I even underestimated his greatness even though I think he's going to go down as one of the greatest to ever coach.
"Second, I underestimated their toughness. Toughness is a talent. I'm not sure about the toughness of some of their guys, but Deng, unquestionably, (Kirk) Hinrich, (Joakim) Noah, (Taj) Gibson, those guys have a unique toughness that has been born out of games together. (They) get down like they were last night, fight, scratch, claw, and figure out how to win by scoring 85 points.
"And then third, I underestimated just how lousy the Eastern Conference was. There are some really bad teams, but the funny part is the Bulls have lost to some of those teams and then they win at Miami. So I'm here to say Nick is smarter than me. My goodness that hurts to say."
CHICAGO -- With Derrick Rose out for a large chunk of the season and Luol Deng potentially out for the bulk of it as well, it doesn't seem like many people believe the Bulls can win 50 games like I predicted Thursday after the schedule came out. This group now includes former NBA head coach and current ESPN analyst, Jeff Van Gundy.
"Nick must have fallen on his head somewhere along the way," Van Gundy said Friday morning on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show. "We have to get Nick some help right now."
Coach Van Gundy, someone I have always enjoyed talking to over the years, is in some pretty good company. He isn't the first person who has said I endured head trauma somewhere along the way, and he won't be the last.
I know I'm in a minority as far as believing the Bulls will have success this year, especially given all the injuries and uncertainties surrounding this team. Here's why I'm taking this stance: I have confidence that with close to three months of planning, Tom Thibodeau can devise a scheme that will bridge the gap for his team while it waits for Rose to get healthy. But therein lies Van Gundy, and plenty of other fans', argument.
"To lose Rose by itself is going to cost you -- even if you thought they were a 55-win team with Rose -- that costs you 12-15 games right there," Van Gundy said. "And then all the other guys I think people are overlooking. C.J. Watson even with his poor play to Asik in that sixth game, listen, he was a very valuable back-up through all of Rose's injuries last year. He played well, and now, who's their backup, they have Hinrich and who? (Marquis Teague) No, no, he's not ... did you watch him in summer league? "Struggled" is being kind. That's not a knock. The 29th pick in the draft is such a hit-and-miss selection anyway. You have to give him time to grow and mature. But to think he's going to come in and play behind Hinrich next year ..."
So Van Gundy isn't sold on Teague as a backup just yet. That's OK, neither am I, as he said, he' not only the 29th pick, he's also 19 years old. Aside from Teague, I just don't think the Bulls' bench will be as terrible as some fans think, though. They will miss Asik's defense and the continuity Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver had playing together, but Marco Belinelli can score, Jimmy Butler showed flashes of solid play in Las Vegas, and Hinrich will be a solid addition for Thibodeau off the bench whenever Rose returns. Obviously, one of the biggest keys is how Hinrich will play to start the season when he is starting and playing 30-35 minutes in Rose's spot.
"Their point guard situation last year was the MVP and a very good backup. This year it's a combo guard in Hinrich and we'll see who they can get as a backup. At the two-guard, (Rip) Hamilton is always hurt, and frankly in that Philly series, he's older, he's on the downside, and we'll see if he can bounce back ... Deng, you don't know where he's going to be injury-wise, and the frontcourt has been diminished. So to think that's a 50-win team ... listen, if they win half their games next year and make the playoffs, it's a heck of a year."
Van Gundy, like a lot of fans, has valid points. Hinrich is older and appeared to have lost a step in Atlanta. Hamilton appeared to have lost more than one step last year and just couldn't stay on the floor because of all the injuries, and if Deng can't make it through the whole season with his wrist injury, the Bulls have even bigger problems. Still, I'm not backing off my prediction. The Bulls can have success this year with the other pieces they have on the roster. With enough time to formulate a plan, Thibodeau can find a way to put his players in the best place to win games. He did it for half of last season without Rose, let's see if he can do it again
CHICAGO -- What is taking so long?
That's the question people throughout the NBA are asking as far as it pertains to a new contract for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy was the latest to chime in on the story Friday morning on ESPN 1000’s "Waddle & Silvy" show. Van Gundy noted that it was 'interesting' that Thibodeau, his close friend, and the Bulls had not come to a contract extension already.
During a summer in which the Bulls have already had to battle the perception that the organization is making financial calculations rather than basketball decisions -- the exact opposite philosophy of the summer blue print Bulls GM Gar Forman laid out on draft night -- Jerry Reinsdorf has the ability to fix at least one issue before it becomes an even bigger distraction over the next few months: Just pay Thibodeau already.
A lengthy contract standoff – particularly if it carries into next season, which, as of now, would be the final year of Thibodeau’s deal -- will only serve to sway the court of public opinion in Thibodeau’s corner. Whether the Bulls want to admit it, there is a general feeling amongst the fan base that the Bulls are cheap.
Forman could argue that the decisions he made in filling out the rest of his bench this summer have been basketball related, not financially driven. It would be a tough sell for Bulls fans given the success the unit formerly known as the “Bench Mob” had the past two years. Still, over time, he may be able to validate his point. What he won't be able to change is the perception that Reinsdorf doesn't want to spend in order to put the best staff in place if he can't re-sign Thibodeau.
Since his hiring two years ago, Thibodeau, a longtime NBA assistant, has become one of the best coaches in the league. In consecutive seasons, the Bulls have led the league in regular-season wins. Thibodeau, furthermore, was voted the coach of the year two years ago and was the runner-up last season.
His detractors will say that the Bulls only advanced to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago and couldn't make it out of the first round last season because of injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The detractors would also tell you that Thibodeau is so demanding and hard charging that there is always a fear players could tune him out. Even if they don't tune him out, they could be so exhausted from the mental and physical grind that his players may not be playing at their peak come playoff time.
Having said that, I'd take my chances with Thibodeau as a coach every day. His record over the past two years speaks for itself. He maximizes the potential of his roster and gets the most out of his players. Are there times when guys get frustrated with him? Sure. Are there instances where fans should second guess some of his decisions? Absolutely. But more often than not, Thibodeau's players play hard for him almost every single night. They trust that he will put them in the best position to win and they know that no matter how hard they work they won't be able to put in the time that he does day in, day out. Player after player has a story about how they went in for extra shots one day at the Berto Center and the only other person in the facility late at night was Thibodeau.
It stands to reason that part of Reinsdorf's hesitation in giving Thibodeau a major extension is due to his previous dealings with former coach Scott Skiles. Like Thibodeau, Skiles, now of the Milwaukee Bucks, is a demanding coach who can grate on his players at times. After signing a four-year extension worth more than $16 million in the summer of 2005, Skiles was fired a year and a half later. That left Reinsdorf looking for a new coach while he was still on the hook for paying a large sum to the old one.
There are definitely plenty of differences this time around – Skiles didn’t reach the heights Thibodeau has and the Bulls the biggest one should be Thibodeau's relationship with Rose. The former MVP is still the franchise’s building block. Rose has said repeatedly that he wants Thibodeau here for the long-term because he believes that Thibodeau gives the Bulls the best chance to win. With so much uncertainty on the roster right now, why risk alienating your best player in any way?
Aside from Rose's feelings, Reinsdorf must also consider the constant distractions that this unresolved contract issue would cause during the year. Thibodeau, Forman and all the players would be asked about it throughout the year. While both Thibodeau and Forman have stated that the negotiations are a non-issue, that's simply cannot the case.
The longer it goes on, the longer the questions will linger. Are Thibodeau and the front office on the same page? As Van Gundy pointed out, if Thibodeau makes it past this year without a deal, there will be teams lined up to sign him for big money. Is that a risk that Reinsdorf wants to take?
The market for Thibodeau was set when the Oklahoma City Thunder locked up Scott Brooks this month for four years and around $16 million. Reinsdorf should offer – and it’s possible he has -- the same kind of deal to Thibodeau. Like Thibodeau, Brooks is viewed as one of the NBA’s up-and-coming coaches. A deal in that price range should be able to get the job done, but if Thibodeau still won't accept a deal in that range, Reinsdorf should pony up whatever the difference is and pay up. There are only so many coaches in the league that have the ability to maximize the talent on their roster on a night to night basis. If the Bulls don't want to pay Thibodeau, somebody else will. If that happens, the perception that Reinsdorf doesn't want to pay for a winner will be harder than ever for the organization to fight. At that point, it will become more than perception. It will become the truth.
The Bulls picked up the option on Thibodeau for next season, but no extension has been signed. After reports surfaced during last season that Thibodeau was unhappy he didn't have an extension, and that Bulls players knew of his unhappiness, GM Gar Forman said that talks about an extension had been tabled before the season and would conclude at season's end.
But over two months have passed since the end of the Bulls' season, and Thibodeau appears to still be without an extension.
"I don't think 'worried' would be the right term for me," Van Gundy said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think it's interesting, though. I would have ... if I was them ... most likely pursued and prioritized him earlier this summer certainly. Because just like a player, you don't want them to get into their free agency year, and certainly he would have many suitors if in fact they decided not to offer him a fair contract extension. And he'll have other options.
"But I know he loves it in Chicago. Everything he says to me is he loves the guys, he loves the city. And he would like to be there a long time, from what I can gather. But business is business from both ends, and we've seen how business has impacted their roster, so certainly it could impact their coaching."
Thibodeau was a long-time NBA assistant, including a stint as Van Gundy's assistant with the New York Knicks, before the Bulls gave him his first head coaching job. He signed a two-year deal with a team option for the third. Thibodeau guided the Bulls to the best regular-season record the last two seasons, winning coach of the year his first season and missing out on becoming the first coach in NBA history to win the award in consecutive seasons as he finished second last season.
Thibodeau has said several times publicly that he's not worried about his contract situation, and Van Gundy echoed those sentiments Friday.
"He hasn't intimated to me at all that he's irritated," said Van Gundy, who is an ESPN analyst. "All we talk about is their team, and how summer league is going most recently, how the draft went for them. He never has brought up his contract situation to me. He's never shown any irritation.
"Listen, he's been around the NBA a long, long time, took him a long time to get a shot, Jerry Reinsdorf gave him that shot, so he's very, very thankful for the opportunity he's been presented to coach some quality guys. Derrick Rose is as humble a superstar as you can have, and he loves (Luol) Deng and (Joakim) Noah. So he's been very, very happy to be there. But at the end of the day, he's going to have to do what's best for him, because that's exactly what the Bulls do in every situation as well."
"Listen, as an entire nation, not basketball lovers, but as an entire nation, we have to look into voter fraud," Van Gundy told ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell on Wednesday before working Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. "We have to look into making a mockery of our system.
"Because he wouldn't make second team all-defense on the Bulls, let alone in the whole NBA. And I even think Carlos Boozer, sitting at home, got a good chuckle out of that one."
A panel of media chose Tyson Chandler as defensive player of the year, but it was the coaches who voted for the first and second all-defensive teams. And the coaches couldn't vote for their own players. LeBron James earned the most votes among the coaches. Luol Deng made the second team, and Joakim Noah earned 14 points.
Derrick Rose earned one point, as did Boozer, whose defense was so questionable that coach Tom Thibodeau sat him during fourth quarters of close games, including in the playoffs, in favor of Taj Gibson, who did not receive a vote.
A player receives two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.
Van Gundy found it so surprising that the ESPN color analyst even raised the issue during Game 6 of the Celtics' conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"I'm still on the search for the coach who voted for Carlos Boozes on the all-NBA defensive team," Van Gundy said at the time. "We have to root this person out."
The search continues.
Here is the rest of the podcast, including Van Gundy's thoughts on Rose and his future.
Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.
MIAMI -- Jeff Van Gundy has the same belief that many Chicago Bulls fans have as they watch the NBA playoffs unfold this month. If the Bulls had stayed healthy, Van Gundy believes they had a legitimate chance to win a title this season.
"Certainly I think they could have won," Van Gundy told ESPNChicago.com before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. "Particularly, now that you look at the injury that Miami took with (Chris) Bosh and homecourt, I think it would be very difficult for Miami to have beaten a healthy Chicago team without Bosh. Now with Bosh, I think it would have been a little bit like last year's series where every game was hard fought and close other than the Game 1 blowout by Chicago. And I think the series would have been a long one; I have no idea who would have won, but certainly Chicago was a championship level team."
Having said that, Van Gundy still isn't sure if the Bulls' current lineup has enough to get the job done offensively in the long grind of the postseason.
"Going forward though, they need to get a 2-3 that can consistently be dynamic enough to take some of the Heat off of (Derrick) Rose," Van Gundy continued. "I just don't think right now they have enough scoring."
As for Van Gundy's close friend Tom Thibodeau, the veteran coach believes his pal is doing just fine after such an emotional end to the season.
"Everyone in Chicago I think can see how much he puts into every game and every season," Van Gundy said. "And so he was bitterly disappointed in the outcome and at the same time proud of his team because they give him all that they have. They need to shore up some areas on the roster to become more explosive offensively. They have a lot of decisions to make with their roster. It will be interesting to see where this off-season takes them."
While Van Gundy certainly believes Thibodeau deserves an extension, he doesn't seem too concerned about Thibodeau's contract situation after next season.
"I think it's too early right now to try to judge whether you're surprised or not," he said of the way the Bulls have handled contract negotiations. "I think they picked up his option if I'm not mistaken, so he's on a one year contract. I think if you ask me next spring if they haven't worked out a long term contract, then I would be surprised. But I think right now, I think a lot of teams operate like this where they wait and see, but certainly Tom has proven to be one of the great assets that the Bulls have and I don't even think they could have expected someone to come in after that many years of being around .500 or below and take them to the best record in the NBA two consecutive years. It's just been a remarkable run for the Bulls."
On a lighter note, Van Gundy, who publicly called out Carlos Boozer's vote to the All-Defensive team on national television, reiterated his disdain for whomever voted for the Bulls' forward to be on the team.
"Listen, as an entire nation, not basketball lovers, but as an entire nation we have to look into voter fraud," Van Gundy said. "We have to look into making a mockery of our system. Because he wouldn't make second team All-Defense on the Bulls, let alone in the whole NBA. And I even think Carlos Boozer, sitting at home, got a good chuckle out of that one."
Here is the rest of the podcast, including Van Gundy's thoughts on Rose and his future.
Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.
Click here for more podcasts from ESPN Chicago.
Van Gundy joined "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on Tuesday and agreed with Tom Thibodeau's stance about keeping the rotation intact.
Van Gundy even doubted the severity of Joakim Noah's ankle injury, although ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell said the swelling appears to have returned.
To hear the entire podcast, click here.
Here are some highlights from Van Gundy:
"I'd be playing to win. I'd be playing to catch San Antonio. I'd give myself every opportunity I could if I'm trying to win a championship.
"I think one of the most overrated things is game-day rest. I think somehow in the media it's become this obsession. What other job are you paid to rest. This idea that these guys at 22 and 23 need all this rest is so out of whack. They have something significant to play for, play. If tomorrow has no bearing on anything, maybe cut their minutes. But particularly Noah and [Carlos] Boozer, they need to play better. They need more repetition. They need to get up to speed on the intensity, speed and timing of the game and deliver.
"[Noah's] not hobbled. He hasn't played enough. You cannot play at a high level in this league playing intermittently. It's too hard. The competition is too stiff. He doesn't need time off. He needs more time. You make a valid point if a guy is truly injured. If a guy is hurting a little bit, that's the nature of the job. ... You have to be tougher than your opponent. I think right now the Bulls have the best habits in the league, they and San Antonio have the best habits in the league. They don't want to give up on their habits. He needs to work his way back into playing at a high level.
"This is what I like about the Bulls' decision. They're not just playing for the Eastern Conference top spot. They're trying to catch San Antonio, so if they meet San Antonio in the Finals, in the 2-3-2 format, it's critical to have home court."
But Van Gundy stuck to his guns about the Miami Heat being the favorites to make the NBA Finals.
Read the entire story.
Read the entire story.