Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim recently said of early entrants to the NBA, "You gotta have a skillset. They don't work with you up there. You're either ready to play up there or you're not."
Boeheim was absolutely right in that players can't expect to star, or even play in some cases, in the NBA based on college pedigree alone. But one part of that answer irked me a little: "They don't work with you up there."
I'm guessing Boeheim doesn't watch a lot of Bulls games, but the individual improvements of Bulls such as Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler are the reason the team is competing for a three seed in the East without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.
Their growth illustrates how much better one can get in the NBA with the right mix of coaching and personal responsibility.
When I did a column on Gibson a month back, he raved about "Coach Mike" and his effect on Gibson's burgeoning game. That's Mike Wilhelm, a fairly anonymous assistant coach who's been with the Bulls since 2002.
Like all the successful teams in the NBA, each Bulls assistant works closely with two or three players on improving their game. Gibson is a favorite student.
"We watch a lot of film," Gibson said. "And after every game, we come in early and work harder."
They do work with you in the NBA, Jim. You just have to want to work. That's why the Bulls are so good.