- Nick Friedell, Chicago Bulls beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- Kyle Korver's two-year stint under Tom Thibodeau was grueling, but it sounds like the veteran sharpshooter wouldn't have traded it for the world.
Korver made his first visit to the United Center Monday since being traded by the Chicago Bulls to Atlanta over the summer and may have given Thibodeau his biggest compliment to date after being asked how Thibodeau's preparations compares others’ around the league.
"I think the grass is always greener on the other side," Korver said. "Sometimes you're like, 'Man, we've got to do closeouts again? It's Cleveland, it's 20 degrees in this arena, we're at shootaround ...' You can't argue with the final result. You just can't. Thibs is a great coach, man. He's a very demanding coach. He couldn't coach every team because a lot of guys can't take it. But they have a group in that locker room who can and that's what makes them special. And they keep on finding guys who will and I'm sure that they'll continue to do that. But if you get guys who will buy in, you're going to have a great defense, you're going to grind every night and that gets you far in this league."
Here are some more of Korver's thoughts...
On if he still keeps up with the Bulls: "They got a bunch of new faces, but the core, what they're doing, is still the same. And they still run the same system, still run the same plays. We were going over it today in shootaround. They're still a good grind-it-out team and as long as they have energy and feel fresh they've shown they can beat anybody. They've beat Miami, they've killed New York every time. I think they're kind of just holding ground til Derrick [Rose] comes back and when that happens, see how he comes back. But they're going to be a force in the end for sure."
On why the Bulls have struggled so much at home: "I'm not sure why. I think when you're a good defensive team being on the road you kind of have this mentality of ‘we're going to play that much harder, that much better,’ and I think they have that. I'm not sure why they haven't been as good at home this year but they're still a really tough team."
On the Bulls’ success without Rose: "We didn't have Derrick last year, either. Thibs has a great system put into place. He's got guys that have bought in 100 percent. As long as those guys continue to do that they're going to be a tough team to play against. They play great defense, they play hard, they still have pieces who can score. They don't have the flashy plays that Derrick brought but they still play solid basketball and solid basketball in the NBA gets you a lot of wins."
On the improvement of Joakim Noah: "I think Joakim I'm sure worked hard this summer, but it's all been in Joakim the whole time. I think he just needed an opportunity and maybe a little bit of encouragement to take some of the shots and make some of the plays. I think when you're playing with Derrick, because he's so good, and because a lot of the offense is predicated around the point guard for them, you're not as aggressive doing the other things. You're told to 'Do your job,' 'Do your job,' ... last year Joakim's job was not to shoot jump shots and not to do other plays but now that he needs to do those things that is his job and he's doing those things. Joakim's a special player and I think everyone's known that for a long time."
On being a visitor at the United Center: "It was strange taking the shorter left into this locker room. My time here, it wasn't defined … we had good teams, we won some playoff games. We didn't do what we ultimately wanted to do, but there wasn't a game or a series that defined Chicago for me. We had 15 guys, 14 guys, whatever it was, that left it all (on the floor) every night, every day in practice, every night and there's something to that. You walk into this arena and you can feel proud about that. I've never been on teams that played as hard every single night as over the last two years here."
On if the Bulls could have won a title with Rose healthy: "Absolutely possibly. Possibly. I'm sure we'll play that game a long time. We felt good about our team. The whole year the whole mindset was, 'We're going to hold it down til Derrick comes back.’ And we really lived that out every day. Definitely a disappointing year. The lockout year was a tough year -- all the games and everything was tough. At the end of the day we didn't get a championship, but if you go back to anyone that played on those teams they'd be proud of the season we had because you really did put it all out there. At the end we were all broken and we were out of gas, man, but we left it all out there. It was a tough year from a health perspective."
Kyle Korver maintains a respect for his Tom Thibodeau's ways.