After four years of playoff exits for the Chicago Bulls, the perception of head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t good heading into the 2015-16 season.
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The Bulls’ six-game loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Cleveland Cavaliers had to be the most humiliating thing for Bulls fans to go through.
Although the Bulls were without their star forward Pau Gasol in Games 4 and 5 against the Cavaliers, the Bulls still had more than enough to win compared to Cleveland.
A plethora of issues and explanations come to mind to explain why a Bulls team that had two former All-Stars in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, two current All-Stars in Gasol and Jimmy Butler, and lost in the second round to an injury-plagued Cavaliers team.
The first reason that comes to mind is the inconsistency that was displayed in Game 4, when the Bulls blew an 11-point lead in the third quarter, in would turned out to be an eventual loss for the Bulls. The Bulls’ collapse to the Cavaliers has just been the story for this team for most of the season.
There were plenty of embarrassing losses to lesser opponents for the Bulls this season, mainly sub-.500 teams, in which the Bulls lost 15 games in the regular season to teams that were lucky to sneak in to the playoffs, or teams that didn’t qualify for a playoff spot.
Despite the losses to sub-.500 teams, the Bulls were still able to clinch the third seed in the East, beating out the Toronto Raptors in the final days of the regular season. The Bulls ended the regular season with a record of 50-32, three game behind Cleveland in the Central Division.
It’s quite obvious that had the Bulls won the games that they were heavily favored to win, then maybe the Bulls play their first two games of the series in Chicago, instead of Cleveland. One of the other reasons for the Bulls’ disappointing season was the number of injuries the team suffered throughout the season, as the starters only played 19 games together.
The final reason that mostly should be placed on Tom Thibodeau.
According to BusinessInsider.com‘s article on Thibodeau, the number of minutes each starter played in the regular season could have attributed to the number of injuries the team suffered during the regular season.
Butler played more minutes than anyone in the league, the 34-year-old Gasol played 35 minutes per contest this year, and Noah averaged 35 minutes per game coming off knee surgery.
In February, the Bulls lost Rose to another knee injury, his third knee surgery in four years under Tom Thibodeau. In the months leading up to Rose’s injury, Rose’s minutes went up every month up until his injury in February. Before February, Rose was playing 23 minutes per game.
During the month of his injury? Rose was playing 32 minutes per game.
Instead of the Bulls pacing themselves throughout the season, and building depth with their bench, Tom Thibodeau relied too much on his starters, and due to the lack of a pop offensively on the bench, there is nobody to relieve these guys when they are tired or banged up.
With the system that Thibodeau runs, it’s impossible for the Bulls to grow. Incorporate new players into their offense and keep this team youthful and athletic.
The Chicago Bulls front office suggested to Thibodeau to seek an offensive assistant, but he refused to do so. A recent article by Complex.com explains many signs of a bad relationship between Thibodeau and Bulls general manager Gar Forman. The rift between the two sides reportedly began when Forman fired Thibodeau’s assistant Ron Adams, according to an article written by USA Today. Forman stated was just the better business move moving forward.
Is firing Tom Thibodeau better for the Bulls moving forward? With the bad relationship Thibodeau has with the Bulls front office, along with the extensive minutes that Thibodeau continues to play his starters, and the lack of development of the Bulls’ bench to build depth, the answer should be obvious.
Pau Gasol is 34, and towards the end of the Bulls series loss against the Cavaliers, Gasol started showing signs of age, suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out of two games of that series, with Joakim Noah suffering from chronic knee issues, and with Derrick Rose’s history of knee problems, the Bulls need a coach that will develop younger players coming in to the league to take these players place, before there is nothing left of them, and no future players to carry the Bulls’ tradition of winning going.
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