HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You can count Hornets coach Monty Williams among those taking a wait-and-see approach before anointing the Derrick Rose-led, Tom Thibodeau-coached Chicago Bulls as anything more than just a good, solid contender.
And this notion, no doubt from some diehards in the Windy City and beyond, that the next great era of Bulls basketball is at hand … well, Williams is not ready to crown them just yet.
He suggested to the Chicago Tribune that everyone needs to step back before making comparisons between these current Bulls and the Michael Jordan-led, Phil Jackson-coached Bulls teams that Williams played against early in his NBA career:
“I don’t think it’s even close to that yet,” he said before his team took the United Center floor Tuesday. “They do a really good job and they are on their way, but I played against (Michael) Jordan and (Scottie) Pippen and (Dennis) Rodman, and that was a different beast. If you didn’t watch yourself, when they called out Jordan’s name, you’d get caught up in it.”
Williams, the former Notre Dame star who played for the Knicks, Spurs, Nuggets, Magic and 76ers from 1994-2003, said: “There’s a little bit of that (aura) with Derrick Rose, but it’s not the same. I think you have to win a title first. It’s a tough place to play anyway, but when you have a title, that separates you.”
Williams believes the Bulls are on their way, thanks to the hiring of coach Tom Thibodeau, who also was offered the Hornets job.
“When they signed Coach Thibs, they knew they’d be a defensive(-minded) team,” he said. “He’ll bench a guy for not playing defense, and I think that’s the identity you have to have to move toward a championship.
“They play a physical style. They foul a lot, and it’s not always called. … They play hard. That’s an identity you want to have.”
If our read-between-the-line skills are still intact after a long All-Star weekend, that would appear to be quite a bit of backhanded praise on the part of Williams.
He’s also spot on about one thing in particular, these Bulls (who face the Spurs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) are not close to matching the prowess of the Jordan-led Bulls just yet. And until they win a championship, there’s no need to even entertain the conversation.
The best part? Rose and Thibodeau would be the first people to insist on ending the comparison talk!