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Morning shootaround — May 29


VIDEO: Relive the Warriors’ and Cavs’ conference title clinchers

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Breaking down the Thibodeau ouster| Rivers: Paul, Jordan need each other to succeed | Randle aiming for return in Summer League

No. 1: Was Thibodeau enough of a politician?; Clashes with management led to his dismissal— Five seasons, 255 regular-season wins, 23 playoff wins (including an East finals berth) and countless other player-level accolades (developing an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year and a Most Improved Player) weren’t enough to give Tom Thibodeau job security in Chicago. The Bulls fired Thibodeau yesterday in a not-too-shocking move given the unrest between him and the front office and now, must find his replacement. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and our own Steve Aschburner chime in on the move with two different viewpoints.

Here’s Wojnarowski on how Thibodeau’s lack of political glad-handing may have led to his firing:

For all the issues that inspired Chicago Bulls management to carry out such a ferocious campaign to discredit Tom Thibodeau – minutes restrictions and personnel disagreements and an inability to simply interact – perhaps the most powerful had been jealousy.

Over and over, those listening to John Paxson and Gar Forman would tell you that Bulls management could never make peace with the praise heaped upon Thibodeau for 60-victory seasons and deep playoff runs. For them, it was too much about the best defense in the NBA, too much about his development of journeymen into rotation contributors, good players into All-Stars, great players into an MVP.

To them, Thibodeau represented a Chicago folk hero who needed to be leveled. Tell them that he was a great coach, and league officials say you’d often hear back from Bulls management that simply, “He’s good.”

If Thibodeau had only the political savvy to publicly praise his bosses, maybe everyone could’ve been spared the years of needless acrimony and drama. As Thibodeau joined the Chicago Bulls five years ago, a coaching friend told him: “Remember to kiss some babies,” a suggestion that he needed to learn to be more of a politician.

Thibodeau played a part in creating the dysfunction. In his next job, he needs to bring with him some lessons learned, needs to understand better that there can be compromises without destroying your values system.

In the end, management won over owner Jerry Reinsdorf to pay out the $9 million owed on Thibodeau’s contract. Reinsdorf has lorded over decades of management-coaching dysfunction – and yet Thursday he was issuing a statement on the firing of Thibodeau as a way to stay true to the organization’s “culture.” That’s been a screwed-up culture for a long, long time. Between Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose, the Bulls were a mess. When Thibodeau arrived, so did the winning – and then, so did the loathing between management and his staff.

Those close to Thibodeau say that Reinsdorf’s statement stung the coach on Thursday, that he had treasured his relationship with the owner. Thibodeau has always admired Reinsdorf’s accomplishments – a self-made tycoon, a successful sports and media mogul – and always felt that Reinsdorf had been an ally for him. Reinsdorf wasn’t around much, though, and talked far more with management than the coach. Thibodeau lost Reinsdorf in the past year, and ultimately lost the job.

Before the end of Thursday night, Thibodeau had sounded enthusiastic to close associates. He was thinking about the next job, about the possibilities out there. Throughout the day, Thibodeau was getting texts and calls from old players – with the Knicks and Rockets and Celtics and, yes, Bulls – and they say that it moved him.

In the hours after his firing, Tom Thibodeau hadn’t sounded angry to his friends – only nostalgic. Five years is a good run in the NBA; it’s just a matter of time until someone else comes calling for him.

And here’s Aschburner on how Thibodeau’s firing may have come as a result of the years-long feud between he and the front office:

Paxson and Forman spoke with assembled Chicago media for about 25 minutes Thursday afternoon at United Center, by which time Thibodeau had been told his services no longer needed and departed the Advocate Center practice facility across the street. He leaves with two years remaining on his contract, worth a reported $9 million, and the freedom to take a new NBA job (New Orleans remains the source of greatest speculation) or sit out to collect the Bulls’ money, whichever suits him. Paxson and Forman said the Bulls weren’t dragging their heels on Thibodeau’s firing to block him until available coaching vacancies were filled — that makes sense, since whatever he’d earn in 2015-16 would offset what they’d still owe him.

But the way it all was handled — Reinsdorf’s salvos lobbed at the coach in support of his guys in suits, the Bulls’ brain trust being far more available and talkative on Thibodeau’s fate after it had been sealed than while it was salvageable, an apparent Cold War in addressing their communication breakdowns and a sense that egos ruled the day more than the good sense to make things work among proven professionals — fit a little too comfortably into the franchise’s history. Or its vaunted “culture” that got mentioned time and time again Thursday.

Remember former Jerry Krause‘s notorious comment that “organizations win championships?” And the bad blood between Krause and coach Phil Jackson, and Krause and stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen? This was that, the same mood, just different principals.

One NBA head coach referred to Friday’s events in Chicago as “a crucifixion.” Another spoke of “the knife Reinsdorf stabbed in Thibodeau’s back” on the way out.

Among the things Thibodeau did in his time with Chicago was help Rose become the league’s youngest MVP, turned Luol Deng into a two-time All-Star, drill Noah into the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year and a fourth-place finisher in MVP balloting in 2014 and oversee Jimmy Butler‘s development as this season’s Most Improved Player. He got veteran Pau Gasol to perform at a level that made him an All-Star starter for the first time.

Of course, NBA players are survivors, so it’s not surprising that some of them reportedly weren’t happy with Thibodeau, his grinding work demands and what some of them felt was a limited offensive repertoire. Some were said to have complained in exit interviews with Forman and Paxson, and they didn’t exactly throw themselves in front of the divorce train when asked about the “noise” in March and April.

So who might the Bulls’ new boss be? Forman and Paxson made it sound like they were only now about to rev up a full-blown coaching search, which is hard to believe. Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a Forman crony from way back who spent part of his NBA career in Chicago, has been the No. 1 candidate — at least in speculation –since before the season began. The idea that the Bulls would make this leap of cutting loose Thibodeau without having their parachute strapped on, or at least within reach, strains credulity.

Hoiberg is a bright basketball mind, a solid individual and, aside from a health record that required a second open-heart procedure recently, certainly capable of the Xs & Os required in the job. Certainly, he is communicative enough — and clued in enough now — to stroke Bulls upper management in the ways it apparently needs.

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No. 2: Rivers: Jordan, Paul need each other to succeed — In the days after the Los Angeles Clippers’ Game 7 loss in the West semifinals to the Houston Rockets, a report surfaced that a rift had developed last season between Clippers guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan. Toss that into the mix with Jordan being an unrestricted free agent this summer and there were some frayed nerves in Clipperland. But as ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi reports, coach Doc Rivers made it clear in a recent interview there’s no rift between the two players:

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers says that Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan have a good relationship and that both players, along with Blake Griffin, understand they need each other to ultimately win a championship — and they want to win one together.

“I can put this to rest: They get along great,” Rivers told Fred Roggin of The Beast 980 on Thursday. “Clearly, like everybody, they don’t get along all the time, and they don’t get along with me all the time, either, by the way. I don’t see that as an issue. I think all three, and I’m including Blake in this as well, understand how important the other guy is to them. Meaning, they all three need each other to win, and I think all three get that and all three know that and all three want to do it together. To me, that’s the most important thing.”

Rivers noted that both Griffin and Jordan are 26 and entering the prime of their careers, and that Michael Jordan and LeBron James didn’t win their first titles until they were 27.

“We’re right on schedule,” Rivers said. “We’re on schedule. We would have liked to have been ahead a little bit, obviously. We thought we would have at least been in the West finals, the way we were playing.”

The Clippers became just the ninth NBA team to lose a series after taking a 3-1 lead, and did so in dramatic fashion when they lost Game 6 at home to the Houston Rockets despite holding a 19-point lead with 14 minutes left in the game. It’s a loss Rivers hasn’t gotten over and likely won’t for a while.

“I don’t say this often, and I don’t want to disrespect Houston at all, but when you actually feel like you were the better team or you had a chance to clearly close it out yourself, it makes it a lot tougher,” Rivers said. “Other than Game 7 of the Celtics-Lakers [in the 2010 NBA Finals], those two games back to back [Games 6 and 7 against Houston] were the toughest I’ve ever been involved in, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m more energized today. I love this group, and I think we’re right there and we’re going to get there and we’re not going to stop trying.”

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No. 3: Lakers’ Randle hoping to play in Summer League — Power forward Julius Randle had a rough first season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, managing to play just 14 minutes in the team’s season opener before breaking his right leg and being done for the season. However, Randle has been working hard to get in shape for 2015-16 and is readying himself to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

The Lakers received an early glimpse of their future on Thursday for reasons besides hosting their second round of draft workouts.

Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle also participated in a series of full-contact, half-court 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills, something he said he has done for the past month after rehabbing his surgically repaired right leg he injured in the 2014-15 season opener.

“It’s been real good,” Randle said in a brief interview with Los Angeles News Group. “It’s been good with how I feel conditioning-wise and the smoothness of (my movement).”

The Lakers have held out hope Randle could heal completely enough to play on the team’s Las Vegas summer league team in July. But the Lakers will not have Randle play unless he’s completely recovered to ensure that he arrives to training camp in late September fully healthy.

“If I feel like I can play summer league, I think I’ll be fine,” Randle said. “But I’ll take it a day at a time.”


VIDEO: Julius Randle is working hard to get back on his feet

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Add Vinny Del Negro to the ever-growing list of folks who have interviewed for the New Orleans Pelicans coaching gig … According to a report, three Chicago Bulls starters ripped ex-coach Tom Thibodeau in their season exit interviews … Veteran forward Elton Brand says he needs time to decide whether or not to keep playing or retire … Murray State star Cameron Payne made a big impression with the Indiana Pacers … Las Vegas sports books consider the Golden State Warriors the favorites for The Finals … Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol considers the San Antonio Spurs an ‘example franchise’ … Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek doesn’t intend to take a college job anytime soon

7 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    I wonder where Rajon Rondo will end up? D League?

  2. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    The Lakers can sign a player this off season to a max, then in 2016 when the new league deal kicks in they can sign 3 players to a max deal, So what the Lakers should do is sign DeAndre Jordan at center, Aldridge at pf, and Rondo this summer, but make there deals so when 2016 comes there get more money in there contract, and then go after Durant if he’s 100% healthy at that time and pull the brinks truck up to his house. Center Jordan, PF Aldridge, SF Durant, SG Kobe, PG Rondo 2016 line up. or Love instead of Aldridge.

    • CurryMVP says:

      sheesh.typical laker mentality. if it were me, i’d invest in the recent talent they have right now. julius randle, jordan clarkson (which was a pretty nice surprise), and whoever they use that 2nd pick on.

  3. Paul says:

    Lakers Nation rising baby! Jordan Clarkson evolving into a star point guard, Kobe and Randle coming back from injury, Love possible coming to the Lakers in the offseason, and a high quality rookie, probably Okafor with the 2nd overall draft pick. All the Lakers would then need is a solid SF, and Kobe and the Lakers may have a chance to have a breakout season next season. Unless Jim Buss screws up, which I hope he doesn’t.

  4. lino says:

    oh, that would be nice, marc gasol. definitely come to the spurs. please, please. heck, maybe we could even convince peter holt to give matt bonner to the grizzlies, sort of a token of appreciation. that would be one way to finally get him off the roster.

  5. steppx says:

    Thibs ground players down. Look at Deng. His rotations were idiotic…..i mean Hinrich over Mirotic or Snell? The bulls were pathetic this year and they should have been far better. But mostly Id want to protect my guys from the wearing down that playing for him entails.

  6. steppx says:

    this article makes it sound as if Thibs was blameless. He ran players into the ground. Look at the wreckage….and start with Deng….who may not ever recover. Look at his rotations this year. His insistence on playing Hinrich over Snell or mirotic…..and you have to look at how pathetic, really, the Bulls were this year. IId have fired him, too, to be honest.


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