Despite injuries to several key players – including Derrick Rose, again – Tom Thibodeau coached the Chicago Bulls to a 50-win season and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
And yet, there are rumors that Thibodeau will be let go after the season.
“In sports right now, we just can’t do the games; we got to have a little drama to go along with the games,” TNT NBA analyst Steve Smith told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Obviously Tom Thibodeau has kind of been a topic and people are talking about it. But (there’s) been rumblings for I guess a couples years (and) obviously it’s picking up more and more speed. But winning settles everything. We’ll be talking more and more if the Bulls are knocked out of the playoffs. So winning and losing still matters even when we have the drama that’s surrounding the game.”
Much of the Bulls’ drama has centered on the health of Rose, who has undergone three knee surgeries since 2012 and played in just 100 games over the past three seasons. He averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 51 games this year.
Rose returned from a February surgery and played in the Bulls’ final five regular-season games, during which he averaged 11.6 points, 4.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game.
“It was exciting for me to get a chance to see the few games he’s played leading up to the playoffs. He was moving well,” Smith said. “But it still comes down to if you need to win a basketball game, can Derrick Rose play 30 to 40 minutes? I think he looks fantastic. He looked fantastic before he was out before this. He’s had some setbacks, but you can just tell. I watched him over the summer with USA Basketball. He’s put in the work. It’s just unfortunate for him he’s had some setbacks, but hopefully he can be healthy. Hopefully this entire Bulls team can be healthy and you get a chance to see the real Bulls teams. We haven’t got a chance to see this talented team . . . play for long spurts during the regular season, but now it’s the playoffs and we’re going to see if they’re ready or not to play with one another.”
The Bulls open at home against Milwaukee (41-41) this Saturday. It is unknown how many minutes Rose will play.
“No one’s told us. We shall see,” Smith said. “I hope he’s ready, but I also understand that if he’s not (ready to play a full game), there shouldn’t be criticism of him. He has to go from now until June if they . . . win a championship.”
Luckily for the Bulls, they have five players aside from Rose who are averaging double figures: Jimmy Butler (20.0 points per game), Pau Gasol (18.5), Aaron Brooks (11.6), Taj Gibson (10.3) and Nikola Mirotic (10.2). Another, Mike Dunleavy, is averaging 9.4.
“What I do like about the Bulls is if . . . Derrick Rose (is not fully healthy), they still are capable of winning games and winning series,” Smith said. “Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks and other guys that they have on their team can carry the load.”