Making the rounds most of Wednesday morning (because in this digital age, it's smart to comment on things nearly a day late!) was another example of Tom Thibodeau's dedication to his craft. And little else:
"Me and Joakim [Noah] were talking about that [Monday] night." Rose said. "I've never played for a coach that was that focused. Where there's nothing else. No kids. No wife. No leisure time just to watch TV. I'm dead serious. There's nothing else but winning. I never in my life have played for a coach like that."
He always seems to have them on the right track.
"He always says if we're messing around in practice or something, he always reminds us that if we want to be that team [that we talk about becoming] we can't be doing what we're doing. We can't be taking any steps back. We've got to play with an edge every single game."
Aren’t they worried that their coach is too concerned about basketball?
"He's healthy," Rose said with a laugh. "We're winning. He seems like he's enjoying himself so I'm fine with it."
There've been stories like that all year, and universally positive reactions from the players. Not only is every game treated seriously, but every possession. We've seen it on the sidelines as well, and it's especially notable lately in a stretch where the Bulls are blowing out opponents: Thibodeau does not let up.
The Hawks’ Al Horford set a ball screen for Kirk Hinrich, who was guarded by Derrick Rose. Rose was effectively walled off, made no commitment to fight over or through the pick, nor did he drop under it with a purpose. Hinrich slashed to the rim and missed the layup, but Horford rolled uncontested to clean it up with a slam.
Time out, Bulls.
A grim-faced Tom Thibodeau stood and waited for Rose to arrive at the bench, and then let him have it like he deserved.
The presumptive NBA MVP got blistered in front of his teammates and a national television audience for not playing defense up to the standards set by the coach. Rock-solid basketball sensibilities were offended, championship-level expectations were not met, and there were immediate, direct consequences. Even for a superstar.
And the best part? Rose appreciates and understands it, because he knows Thibodeau wasn’t pulling a stunt – not for the cameras, and not for the rest of the team. He wasn’t trying to prove anything about his authority or any pecking order. He was coaching.
(And no doubt Rose had been missing 'coaching' for much of his early career.)
It's the perfect foundation for a team: not just to have a superstar, but to have that superstar in tune with the coach. Makes it much easier for the rest to get in line.
In the years to come, will it be such a demanding, consistent message that it's eventually tuned out? It's the NBA, so that's always likely. But while I try not to get invested in stories about Rose the saintly humble-bot (who's at home playing monopoly and not tearing up the club with Keith Bogans), certainly for now the preponderance of evidence is that he indeed does care about winning first and only. And like he says about Thibs: if they win, his quirks are all good.
And it works for Thibs as it does for the star-coach bond as it does for The Chemistry-15. Winning is everything. So while the looming specter of 'burnout' (the mental kind, literal over-using of certain players is a separate concern) will be there every sign of adversity in the coming years, for this season and this playoff push it's looking perfect.