The Bulls are struggling, and worse: looking like they're struggling to give an effort. That particular circumstance naturally has brought out the usual questions with Thibodeau and ThibsBall and its eventual expiration date.
There was a weird fallout from the loss in Cleveland where you had some guys talking about the need for more practice, others advocating rest, then the coach both scheduling a practice then cancelling it.
Thibodeau canceled Tuesday's noon practice he surprisingly had called for on the first day of the Bulls' first two-day break since Dec. 21 and after three games in four nights and seven in 11. Instead, Thibodeau, according to sources, held a meeting with players with open, back-and-forth dialogue about the myriad issues surrounding the Bulls, who have lost six of eight.
Most players typically come to the Advocate Center on their own on off days anyway to shoot, receive treatment or watch film with coaches. But if Thibodeau had followed through with his late-night Monday plan to practice on Tuesday, it would've done little to silence the whispers that his pedal-to-the-floor-at-all-times approach is wearing thin.
Indeed there have been 'whispers' about Thibs losing the team, but nothing remotely credible yet. That said, there is no denying this team has issues, which KC reiterated as common knowledge:
- The big 'inside the circle' post-game rant by Thibs after the Orlando loss, to which the Bulls responded by losing 3 of their next 4.
- Tensions between Bulls and upper management since forever.
- The minutes restrictions from the training staff (via management) on Rose and Noah this year.
- Thibs experiencing 'pushback' from this year's team, lamenting poor practices.
KC doesn't really go in on that last point, saying "it’s clear" because of what Thibs has said openly to the media more than any sourced information. And while he mentions that the roster has more offensive-minded players this season, I don't think they're the types to not give effort. It's possible Gasol has his own practice restrictions, and Mirotic and McDermott simply aren't used to NBA rigor, but I'd be more concerned for Thibs's job if there was something concrete here suggesting the players are legitimately rebelling.
We've seen Bulls teams go through bad stretches before, and they usually find their stride in the second halves of seasons. But this year is indeed implementing a different approach, with management stepping in with some long-term perspective that Thibodeau probably needed. But it may come at the cost of Thibs's usual coaching season trajectories, where his teams have usually gotten better because he rides them so hard midseason.
Looking in the immediate future, the Bulls will still likely be banged-up, and definitely have a tough upcoming schedule. Though I don't think anything is nearly screwed, here, only wins will quiet any 'whispers'.