Pro basketball

Thibodeau downplays coaching honors

2014-04-14T21:00:00Z 2014-04-16T18:39:10Z Thibodeau downplays coaching honorsAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
April 14, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | You'll get Tom Thibodeau to talk about the mating habits of the striped Brazilian mongoose before thumping his own chest.

Ask the Bulls' coach about his successful run in Chicago and he'll laugh, then quickly change the subject. But the fact is, Thibodeau is among the favorites for NBA Coach of the Year whether or not he wants to admit it.

He won the award in 2010-11, then finished runnerup to the San Antonio Spurs' Gregg Popovich in 2011-12.

Monday's game with the lowly Orlando Magic was Thibodeau's only concern as Chicago continues fighting for the third seed in the playoffs, though it appears Brooklyn will be its likely first-round opponent.

The Bulls prevailed 108-95 as Mike Dunleavy led the way with 22 points, Joakim Noah had 18 and 10 rebounds, and seldom-used sub Jimmer Fredette added 17 points in 31 minutes.

"I'm a little tired. I hadn't played in a meaningful game in some time," said Fredette, filling in for an absent D.J. Augustin, who became a father earlier in the day. "You've got to stay ready, learn the plays, and produce when your number gets called."

Finding available players like this has made Thibodeau's Bulls a conference contender, but enough about him.

"I don't look at that (coach of the year) stuff," Thibodeau had said before tip-off. "There's a number of (deserving) guys, so I'm glad I don't have to make a pick.

"There's a lot of great coaches who've done unbelievable jobs. You can make a case for a lot of guys. I know how tough it is to coach against guys in this league."

Asked if he was flattered to be in the running for coach of the year once again, Thibodeau said such awards are the by-product of having a good team, which he does.

"Every night you're going against someone who is great," Thibodeau said. "These jobs are not easy."

Look no farther than the Bulls (48-33), who lost former MVP Derrick Rose to knee surgery for the second straight season and traded Luol Deng, the fourth-leading scorer in franchise history.

Taking that into consideration, is Thibodeau the by-product of their success?

"No, no. It's the group," he insisted. "I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach these guys. I see what they've put into it. I see how unselfish they are.

"They play for the group. They don't play for themselves. They don't care who the leading scorer is. I love the fact most nights we have seven guys in double figures."

The Bulls beat up an Orlando team that is 23-58 overall, 4-37 on the road and has lost 10 straight away from home.

No way was Thibodeau looking ahead to Wednesday's regular-season finale at Charlotte.

"They're hard playing. They can score the ball," he said of the Magic. "You have to play for 48 minutes against them. We had the triple-overtime game against them and (Arron) Afflalo was out, so we know how good they can be," he said pre-game.

Not on this night as the Bulls scored 24 points off 20 Magic turnovers. Kyle O'Quinn led the visitors with 20 points, Andrew Nicholson had 19 and East Chicago Central grad E'Twaun Moore added five.

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