AL HAMNIK: Bulls winning mind games as well

2014-03-17T18:30:00Z 2014-03-21T20:22:10Z AL HAMNIK: Bulls winning mind games as wellAl Hamnik Times Columnist
March 17, 2014 6:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | They say the uniform makes the man in the military.

But playing for the Bulls is as different as Adam Sandler and the Academy Awards.

A Bulls uniform does not automatically transform players into great shooters and great defenders who leave it all on the court.

It's a mindset that's embraced when they sign a contract to play for coach Tom Thibodeau.

There is no fine print to read. Just bring it, baby.

Indiana Pacers' president Larry Bird told me the Bulls are "gamers" who play "full steam ahead" every night, win or lose.

Having the toughness of a Navy SEAL is key.

"You can't get here without having great talent. It's a big part of the league," Thibodeau said. "But the really special players who have both -- like (Michael) Jordan, (Patrick) Ewing, Bill Russell, Larry Bird -- you hear them talk about all the trials and tribulations you have to go through.

"You need the will and determination to overcome things that are in your way. In this league, you're gonna be challenged every day."

The Bulls and Oklahoma City squared off Monday night, two franchises that mirror each other in their approach to the game.

"Whether you're a first-year player or 10-year player or 15-year player; whether you're a star, an MVP type, a role player or an end of the bench guy; everyone gets challenged and that's what brings the best out of people," Thibodeau said.

"That's what makes this league so special."

Bird isn't one to publicly throw a bouquet of roses at opponents, but even the former Celtics great enjoys watching the Bulls in action.

"I was in Boston (as an assistant) for a good chunk of Bird's career. He had it. He had it," Thibodeau said of putting your foot on a rival's throat and not letting up. "Jordan had it here. When you talk to those guys, you understand why.

"Their thing was 'prepare yourself to play big minutes. Never show your opponent any signs of physical or mental weakness.' When your leaders show that, it filters down through your team."

'Tibs' said he loves hearing stories from former Bulls guard John Paxson, now vice-president of basketball operations, about how driven Jordan was and how unmercifully he pushed teammates.

"That's what's necessary to win a championship," Thibodeau said. "So, hopefully, we have it. We try to bring it every night.

"You build that habit. You can't pick and choose. You got to bring it every day."

Circle these names: Noah, Butler, Gibson, Dunleavy, Hinrich, Augustin, Snell, Thibodeau.

Sore neck? There's eight reasons.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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