COMMENTARY | Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has recognized the error of his ways. He will pay attention to the number of minutes his guys are playing. Sure. He must think Bulls fans don't already know.
Let's start at the beginning.
Thibodeau -- who has been both criticized and praised for the manic nature and intensity of his coaching style -- claims he will alter the nature of his rotations. In specific, "Thibodeau has said dropping Noah's minutes is a priority, so both the All-Star center and the Bulls are hopeful the recurring problem becomes manageable," per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson.
The "recurring problem," as ESPN.com's Nick Friedell points out, is that Noah "has dealt with plantar fasciitis for several years," and it has impacted every facet of his game. And even though the Bulls lost Noah for 16 games last year, Thibodeau did little to correct his workload once he returned. If Noah could run (or limp) up and down the court, the Bulls' coaching staff threw him out there.
That's what makes a statement like "dropping Noah's minutes is a priority" seem completely disingenuous. Remember that Noah -- and Luol Deng for that matter -- does more of everything than almost everyone in the league. "Noah," CBSLocal.com's Dan Bernstein wrote, "led the NBA in total distance run per game last year, at 2.74 miles" and "Deng averaged the most minutes at 38.9, and his 2.68 miles of floor-pounding per game came in second."
Those facts cannot be disputed. Thibodeau relies on a select few to carry the brunt of the workload. Is the number of minutes he plays some of his starters really that egregious, though? The answer depends on who you ask.
As Johnson wrote in a separate article for the Tribune, it is a "two-sided debate." After all, conserving starters' minutes at the cost of victories does not make sense. The higher the seeding the better, because 6-seeds in the NBA rarely make it very far in the playoffs. Sure, it happens, but not often enough to justify losing a February contest to the Indiana Pacers in order to preserve Deng for a game in June the Bulls may never play.
Then again, if Thibodeau overuses Deng, Noah, Jimmy Butler and/or Derrick Rose to the point of ineffectiveness or injury, then the seeding in the playoffs has absolutely no meaning. No. 2-seeds without their best five on the floor typically don't make it to the NBA Finals. And that brings us back to the point.
Who does he think he's fooling? He is not going to rest Noah, Deng or the injury-prone Kirk Hinrich. It's just not going to happen.
Thibodeau is going to use each and every player on the roster as often -- and as much -- as he thinks it's necessary to win. And that is exactly the way it is supposed to be. He has won 157 games in three full seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. That is saying something.
There is no right answer to what Thibodeau should do about the playing-time conundrum. If he rests his men too much and ends up with the 5 or 6 seed, then he puts the Bulls at risk for an early exit. If he takes the 1 seed from the Miami Heat at the expense of one his top players, then the season will be for naught.
He is going to coach the way he has coached since he began coaching. Rest the players on off-days, and lean on them for as many minutes as needed to win as many games as possible during what every Bulls fan hopes will be a season that ends with four victories in the NBA Finals.
Do us a favor, though, and just tell us the truth. It's not like we don't already know that Noah is going to log a ton of minutes.
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- Tom Thibodeau
- Chicago Bulls
- Chicago Tribune