Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has spent countless hours preparing to stop some of the best players in the NBA since he became an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989. So when asked Saturday whom Miami Heat star LeBron James compared to on that list, Thibodeau gave a one-word answer.
“Nobody,’’ he said.
No wonder the Bulls will have their hands full today when the back-to-back defending champions are in town.
“Because when you’re combing the speed, the power, the skill, the passing, the vision, I mean, I can’t recall anyone that I’ve coached against that’s like that,’’ Thibodeau said. “There’s nothing he doesn’t do. He’s great with the ball, great without the ball, can post, can drive, can shoot, can really pass. If you overcommit to him, he’s going to make you pay. And he keeps getting better every year. He’s an all-time great.’’
Thibodeau also put the Heat in an “all-time great’’ category, agreeing that it should be called a dynasty.
“You could make a case for it, certainly,’’ Thibodeau said. “They’ve got two championships, they’ve been to three Finals, so until someone knocks them off, everybody is chasing them.’’
Thibodeau and his players know that all too well, especially since the Heat has ended their playoff runs in two of the last three seasons.
“Yeah, that’s the challenge,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about overcoming a team considered to be an all-timer. “In this league, you’re going to be challenged every day that you’re in it. It doesn’t matter who you are. Whether you’re a player, coach, executive, first-year player, 15-year player, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to be challenged. That’s what brings out the best in people. We’re looking forward to it. We know they’re tough on both ends of the floor and we have to be ready.’’
They weren’t ready in a 93-79 loss at Miami two weeks ago. That’s why Joakim Noah was so disappointed with his teammates.
“When we play the Miami Heat, our intensity has to be high the whole time,’’ Noah said then. “To me, that’s what’s disappointing. We play the Heat, I mean, those guys ended our seasons a lot. You gotta hate playing these guys. Every time we play them, our intensity has to be high.’’