The Tom Thibodeau message to his players has always been a consistent one.
It just so happens that this week, they’ve been getting the Rated-R version of it from their coach.
And it’s about time.
According to Bulls forward Taj Gibson, home games admittedly haven’t been played with an urgency. Even with Wednesday’s 25-point win over Brooklyn, the 3-5 record at the United Center was evidence of that.
Add in injuries, minutes restrictions, but mostly a lack of effort, and a quarter of a way into the season, Thibodeau knew it was time to turn up the heat.
“[The rookies are] kind of scared at times, but if you can handle this, you can handle this anywhere,’’ Gibson said of life with Thibodeau. “He’s on your case for a reason. He only wants to get you better. He’s on you every day. He yells at everybody, every day, from top to bottom. Derrick [Rose], everybody.
“Even the guys that are on the bench. He’s yelling, not sugarcoating anything. He just wants you to get better. You see how everybody has been rewarded over the years.’’
That they have.
Joakim Noah has a Defensive Player of the Year Award over his fireplace, Rose a 2011 MVP, and Gibson a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year last season. Throw in two No. 1 seeds in the Eastern Conference Playoffs along the way, and there have been rewards.
Missing, however, is the ultimate one: A championship.
That’s why Thibodeau has raised the stakes this week.
“No, we got a long way to go,’’ Thibodeau said. “And we gotta keep driving every day, every day. That’s the only way it works.’’
Asked if he felt his players had a full understanding of that just yet, Thibodeau responded, “We got a new group, so we got to get there … we got to get there. And we got to get there as a group. This is not an individual sport. You got to get there as a group. We’re still a work in progress, like I said. One game, one day, it’s good, but we’ve got to keep building. You got to keep building on your foundation.’’
Under Thibodeau, that foundation starts with defense. Between the swear words and cursing this week, that’s definitely been reiterated by the coach.
“Like Thibs says, ‘It’s in your hands, what kind of season you want to have. You’ve got to put the work in,’ ‘’ Gibson said. “And we’ve put the work in. I honestly say that we really went hard [this week], and Thibs has really been a drill sergeant, really been on our case every day. Calling our guys names, really digging into us every single time we’ve practiced. It was frustrating, but we need things like that.’’
A bit of a reprieve came on Thursday, with Noah (knee and ankle), Doug McDermott (right knee) and Pau Gasol (shoulder) all held out of what was a light practice anyway. Tony Snell was out for personal reasons, so it was a lot of film, some walk-through material for Portland, and some shooting.
But no one was complaining about this week’s boot-camp mentality from their coach.
“He’s very methodical, very disciplined,’’ Gasol said when asked what he’s learned about Thibodeau. “He’s always on edge and he keeps the team on edge.
“Yeah, [this week] was necessary. It was helpful and beneficial. To have a day off first, and then have a couple hard practices. Kind of get back on track, make sure we tighten up defensively. It translated well [against Brooklyn].’’
Thibodeau’s hope is it has more staying power than that.