Coach Tom Thibodeau never has been in the business of speaking for others or of getting caught up in a ‘‘he said/he said’’ situation, and that wasn’t going to change after the Bulls’ disappointing 96-84 loss Sunday to the Miami Heat at the United Center.
Asked about ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy’s comments during the telecast of the Bulls’ road game Friday against the Dallas Mavericks, Thibodeau said: ‘‘You’ve got to talk to him. I don’t speak for him; he doesn’t speak for me. So you talk to him about that stuff.’’
During the telecast Friday, Van Gundy — whom Thibodeau worked for during their days with the New York Knicks — said: ‘‘I read every Chicago story. There is no doubt the Bulls organization has the media, with a few exceptions, in their hip pocket. For whatever reasons, they have set their sights on Thibodeau when all he has done is deliver greatness in his five years.’’
Later in the game, Van Gundy said: ‘‘The team has publicly supported their coaches while privately undermining that same person. Think about it. They ran Phil Jackson out after winning all those championships. I think it’s wrong. It’s wrong for the team. It has not been fair to Tom.’’
Thibodeau was asked if he agreed with Van Gundy that the Bulls’ front office privately had been undermining him and said: ‘‘No, I don’t. . I’m fine. I’m fine. I don’t get wrapped up in that stuff. That’s [Van Gundy’s] opinion; he’s paid to give opinions. He has to do his job. I try to do my job. I’m just trying to work here.’’
Besides, there was enough for Thibodeau to be concerned about in the Bulls’ latest loss — particularly 7-foot, 265-pound Hassan Whiteside, who scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 12 shots to earn a triple-double the hard way.
‘‘He was everywhere,’’ Bulls reserve big man Taj Gibson said of Whiteside. ‘‘He did a great job, especially on defense and finishing around the rim. We’ll be ready for him next time.’’
After holding a team meeting Tuesday, the Bulls (29-17) responded with back-to-back victories against the San Antonio Spurs and the Mavericks. Everything looked all right until the Heat came to town.
Just like that, the Bulls struggled through another low-energy first quarter. They trailed 26-20 at the end of the quarter and never climbed out of the hole, shooting 35.6 percent and being outrebounded 54-43.
‘‘Well, that’s the challenge,’’ Thibodeau said of the Bulls
reverting to their lackadaisical play after their back-to-back victories. ‘‘It’s never permanent. You always have to keep grinding, keep getting ready for the next one. It was a quick turnaround and it was an early start, and that’s the challenge of the league. We got down 10 early, and it basically stayed there.’’
Dwyane Wade scored 26 points and Chris Bosh 20 to lead the Heat. Derrick Rose had 19 points, Aaron Brooks 17 points and Pau Gasol 13 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls. But when Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah combine for nine points on 3-for-13 shooting, the Bulls likely aren’t going to win.
‘‘We started off slow, and it cost us a loss,’’ Rose said. ‘‘If anything, we have to learn from it. We have to get going early.’’