LOS ANGELES – Well played by Tom Thibodeau.
The Bulls coach was asked before the 123-118 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday about his job status and relationship with the front office, and took the high road.
“I’m not getting into any of that stuff,’’ Thibodeau said. “I’m just worried about what we have to do. I’m not going to comment on all this rumor stuff and all that nonsense. Just get ready for the next game.’’
Asked if he could at least discuss the relationship with VP of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, the coach replied, “Nah, nah, next question. Next question.’’
There actually were next questions to ask, and obvious ones, especially after another low-energy, slow start by a team that continued to be Jekyll and Hyde on a game-to-game basis.
After winning their game of the year against Golden State on Tuesday, to fall to a Lakers team that had a nine-game losing streak going, bordered on embarrassment.
And for the Bulls (30-18) it was the same old suspects.
“Can’t put a finger on it, but we’ve got to change it pretty soon,’’ guard Derrick Rose said of his team’s lethargic first half. “The way that we start, if we continue to start the way we’ve been starting anyone can beat us. We just got to come out with that edge and that energy.’’
More importantly, an identity, according to Rose.
The Bulls defense again allowed a below average team to find some early confidence, as Los Angeles (13-34) outscored them 28-19 in the first quarter, as well as outrebounding them 11-5.
“When people play us they know it’s going to be a tough-[bleep] time,’’ Rose said of the identity that used to be associated with his squad. “We used to have that. Now, it’s just not there anymore. You can tell just by the way people are playing.
“We got to find our identity and bring that rough-style of basketball.’’
Kind of like in the fourth, as the Bulls were down nine with two minutes to play, and fought back to tie the game up to send it into the first overtime. The Bulls actually went up five in that first overtime after a Pau Gasol lay-up, but spit it back up, and never seemed to recover.
“Killed us,’’ Thibodeau said of the slow start. “Started the game low energy, badly outrebounded, they shot 60 percent in the first half. Any team you get confidence like that to it’s hard to shut them off.’’
Easy to overlook in the loss was the day Jimmy Butler had, first being named to his first All-Star Game, and then tying a career high with 35 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
“It just goes to show that I’m confident in my game,’’ Butler said, when asked about all the training he did this summer to get him to this point of being an All-Star. “You can say it’s All-Star worthy right now, but I still feel like I have a long way to go to get where I want to get, to get where we want to get as a team. The work this summer, it’s starting to pay off, but I don’t want it to just end right here. There’s still a lot better I can become.’’
Butler did tweak his left knee late in the game, putting the game in Phoenix Friday night in question, but definitely not the only question still lingering over this team as the road trip continues.