clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Tom Thibodeau needs to come up with some answers for frail Bulls

So the Cleveland Cavaliers are run by an incompetent fool of a coach who calls timeouts when he doesn’t have them and draws up inbounds plays so bad he has to be overruled by one of his own players so that player can win a game.

Maybe the Bulls should get one of those idiot coaches, huh?

Or get LeBron James, the aforementioned ‘‘player.’’

Hah. Like that’ll happen.

But being down to the Cavs three games to two after a 106-101

loss Tuesday in Game 5 in Cleveland made it clear the early and constant trashing of rookie Cavs coach Dave Blatt was just something to talk about.

It detracted and distracted from the fact the Cavs have perhaps the greatest, most unusual player in the history of the game — the ferocious, brilliant James.

He looks like a football player who wandered into a pro gym, looking for an offseason pickup game. And then he turns out to be the most skilled guy anybody has seen.

In Game 5, he had a stat line of 38 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three blocks, three steals and zero turnovers. That’s a man who is transcendent, who learns.

Fifteen turnovers in the two previous games? No problem. Protect the ball, don’t do crazy stuff, trust your talent and homework. Done.

Repeat: 41 minutes, much of them with the ball, no turnovers.

But back to the coaches.

Blatt’s a moron, as the media already have (conveniently) established. He’s so dumb the Cavs are ready to move on to the Eastern Conference finals without him. Or, rather, with him clinging to the rear bumper, if that’s the narrative you like.

But what of the Bulls’ leader, Tom Thibodeau? Thibs is a driver, a herder. If he were a dog, he’d be one of those Australian sheepdogs, nipping constantly at the ankles of his flock.

It could be the Bulls are one of the frailest teams ever assembled. Or it could be you need to be a physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon to coach these players.

But just when we thought they all were healthy — after every player missed at least one regular-season game — we have to wonder about the minutes that accrued and the damage they might have done.

Specifically, what about Pau Gasol?

The big man played so much and so well during the regular season — at age 34 — that it seemed he had been reborn. He averaged more rebounds than at any time in his 14-year career and had more blocks than he did since his rookie season in 2001-02. His 34.4 minutes a game were his most in four years.

All of which is fine and dandy, except that Gasol has missed

the last two games with a hamstring injury, and who

knows when he will be back?

Why the hamstring injury right now? Overuse? Who knows? Did those times during the winter when he played 50 minutes in a game in December, 41 minutes and 44 minutes in consecutive road games in late January, 43½ minutes against the woeful Philadelphia 76ers in March and 41 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs 2½ weeks ago all add up?

That’s why a coach needs to be more than a taskmaster. Because the difference in these last two games, both losses for the Bulls, likely has been the absence of Gasol. You can’t just lose your best offensive big man and think things will be fine.

Fellow tall guy Joakim Noah is incredibly limited offensively. His ‘‘tornado’’ never is going to reach its target consistently, and he flings the ball as much as he shoots it around the rim.

Not his fault, though I do remember the paddle strapped to his left hand years ago to teach him to shoot like an adult and not a 6-year-old and how he rejected the teaching.

But when Taj Gibson was tossed from the game after the very sneaky Matthew Dellavedova scissored his leg from the floor, the Bulls were left with softness inside. And there sat the business-suited Gasol on the bench, helpless, looking like the tallest banker you’ll meet.

Now Derrick Rose seems to have a shoulder or arm problem. Maybe he’ll be fine. But if he missed any more late shots, he could have hired himself out as a lawn sprinkler.

Blatt is the dumbo here, remember? But the Bulls — and Thibs, especially — better come up with a hell of a two-game plan. And heal.

Or watch Blatt’s boys march on.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ricktelander