Odd couple of Tom Thibodeau, Pau Gasol not likely to be renewed

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The relationship didn’t start on the best of terms.

Forward Pau Gasol was coming over as a free agent with two championship rings earned with the Lakers and had heard rumblings from Bulls personnel about coach Tom Thibodeau’s volcanic personality.

Early on in training camp, Gasol and Thibodeau seemed destined for a rocky relationship. Gasol had not had a hard-driving coach since Phil Jackson.

But it didn’t take long for common ground to be found.

There might not have been a player — other than Jimmy Butler — whom Thibodeau embraced more than Gasol. Both understood that all the minutes restrictions, lack of practice time and lack of continuity would catch up with the Bulls.

And it finally happened against the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“The NBA season is a long season, so sometimes you take things for granted,’’ Gasol said. “We haven’t had consistency because of a lot of injuries. The starting lineup had [21] games together leading into the playoffs. That’s not enough to develop that chemistry, develop that rhythm that later on we [tried to develop] in the playoffs.

‘‘My mindset is to take training camp and the regular season with that hunger from Day 1. That’s important to limit the downs of the season.’’

That mentality might be why -Gasol had the least amount of downs during the regular season.

Of all the starters, Gasol was by far the most consistent in attendance, playing in 78 of the 82 games. The next closest was center Joakim Noah, who played in 67 games.

Gasol, 34, also turned back the clock, leading the NBA with 54 double-doubles. He averaged 18.5 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds in possibly his best season since 2010-11 with the Lakers.

Then the playoffs came around, and some misfortune befell Gasol.

After getting lit up for 46 points by Gasol in the regular season, the Bucks were determined to take the 7-footer out of the game with double teams. Gasol still averaged 16.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists against the Bucks, then torched the Cavaliers in Game 1, scoring 21 points and going 10-for-16 from the field.

After a poor showing in Game 2, Gasol strained his left hamstring in Game 3 and had to exit the game by the third quarter.

He missed Games 4 and 5 and was about 50 percent for Game 6, playing only 24 minutes and scoring eight points.

“I want to give Pau a lot of credit,’’ Thibodeau said. “He gave us everything that he had. It speaks a lot to who he is. He had a terrific season for us.’’

The big question is, will these two have a second season to continue building up their relationship? With Thibodeau’s future murky at best, likely not.

“Understand how every game is important during the regular season and how seeding is important,’’ Gasol said of the next step his teammates have to take.

“I feel like if you have a higher seed, usually you have a better chance, and I feel like things could have been different that way. Let it settle in, but this team has more potential to get farther and have a chance to win a title.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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