SAN ANTONIO – The more you hear Tom Thibodeau talk about coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs the more it sounds as if he wants to build the Bulls in their image.
“When you look at what he’s done for such a long period of time, to me they are the gold standard of the league because every year they find a way to be right at the top and they always have a chance,” Thibodeau said.
Much of the qualities Thibodeau has tried to instill in the Bulls Popovich long-ago established in San Antonio, where his Spurs have won four NBA titles in his 16 seasons.
“It’s the way their built,” Thibodeau said. “They have everything covered. They are hard-playing, smart, tough, they can shoot, they’re team oriented, they sacrifice for each other, they play for each other. They’ve had injuries. When one guy goes down another guy stands up. Pop has provided great leadership here for a long time.”
As much as Thibodeau is considered a defensive coach, when he talks about offense he usually preaches balance, which makes a team that much more difficult to defend.
The Spurs are typically among the league’s most balanced teams.
“They always have the transition [game] you have to concern yourself with, then there’s always off the dribble,” Thibodeau said. “Of course, [Tony] Parker is as tough as they come with the pick and roll and transition. Then there’s Manu Ginobili when he plays. He gives them that other guy with the pick and roll and catch and shoot and [Tim] Duncan is still good enough where they have every aspect covered. When you add in their three-point shooting and their execution, there’s not one aspect of their offense that’s weak.
“They keep pressure on you at all times and they play unselfishly. They’re going to make you pay for body position mistakes, you’ve got to take care of the ball, the paint, you have to react out and cover the line and [DeJuan] Blair is active on the offensive boards, so there is constant pressure on you and they’re smart. They’re not going to turn it over and beat themselves.”
Rip starts again
Rip Hamilton made his second consecutive start after missing most of the first half of the season with groin and thigh injuries. This was no game-time decision, either. Thibodeau gave his free-agent acquisition the green light to start in back-to-back games when he showed no ill affects after returning in a win over the Hornets on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Hamilton played 16-plus minutes against New Orleans and will continue to have his paying time carefully monitored.
Ginobili did not play because of a strained oblique. The two-time All-Star has played in only nine games because of hand and oblique injuries.