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Bulls brass’ cold war with Tom Thibodeau is alive and well, just not with players

CLEVELAND — Feel-good stories around the Bulls have a shelf life. Tuesday showed that shelf life was one game.

A day after the Bulls won the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, another national story emerged about the troubled relationship between coach Tom Thibodeau and the front office.

Yahoo Sports became the latest outlet to jump on the bandwagon, but Thibodeau didn’t flinch amid questions about the report.

‘‘Nope,’’ Thibodeau, whose contract runs through the 2016-17 season, said when he was asked if the report was bothersome. ‘‘I don’t pay any attention to it. It’s all noise.’’

It was basically the same reaction he had when he was asked about his relationship with management last week and the same reaction he has had for months.

If it’s nothing but ‘‘noise’’ for Thibodeau, it’s barely a whisper for his players.

‘‘For one, it’s a somewhat aloof group in terms of what’s going on around us, and that helps,’’ veteran forward Mike Dunleavy said when he was asked about the talk concerning Thibodeau’s job security.

Dunleavy said the players aren’t ignorant, but some have been dealing with reports of Thibodeau’s cold war with his bosses for years, so it doesn’t resonate in the locker room.

‘‘I mean, [that latest report] being told to me right now, I didn’t even know about that,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘And I think, for the most part, guys aren’t aware of a lot of this stuff, to be frank. I mean, you hear the noise; it’s out there. I think it’s just a group, though, that’s hardened by a lot of things we’ve gone through and a lot of adversity the last few years.

‘‘There’s just not a lot of stuff that fazes us. We know all that stuff has been going on for a while now, but it doesn’t change our approach at all.’’

One source indicated the players have witnessed several blowups between the sides during the last few seasons, including one that involved Thibodeau moving a training-camp practice to a different court when he thought vice president of basketball operations John Paxson was meddling. But the players seem to have grown immune to it.

Dunleavy took it a step further and said it’s not a topic the players discuss.

‘‘To be honest with you, we really don’t [talk about it much],’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘Like I said, I don’t know if it’s just being an aloof group of guys or that we just talk about a lot of other stupid stuff, but it doesn’t really come up. We kind of have our mentality of pound the pavement and grinding it out here. Just not really paying attention to the outside stuff.’’

Meanwhile, general manager Gar Forman responded this way to a Sun-Times text that asked whether a decision about Thibodeau’s status beyond this season already had been made: ‘‘We are in total agreement with Tom that this is all just noise.’’

Well, there’s one thing the sides can agree on.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com
Twitter: @suntimes_hoops