Bulls front office has to realize that the key to stopping LeBron James resides in their own building
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Brad Stevens is the NBA’s “Boy Wonder.’’
The 38-year-old Boston Celtics coach is prepared, understands the details, and took a team that was supposed to be prepping for the draft lottery to the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Mike Budenholzer is the NBA’s 2014-15 Coach of the Year.
Just two years off the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, his “Spurs 2.0’’ Atlanta team ran through the Eastern Conference regular season, posting 60 wins in capturing the top seed.
Both coaches beloved by their franchises, and oh by the way, both coincidentally laid to waste by LeBron James in just eight games.
That’s right, two four-game sweeps by King James and his court, as the four-time MVP is now headed to a fifth-straight NBA Finals.
The only resistance he did get along the way?
“Thibs, man, Thibs,’’ James said of coach Tom Thibodeau during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls, when discussing his struggles in that series that lasted six games.
James took it a step further, and acknowledged that while he was considered an elite student of the game, even when you know an opposing coach so well, it’s still a process to execute against them.
“When you go against certain teams and certain coaches, I know [San Antonio’s Gregg] Popovich very well, he’s probably the greatest coach ever in our league and then you have Thibs … I went against Thibs, I went against Doc (Rivers) and there are so many great coaches and you kind of hear the calls and you know what they are, but it doesn’t mean you always are successful against them, you still have to execute.’’
And this is the coach the Bulls front office really wants to play chicken with?
As of Wednesday, all remained quiet as far as the job status of Thibodeau. That doesn’t mean details of the frayed relationship between coach and front office haven’t stopped permeating throughout the league.
While there had been reports of Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson trying to force-feed an offensive-minded presence on Thibodeau and his staff last summer, that so-called would-be assistant coach went nameless.
According to a league source, however, it was former Bulls coach Doug Collins.
Considering how close Collins and members of the Bulls front office have remained over the years, it would have been a recipe for disaster. The ultimate act of undermining.
Luckily, Thibodeau resisted the idea, as his team went on and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference in offensive efficiency anyway.
But this is about trying to solve James and his dominance in the East. The same way the East used to have to go through Michael Jordan in the 1990s is what James is doing now.
And the idea that two of James’ three-worst playoff performances have now come against Thibodeau-coached teams shouldn’t be as overlooked as it apparently is by the coach’s bosses.
Especially when this postseason involved Thibodeau working with a starting group that played just 21 regular-season games together, and was dealing with a bench that had the likes of Tony Snell shooting 34 percent from the field for the playoffs and coveted rookie Nikola Mirotic shooting 30 percent.
No, the Bulls had the right coach in place to try and dethrone James. Maybe it’s time to start again looking at the personnel, as well as a front-office mindset of minutes restrictions and babying players.