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posted: 11/28/2012 5:30 AM

Thibodeau's 'No' speaks volumes for Bulls

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  • Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau seems to have been delivering a message to his bosses by not playing his reserves late in Monday night's loss to the Bucks.

    Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau seems to have been delivering a message to his bosses by not playing his reserves late in Monday night's loss to the Bucks.
    Associated Press


A couple of nights ago a word was worth a thousand pictures.

It came from Tom Thibodeau as smoke fumed from his ears and fire flared from his nostrils.

"No," was the Bulls coach's answer.

The question was whether there was a reason he played his reserves sparingly against Milwaukee.

"No," Thibodeau said.

That's all.

He just said "no."

At least Thibodeau restrained himself from using a four-letter single syllable.

Maybe he'll blurt an expletive Wednesday night in the United Center if Dallas hands the Bulls their fifth loss in six games.

You might already have heard Monday's brief exchange, which came minutes after the Bulls converted a 27-point lead into a 1-point home loss to the Bucks.

Fans must have been moaning the two-word "Oh, no" as Thibodeau limited himself to the simple "No."

The real issue here isn't what Thibodeau said but to whom he directed it.

Was the curt response juicily directed at the questioner, or juicier at his players, or juiciest at the Bulls' front office?

I'm taking Door No. 3.

Thibodeau is demanding of his players, so it wouldn't be surprising if he were just as demanding of his superiors.

A coach in any sport can ask only so much of players, but he always can ask more of the persons acquiring those players.

So it could be that Thibodeau's subdued "no" was a scream for help at general manager Gar Forman and basketball vice president John Paxson.

Thibodeau's expression of frustration didn't begin during the postgame media session. The interview was an extension of his emotions during the loss itself.

This was a November game, the season's 13th of 82, not the NBA Finals with a championship in the balance.

Yet Thibodeau used only eight players against the 11 that Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles deployed to mount a comeback.

Each Bulls starter played at least 36 minutes, and Luol Deng played all but 42 seconds of the game's 48 minutes.

When a coach offers a two-letter answer to a red-letter question, inquiring minds can only try to break his code. Perhaps this was Thibodeau's message: "Hey, Gar, and you too, Pax, this gaggle of reserves you provided me with stinks."

In other words, these bench guys can't score, can't play defense and collectively can't win in this league.

Thibodeau is no dummy, meaning he must understand that while the coaching staff is trying to win every particular game, management isn't necessarily trying to win this particular season.

I'm thinking that the level of embarrassment over squandering a 27-point lead is greater for the guys down on the bench than for the guys up in the suites.

Thibodeau wants to prove he can keep the Bulls relevant until Derrick Rose returns. However, the coach appears fearful that Forman and Paxson haven't given him a chance.

My guess is that once Thibodeau finalized his contract extension last summer he sensed that the trade-off was a roster unworthy of his coaching ability.

Perhaps Thibodeau's suspicion evolved into reality as the Bucks crept up and eventually passed the Bulls. He not only doesn't like to lose, he doesn't like to win less than perfectly.

Yes, reading between the "n" and the "o" could lead to the conclusion that Thibodeau wasn't so much angry at the question or his players.

He was angry that Gar Forman and John Paxson gave him this roster.

So Tom Thibodeau decided to just say "no."

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