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updated: 1/13/2014 7:53 PM

?Bulls can't afford to lose Thibodeau Bulls are playing with fire

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  • Tom Thibodeau directs his team against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The Bulls won 103-97.

      Tom Thibodeau directs his team against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The Bulls won 103-97.
    Associated Press

  • Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau talks to his team during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. The Mavericks won 105-83.

      Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau talks to his team during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. The Mavericks won 105-83.
    Associated Press

 
 

Sooner or later, probably sooner, the strained relationship between Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and club management will have to end.

For better or worse. And probably worse.

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One way was reported in the New York Daily News. Mitch Lawrence, who correctly wrote last week that Luol Deng would be traded, wrote over the weekend that sources say there's a trade in place to send Thibodeau to the Knicks.

Even Lawrence has discounted that happening now because of all the inherent complications. However, he isn't discounting the possibility of it happening after the season.

Thibodeau's response was interesting when a reporter mentioned the report to him. In a dismissive manner, he smirked that smirk of his and snickered that snicker.

Then Thibodeau complimented his current team and his current players. But what said more was that he didn't say anything about the Bulls' organization or the franchise.

Thibodeau's in one corner with vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman in the other.

A good guess is that GarPax don't like Thibodeau and Thibodeau doesn't respect GarPax. World wars have been fought over less. Marriages have dissolved over less. Partnerships have shattered over less.

So let's ponder which side would be damaged more by a breakup.

GarPax, and the Bulls by extension, would be because they need Thibodeau more than he needs them.

The Deng trade -- or that dang trade as some of his former teammates might characterize it -- supposedly cleared cap room to sign free agents this summer. Tell me if you have heard this one before. That was the Bulls' plan twice previously this century and none of the difference-makers came here.

You can speculate what the reasons were at the time: Chicago weather, the perception of how the breakup of the Bulls' 1990s dynasty was handled, the distance between the Berto Center and the United Center, whatever else, all of the above.

Here's one more: There wasn't anyone or anything compelling about the Bulls to counter those negatives.

I'm talking about someone as magnetic as, say, Heat president Pat Riley is in Miami and Lakers owner Jerry Buss was in Los Angeles. Sorry, but Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson and Gar Forman aren't in that class.

But you know what?

Tom Thibodeau just might be.

The Bulls' coach was an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski last summer on a USA Basketball Men's National Team. Thibodeau can be mighty impressive in that setting because of his basketball knowledge.

Even the best players like to keep learning and Thibodeau keeps teaching. They have seen him working under Coach K and before that winning an NBA title under Doc Rivers.

Elite players likely also noticed that while Thibodeau has a reputation as a head coach of working players hard, he has a great working relationship with superstar Derrick Rose. They likely also noticed that the Bulls' coach has demanded that all-stars Deng and Joakim Noah run through brick walls and they proceeded to run through those brick walls for him.

NBA players want to be paid. NBA superstar players want to be paid and to win and Thibodeau has demonstrated an ability to help players win.

If the Bulls' plan is to lure high profile players here, they need someone high profile to attract them. Since Rose doesn't want to recruit, Thibodeau fills the role better than anyone else in the organization.

Whenever Tom Thibodeau is gone, that will be the most significant void he leaves behind.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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