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All signs pointing to Thibodeau as next Bulls coach

Boston Celtics associate head coach Tom Thibodeau apparently has emerged as the top candidate for the Bulls head coaching job to replace Vinny Del Negro.

Although the Bulls privately are saying there is no agreement and they are only talking seriously with Thibodeau, at least one Boston newspaper is reporting Thibodeau will be the Bulls’ next coach.

The Boston Herald Friday night quoted an anonymous source saying Thibodeau is the Bulls choice to be their next head coach and a contract offer is being formulated.

There have been other reports of a three-year deal similar to the contract Del Negro worked under and that former Chicago prep star and 76ers All-Star Mo Cheeks and former Bulls assistant Ron Adams, both now on the staff of the Oklahoma City Thunder, could work with Thibodeau. Another source, whose information could not be confirmed, said Thibodeau has been given an informal offer in preparation for working out an official deal.

There also are media reports circulating the New Orleans Hornets, who were first to pursue Thibodeau as a potential head coach, have turned to Portland assistant Monty Williams and will likely hire him as coach.

Thibodeau reportedly also has received strong consideration to fill the open New Jersey Nets coaching job. Nets sources say Thibodeau indicated a preference, instead, for the Bulls job.

There also remains the possibility Celtics coach Doc Rivers could take a leave after this season to spend more time with his family and replace Doug Collins on TNT broadcasts. Would Thibodeau replace him? Boston sources said Thibodeau is more interested in the Bulls situation because of the young core and salary cap flexibility and what he believes is a bright future for the team.

Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson met with Thibodeau earlier this week in Los Angeles and reportedly came away impressed over the meeting. Team officials also have learned that despite having the chance for two different head coaching jobs after a career as an assistant, Thibodeau apparently passed on both and risked having no offer so he could only just have a chance for the Bulls position.

Thibodeau has been mentored in his coaching ambitions by his longtime colleague Jeff Van Gundy, who despite criticism of the Bulls’ decision with Del Negro, advised Thibodeau the Bulls job would be the most desirable, sources said.

Thibodeau also is represented by the Creative Artists agency, which also represents potential free agent LeBron James. The Cavs Friday after previously firing coach Mike Brown accepted the resignation of general manager Danny Ferry. That led to speculation both of an organization in crisis on the verge of losing James or preparing a management team opening for James to return and fill, perhaps someone like Larry Brown or John Calipari.

But it may work to the Bulls’ advantage to have someone like Thibodeau, who has a close working relationship with some of the top business advisors to James who will be helping James get his next contract.

Although Thibodeau never has been an NBA head coach, he is one of the most experienced assistants in the league and an expert on defensive system play who has been on the sidelines as the associate head coach, as he is in Boston, or top assistant in more than 125 playoff games and three NBA Finals. While no one assistant is responsible for all elements of a system, Thibodeau generally has been the defensive coach in 19 seasons in which his teams finished in the top 10 in defense 16 times.

Thibodeau worked for Van Gundy with the Knicks and Rockets and has been with the Celtics four seasons.

There has been a vague criticism of him as a workaholic who finds it difficult to relate to players and staff, though friends of Thibodeau have long been confused about the charge. Van Gundy and Rivers this spring both raved about Thibodeau’s work ethic and relationships with their teams, and I’ll add I know Thibodeau and have always found him relatively pleasant and unassuming, a man who simply likes to talk basketball with a ready good humor. You can only go by how people treat you and I never have had issues with Thibodeau.

He, basically, is a career assistant, a basketball gypsy and lifer who began coaching at his alma mater, Salem State U. in Connecticut. He then was an assistant at Harvard, where he coached President Barack Obama’s Education secretary Arne Duncan, who long has been an ardent supporter of and advocate for Thibodeau as an NBA head coach.

Thibodeau started in the NBA in 1989 working with Bill Musselman in Minnesota, where Thibodeau worked more with the offense. Coaches who worked with him there belied the notion he is only a defensive planner. Thibodeau scouted for Seattle after leaving Minnesota and then was an assistant with the Spurs and 76ers before moving to the Knicks with Van Gundy, who long has championed Thibodeau’s credentials.

Ironically, one of the issues that led Mike D’Antoni to leave the Suns and go to the Knicks was management’s request that D’Antoni hire Thibodeau as associate head coach for defense.

Van Gundy has chosen to remain a TV broadcaster, but most around the NBA regard him as one of the most astute minds in the game and don’t believe he’d damage his reputation or push for Thibodeau for so long unless he believed Thibodeau could be a high level coach. And you have to start somewhere to be a head coach as coaches like Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Van Gundy were little known assistants before getting their first chance. The key for them was they got good teams and top players.

If Thibodeau is able to attract someone like Cheeks to his staff along with holdovers Pete Myers and Randy Brown, the Bulls would have a strong mix of veteran NBA minds and popular and tough former players to comprise an enviable staff.

The Celtics gave teams permission about a month ago to begin talks with Thibodeau after denying him a chance to interview two years ago when Boston was last in the Finals. That probably most hurt Thibodeau’s chances with the Bulls, who were not permitted to interview Thibodeau. This time the Celtics agreed to give Thibodeau a chance and two of the more respected GMs in the league, Jeff Bower in New Orleans and Rod Thorn in New Jersey, quickly made him their top priorities.

Of course, all this could be for naught as no official deal has been struck. But it seems clear that Thibodeau holds the chance to coach the Bulls in highest regard. It also doesn’t appear the Bulls are as close to making a decision with any other top candidate. Plus, Phil Jackson has taken himself out of the mix and Rivers with a year left on his deal after going to the Finals certainly is not going to be allowed by the Celtics to leave and join a conference foe.

The Bulls have indicated they’d talk with other candidates, including Hall of Famer Kevin McHale. But in Forman’s initial remarks about what the team is seeking in a coach he stressed a thorough knowledge of the game and the players, a teacher and someone with a strong defensive system of play.

Plus, the reports in the Boston media strongly suggested the offer to Thibodeau is imminent. There is no deal until there is a deal, and many NBA deals have disappeared before being signed.

But the Boston Herald is known to be close with Celtics coach Rivers and was the publication that first reported Rivers’ interest in perhaps sitting out next season. It would be expected Thibodeau would inform Rivers since the Celtics are in the NBA Finals and Thibodeau would be expected to finish the series on the Celtics bench before joining the Bulls if a deal is forthcoming and finalized. But with the draft upcoming and planning for free agency probably becoming urgent once the Finals concludes, it would make sense to have a coach in place before too long.

On the move with Rose and the Bulls in London

By Adam Fluck
LONDON—It wasn’t quite midnight local time on the team’s flight to London, but that didn’t stop the Bulls’ rookies—James Johnson andTaj Gibson—from leading an inspiring rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Derrick Rose, who turned 21 on Sunday.
“I don’t really like that stuff,” said Rose, almost sheepishly. “But the rookies have to do those kinds of things. I took it in and got a good laugh out of it.”
Speaking of that, now being a seasoned second-year veteran, does Rose partake in a little rookie hazing from time to time?
“No, no, I take it easy on them,” he said. “But Brad and some of those other veterans are having some fun. I just watch it and am thankful that I’m not in those shoes this year.”
Back to his birthday—how did the Bulls point guard spend his 21st? Well, let’s just say he didn’t head directly to the nearest pub for fish and chips and a few pints upon arrival at Heathrow Airport.
After the seven-hour flight and an early morning arrival, the team checked in to its hotel in London’s Canary Wharf and went directly to the O2 arena, where an hour and a half practice was held.
Neither John Salmons, who is home in Chicago with his wife awaiting the birth of their second child, or Aaron Gray, sidelined for up to two months with a stress fracture, made the trip. Rose was sidelined from the workout with pain in his heel, and Tyrus Thomas sat as well on Sunday.
“My tendons in my heel are very sore, and are just telling me to take my time and let it heal, so that’s what I’m doing right now,” said Rose.
Does he expect to play in Tuesday’s exhibition against Deron Williams and the Jazz?
“Right now, it’s too early to tell,” he said. “But I didn’t fly all the way over here to not be able to play. Whatever the team wants me to do, I’ll do.”
Practice was just the beginning of a jam packed day for Rose, who also made his way to an NBA Cares event at Clapham Common, a parkland situated on London’s south side. Joining him were Lindsey Hunter and Randy Brown for the early portion of the afternoon, while Tyrus Thomas and Jannero Pargo arrived for festivities later in the day, and Luol Deng made his appearance after attending the Arsenal Football Club match against Blackburn at Emirates Stadium. Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, James Johnson and Taj Gibson were among those who took in the atmosphere with Deng in his suite.
The team ate dinner with the attending corporate sponsors along for the ride in London on Sunday night, and it’s probably a safe bet that most players retired to their rooms afterwards, as may reported little to no sleep on the Saturday night flight.
Plus, another early wake-up call awaits, with practice on the docket for 10 a.m. Visit Blogs.Bulls.com for the Day 2 update from London on Monday, and tune in to watch the Bulls take on the Jazz on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. CT on NBA TV.
For photos from Sunday, including the team’s practice at O2 arena, scenes from the NBA Cares event, and images of some of London’s most well-known landmarks, visit Bulls.com now.

Michael Jordan gives a Hall of Fame address

People always ask me what Michael Jordan really is like. Having been around him his entire playing career and, especially early in his career on several social occasions, I’m supposed to know. But I never could quite explain it exactly. I’d offer some stuff about being a man’s man and, basically, a good guy, a tough guy at times, but also with a heart.If you want to know what Michael Jordan is like, watch his speech you can find here on Bulls.com from Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.That’s what it’s like to be with Michael, and why there’s always been so much ambivalence from those around him, emotions ranging from frustration to love.To some, it may have been a curious speech, built around a theme of competitiveness to explain his unique and spectacular basketball ability. But it also dredged up what seemed like old and forgotten feuds, and you may have thought to yourself, fleetingly, why here, why now?Yet, that is Michael and what’s it’s like to be with Michael. He’s not perfect, and he’s long pleaded guilty to that. But he is a heck of a lot of fun to be around. It can get ugly and seem mean, but it’s often how guys are around guys when those guys are professional competitors.There’s always a challenge. So if they aren’t on the golf course or playing cards—or, especially, if they are—there’s the taunting and the challenging and the mano a mano. Yes, it sounds like little kid stuff. It’s formalized as trash talking now. When I was a kid, some called it goofing on someone or some things less kinder. But that’s how the guys are when they are together. The gals do it as well, though as in one memorable Seinfeld line, more in the attempt to give someone an eating disorder.The guys try to make someone the butt of the joke that everyone else throws up from laughing so hard.It’s why everyone loves Charles Barkley. Because he can take it and laugh at himself. Michael’s much better dishing it out, so to speak.And he served it up pretty good Friday night at the nationally televised ceremony which also honored the San Antonio Spurs David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz and Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer.All, in their own way, were charming and entertaining. Stringer told heart rending stories of persevering through the death of her husband, her own cancer and the brain damage of her child, who was by her side. Sloan, the one-time Mr. Chicago Bull and head coach, choked up when relating a surprise visit from teammate Norm Van Lier last year, only later realizing, he said, that Norm had come to say goodbye. Sloan also related his extraordinary upbringing in small town Illinois and Robinson was the usual class act in tributes to his family and friends.The usually laconic Stockton was surprisingly open, emotional and clever in thanking friends coming from as far as Alaska and Hawaii but saying they probably were there to see Jordan, anyway.“I’d like to congratulate the class of 2009,” Stockton deadpanned. “You guys represent the best that sports has to offer, extreme competitiveness, intelligence, very courageous. You made competing fun and you made sports fun to watch. Thank you. So what am I doing here?”I love these inductions and have been to several because you usually, finally, get a real glimpse of what these icons are like. They’ve been away from the game, for the most part, at least the spotlight. They are humbled and appreciative and let down a bit of that professional shield and let the light in and the smile out. They come forward as real humans, Stockton choking up about his mother having passed away and wishing she could see this moment and even Jordan breaking down as he began his remarks in thanks to teammate Scottie Pippen and other former teammates and coaches in attendance, including Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Dennis Rodman, Bill Wennington, Charles Oakley, Ron Harper, Randy Brown and Johnny Bach.Jordan had earlier made a point to stop by tables where teammates were sitting at the Thursday night introductory dinner to thank them for attending.But he also couldn’t help but open the door to his personality. The public generally sees the corporate, prepared, guarded, correct Jordan. This was the Jordan his buddies know, brash, aware of every slight, real and perceived, a verbal counter attack for every parry, the guy who didn’t need the golf course to compete on a rainy Friday here in Springfield but could do it as well in conversation. You have to be sharp to be around Michael. And you have to be ready.And away he went, as the Great One, Gleason would have said.“I told all my friends I’m going to come up here and say thank you and walk off,” Jordan joked as he began, then choking up in referring to the video of all his highlights with Pippen always at the ready. “I’ve had a lot of questions over the last four weeks (about) why’d you pick David Thompson (from North Carolina State to accompany Jordan on stage).“All honorees are required to have an escort who is a member of the Hall of fame. Sloan asked Barkley, which seemed surprising given their seemingly opposite natures. Though Sloan said his late wife, Bobbye, always was a big Barkley fan the way she always saw Barkley as one of the few players to engage fans. Barkley told a funny story earlier in the day about Sloan calling to ask him to do it. Barkley said he would and Sloan said “thanks” and hung up. Stockton asked Isiah Thomas, which was a surprise given some brutal battles they had, though Stockton said Isiah always was a model for him, as Jordan said Thompson was for him.“I was an anti-Carolina guy,” Jordan said of his adolescence. “I was in love with David Thompson. Not just for the game of basketball, but what he represented. When I called him and asked him to stand up I know I shocked the (crap) out of him.”Maybe ESPN got that word through, but I cannot get myself to try. Michael is bawdy as well.Jordan talked fondly about his siblings, brothers Larry and James each about 5-5 (I think that was an exaggeration a bit low, but not much), of sister Roz speeding through high school so she could get into North Carolina the same time as Michael and his U.S. Army veteran brother, the boys constantly challenging him in every game and every way.“You guys ask where my competitive nature comes from. It came from them,” he said.And then Jordan added “people added the wood.”He started with LeRoy Smith, the high school teammate picked over him for the varsity team.“He’s still the same 6-7 guy. His game is probably about the same,” sneered Jordan. “He started the whole process for me. When he made the team and I didn’t, I wanted to prove not just to LeRoy Smith and not just myself, but (I wanted) the coach to make sure you understood you made a mistake.“I first met Buzz (Peterson, college roommate). I first heard of a kid from Asheville, N.C., player of the year. I’m thinking, ‘He never played against me. How did he become player of the year?’ When I got to meet Buzz Peterson in the basketball court it wasn’t him. I didn’t think he could beat me,” said Jordan. “He became a focal point.”“Coach (Dean) Smith the day on Sports Illustrated named four starters and didn’t name me that burned me up,” Jordan remembered. “I thought I belonged on that (cover). He had this vision on giving a freshman exposure. From a basketball standpoint, I deserved to be on that cover.“It did not stop there,” Jordan went on in thanking the Bulls at length for giving him a chance to excel and have a professional life in basketball. “I get to the pros. (Coach) Kevin Loughery used to take practice and put me in the starting five. Halfway in the game he’d put me on the losing team. I take that as competitive. Nine times out of 10 the second team would come back to win no. I appreciated Loughery giving me that challenge.

“The (Bulls) came up with this whole theory you can play seven minutes a game when I’m practicing two hours a day,” Jordan said about the time in 1985 he broke his foot and the team wanted to limit his return for fear of worsening the injury. “I didn’t agree with that math. I wanted to play. I wanted to make the playoffs. Jerry (Reinsdorf) said, ‘Let me ask if you had a headache and—there was a 10 percent chance then I’d reinjure myself–and you’ve got 10 tablets and one is coated with cyanide, would you take it?’ I looked at him and said, ‘How bad is the headache?’Jerry looked at me and said, ‘I guess that’s a good answer you can go back and play.”Jordan was working the room of nearly 3,000 pretty good by now, eliciting laughs and appreciative applause.Jordan then took off after longtime foe Jerry Krause in some less than kind remarks, though still in the spirit of the moment. It’s what he would have said to Jerry if he were there.”Jerry’s not here,” Jordan said of former general manager Krause. “I don’t know who’d invite him. I didn’t. I hope he understands it goes a long way. He’s a very competitive person. I was a very competitive person. He said organizations win championships. I said, ‘I didn’t see organizations playing with the flu in Utah. I didn’t see it playing with a bad ankle.’??Granted, I think organizations put together teams. But at the end of the day, the team’s got to go out and play. I think the players win the championship, and the organization has something to do with it, don’t get me wrong. But don’t try to put the organization above the players.”??Jordan lauded his kids and admitted they carried a ”heavy burden” and that he’d never want with their famous name. Then Jordan noted how the Hall of Fame hiked up ticket prices because of his presence.“They charge $1,000 a ticket,” Jordan noted with that sly smile. “Used to be 200 bucks. But I paid it. I had no choice. Thank the Hall of Fame for raising ticket prices.”He doesn’t miss a thing. And he always believes people make money from his presence. Yet, Jordan invited so many friends and relatives and quietly paid for even some former players who could not afford it, he supposedly spent more than $100,000 on tickets. He wouldn’t mention that, nor wanted anyone to know whom he’d helped.Jordan then brought up the famous so-called All-Star game freezeout of 1985 by Thomas, Magic Johnson and George Gervin.“You guys gave me motivation,” Jordan said. “I (felt I’ve) got to prove to them I deserve what I’ve gotten.”Jordan recalled a chance meeting one summer on vacation in Hawaii with Pat Riley and thanked Riley for the competitiveness of his teams, though Jordan playfully noted how Riley wanted to stay longer in the hotel and they made Riley give up his suite so Jordan could have it.Yes, he wins! Again!Jordan noted “the little guy on your staff,” Jeff Van Gundy, who “said I conned players, befriended them, and then attacked them on the basketball court. I just happen to be a friendly guy. Thank you. You gave me the motivation I needed.”Jordan told the old story of Bulls assistant Tex Winter needling him about scoring 20 some straight points to win the game and saying there’s “no I in team” and Jordan coming right back and saying there is one in “win.”And there were all you “media guys” saying a scoring champion couldn’t win a title and how Magic and Larry Bird were better because they were winners.“That kept me trying every day to be a better basketball player,” Jordan said.And Jordan went on to end the list with the Jazz’ Bryon Russell running into him after he’d retired for the first time.”I was in Chicago in 1994 and at this time I had no thoughts of coming back and playing the game of basketball,” Jordan said. “Bryon Russell came over to me and said, ‘Why’d you quit? You know I could guard you.’ When I did come back in 1995 and we played Utah in ’96, I’m at the center circle and Bryon Russell is standing next to me. I said, ‘You remember the you made in 1994 about, ‘I think I can guard you, I can shut you down, I would love to play against you? Well, you’re about to get your chance.'”??And we all know what happened in 1998 in Game 6.But then Jordan got serious and sentimental. And puckish once again.“The game of basketball has been everything to me,” Jordan said as he wound down. “My place of refuge, place I’ve always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It’s been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It’s a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game. I hope the millions of people I’ve touched have the optimism and desire to share their goals and hard work and persevere with a positive attitude. Although I recognize this is a tremendous honor this doesn’t define the end of basketball. It’s a continuation of something I started a long time ago. One time you may look up and see me playing the game at 50.”At which time the audience began to laugh. Nervously?“Don’t laugh,” Jordan said. “Never say never. Limits, like fear, is often an illusion.”It was all of Michael. Touching, Fun loving, sharing, bold, aggressive, challenging and impish. And I’d never again say he won’t play again. If you are around him, you probably have heard from him before saying he still can beat those guys today. Even at 50. You just know that’s in the back of his mind. The games and the competition and the fun never ends around Michael Jordan.

Back from Brooklyn and preparing for summer league

Words can’t express how it feels to have just signed my contract with the Bulls. Leading up to a moment like that, which happened earlier today, you are always practicing and working on your game. Now, for the Bulls to offer me a contract to play basketball in a city like Chicago is another dream come true.
The money isn’t going to change me; I’m always going to stay the same person.  I’m really laid back. I just want to come in and get right to work. I didn’t really worry about getting expensive things, I just wanted to be here and touch the floor of this great facility.
Over the last week or so, I relaxed at home in Brooklyn. I just went back to relax and take stress away from the draft process and it was good. Since getting back to Chicago on Monday morning, I’ve been working out with the lifting coach and getting shots up with Randy Brown. The guys here have been great and they are teaching the game. Randy is really easygoing and easy to talk to about anything on and off the court. He helps me in all aspects and calls me to make sure everything’s OK. The strength and conditioning coaches are great, too.
I haven’t seen Derrick Rose yet, but I am sure I will soon. The whole Bulls staff has been really nice to me. Tyrus Thomas and some other guys are showing me around and I’m going to meet the rest of the guys when they come in.
I’m looking forward to our first summer league practice tonight. I know it’s going to be something new for a lot of us. There will be a lot of new bodies here and I’m looking forward to learning and getting better. There’s no pressure, just go out there to learn and work hard, that’s the most important part. It’s going to be a long season, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing.
I am known for my defense and rebounding, but my plan is to go out there to just play the best all-around game I can and do whatever the coach wants me to do.  Being a back up player, you have got to let the game come to you. If it comes, it comes. All I can do is continue to work hard on my craft.
I will check back in again once we have a game or two under our belts. Take care until then.