Celtics coach Doc Rivers and guard Rajon Rondo weigh in on Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau.
by Tracy Weissenberg
It was a welcome to the League of sorts for Derrick Rose when back in 2009, as a rookie, he averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists during an epic seven-game series against the reigning champion Celtics.
Two seasons later, former Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau is leading the Bulls, who just clinched the No. 1 seed in the East.
Rose spoke about the ironies of the Bulls-Celtics connections a few weeks ago, saying, “Yeah, it’s kinda weird. (Laughs.) Definitely weird. [Thibodeau will] say something about [the Celtics], how good they are. It makes you think about it. We’re kind of like the same team where we both over-help on the defensive side, where usually people do that in college. That’s not normal NBA defense, I would say, where most of the time NBA teams leave you out on the island, and us, we just help everywhere and we depend on each other.”
On his former assistant’s success, Doc Rivers says, “I just love that he’s doing well…I don’t love the fact that the Bulls are doing well because they’re in our way and we’re in their way, but the fact that he’s doing well makes me feel great.”
Entering Sunday, the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls are ranked one and two, respectively, in points allowed. For the Bulls, it is an approximately eight point defensive improvement from last season, as Thibodeau has transformed the team into one of the League’s elite defenses.
On his former coach, Rajon Rondo says, “He’s very focused. I haven’t been around a lot of coaches but I’m sure he’s one of the hardest working coaches in the league. He watches hours and hours of film, he’s very prepared. He’s going to be a good coach for a long time.”
“He helped us a lot,” says Rondo when asked about Thibodeau’s defensive principles implemented during the 2007-08 season. “We believed in him, we bought into the system. Defense is why we won the championship that year,” he says.
Rondo confirmed the hours he saw Thibodeau spend in his office preparing for games. “You never could beat him to the gym,” he says.
While the Bulls have claimed the top spot in the East, they have a long road ahead to get where they want to be. Thibodeau knows what it takes to get there.