Earlier in the offseason, paired with the smart signing of Mike Dunleavy Jr., the Chicago Bulls announced that assistant coach Ron Adams would no longer be a part of the team’s coaching staff. The lead assistant wasn’t fired, and he didn’t ask to be let out of his contract, as was the case when Adams asked the Oklahoma City Thunder to let him go in order for Adams to return to his family in Chicago a few years back.
No, the Bulls just let his contract expire, and waived bye-bye. With rumors abounding that Adams, one of the brighter basketball minds in the game, was unhappy at Chicago’s move to basically tank 2012-13 with Derrick Rose out – putting together a poorly-executed mish-mash of a roster that still managed to circle the wagons, even while strangely paying the luxury tax. The team did well to survive, and the parts worked, but the team’s front office had several chances to create a more financially sound foundation with the same additions, while sparing tax penalties that could influence future moves.
Thibodeau has been left to quell any rumors of dissent between himself and Chicago general manager Gar Forman, the man who made the call to let Adams walk, publicly. And so far his poker face is in midseason form. From Nick Friedell’s column at ESPN Chicago:
"People are going to read into things the way they want to," Thibodeau said on ESPN Chicago 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show." "We’re fine. We’re both thinking about next season and all we can do to win."
This riff works hand in hand with what Thibodeau told Grantland’s Zach Lowe earlier this month:
Can you elaborate on why, from what you’ve heard, the team allowed him to move on?
Nah. We’re not going to look backward. We’re going to look ahead. We’re just thinking about next season.
Did that decision create as much tension between you and Gar [Forman, the team’s GM] as was rumored?
We’re fine. We’re just thinking about next year.
There’s a distinction that needs to be made, here. I don’t doubt for a second that Tom Thibodeau is thinking about next season. He’s the guy that would have a replacement lined up at the scorer’s table just seconds after one of his players was mauled by a lion. That’s not a shot, that’s just his impressive singular focus.
(“Impressive” is one word for it, I guess.)
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t unhappy, however briefly, as he watched his employers decline to even attempt to re-sign perhaps the league’s most admired assistant coach. Even Thibodeau, in the midst of that lion attack/Ron Adams indifference has to have some sort of flicker of emotion as he watches something incredibly damaging to his team happen.
And the Bulls – make no mistake as the possibly prepare to roll toward 60 wins again with Derrick Rose on board – have let something incredibly damaging happen.
There’s a reason that the Boston Celtics, after paying an incredible six years and $22 million to Brad Stevens (not a shot at Stevens; it’s just incredible that any head coach gets six years these days), trampled through the line in an attempt to secure Ron Adams. The guy knows defense like few others. Watch him on the sidelines and during timeouts; the man knows how to communicate with players. And that’s not even getting into whatever is going on behind the scenes, in practices we can’t see.
Whatever happened behind the scenes between Adams and the Chicago front office had to be so severe that the team was willing to cut loose one of this league’s great basketball minds in order to avenge a personal slight. Of course, this can’t possibly be enough – because no amount of behind the scenes carping and complaining should be enough for a team to let Ron Adams walk.
That’s how these Bulls, in the Jerry Reinsdorf era, have worked. Arbitrary bouts of either indifference or personally-influenced heavy-handedness from ownership, perpetual cheapness in all the wrong places mixed with weird largesse in other spots, all mixed with continued paranoia from the GMs in the front office.
It’s lucky that they have a coach that is both willing to cool the jets in public, and stay focused on the task at hand while during office hours. They’re also lucky to have a coach whose office light is on for an ungodly amount of time.
For now, at least. At least until even Tom Thibodeau has had enough of this stuff.
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