Does Chicago Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau Overwork His Players?

By Tracy Martin
Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau
Mike Ehrmann – Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls‘ surge to dominance in recent years can, in many respects, be attributed to coach Tom Thibodeau. His aggressive coaching style, the masterful attention he places on growing his players’ strengths and his focus on crafting a strong defense imbue his players with the skills to go up against the NBA‘s best and come out unscathed. But if there is one complaint that can be levied against him it’s the questionable over-allocation of minutes he places on key players.

It’s become all too common that when the Bulls reach the playoffs, injuries start to occur almost non-stop. A top seed means nothing if the players are all sitting on the bench tending to their injuries. Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and the list goes on. Chicago has the potential to make the NBA Finals — they just need the healthy bodies to do it.

Thibodeau’s largest blunder in his career thus far is something everyone agrees would never have happened under a coach who allocated his minutes better. In the first game of the 2011-12 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ersDerrick Rose suffered his ACL tear in the final two minutes of a game that was already decided in favor of the Bulls. What makes this tragic as well as groan-inducing was that this was a season where Rose suffered a multitude of small injuries prior to this game. Thibodeau should have thought better to sit Rose out than have him compete.

Bringing it to the present this one issue has yet to be resolved. If anything, it may have gotten worse. In the Jan. 15 triple-overtime victory against the Orlando Magic, Jimmy Butler broke a franchise-record in minutes, playing 60:20. Such a number is absurd and potentially injury-inducing, no matter the player’s skill set.

Thibodeau professes that criticism of his minutes-handling does not hold much weight, referencing former Bulls coach Phil Jackson in his argument that attributing a large number of minutes to players is not as bad as some say.

“I’m trying to be like Phil,” said Thibodeau when questioned about his overplaying of Butler. For what it’s worth, while it does help the Bulls win games, it could lead to worse problems down the road.

It is inarguable that athletes today are more athletic and can handle more stringent play than they could have in the past, but regardless of that, the best way to reach the championship is with everyone on the floor at 100 percent. Overworking someone to win one regular season game is mindless when the NBA title is what the team should be pushing for.

Tracy Martin is an NBA writer for Follow him on Twitter@TracyMartin23 or add him to your network on Google.

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