<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

150529_Hoiberg

Three coaches who may replace Tom Thibodeau in Chicago

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It was time.

But now the Bulls have to do better than the guy they had. That is not going to be easy.

Tom Thibodeau is one of the better, more successful coaches in the NBA. He’s also a hard-driving guy who physically and mentally wore out his charges, guys who did not want him back as the coach. Thibodeau changed the NBA game with his defense, but his offense was conventional, lagging far behind what innovative teams — Golden State, San Antonio — had done to counter his defenses. The blood was bad in Chicago, time for everyone to move on.

That doesn’t excuse the quiet smear job Bulls management has been doing to Thibodeau — up to and including his firing — but there’s a ring of truth to all of it.

Thibodeau will land on his feet somewhere. He’s sought after, and as a classic workaholic he incapable of taking a year off to backpack through Thailand. Or whatever.

Now what direction do the Bulls go?

Bulls GM Gar Forman tried to play his cards close to his vest Thursday at the press conference. (From PBT’s Sean Highkin, who was at the press conference.)

“I just don’t think we’re going to put ourselves in a box. I know that’s kind of an easy thing to say, but we’ve got certain criteria, some of which I’ve already said, but we’re not going to put ourselves in a box that it had to have been a head coach, an assistant, what level they’ve coached at. We’re really looking for the right fit. I went through some of those things that I talked about, obviously someone that could lead, someone that can communicate at a high level, has a great knowledge of the game. Obviously experience is a plus, as far as coaching is concerned. If they’ve been a head coach, even more so. But we’re not going to limit the search in any way.”

Sure. That is a PR crafted statement. The truth is they pretty much are limiting their serious search to these three guys:

1) Fred Hoiberg. The current Iowa State coach — and former 10-year NBA player and front office executive with Minnesota — has long been on the top of the Chicago Bulls list. He’s considered the most NBA-ready of the college coaches by GMs around the league, there will not be as much learning on the job as with most college coaches. The question is does he want to make the leap to the NBA right now? Hoiberg grew up in Ames, Iowa, the hometown of Iowa State. That’s where he played his college ball. He’s called the mayor there for a reason. Plus, he recently had a heart procedure — is deep-dish pizza and NBA hours/stress what he wants in his life right now?

2) Alvin Gentry. He’s sort of the anti-Thibodeau — a player-friendly coach whose strength is on the offensive end. He was the lead assistant in Golden State this year where his fingerprints are all over the Warriors’ prolific offense. The season before he was Doc Rivers’ lead assistant in charge of a Clippers’ offense that has been the most efficient in the league for a couple seasons. There is plenty of talent in Chicago — Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler (who will re-sign in Chicago), Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott, plus Mike Dunleavy. If the Bulls want to change course, this is the best call.

3) Adrian Griffin. The Bulls current lead assistant keeps the job in house but promotes a guy a lot of the league sees as an assistant ready for the move to the big chair. He’s a former NBA player who is credited with the development of guys like Jimmy Butler (who just one Most Improved Player). The guys in the locker room love him.  He’s not a bad choice, but he is Plan C — if Hoiberg and Gentry both pass on Chicago, Griffin’s phone will ring. 

Report: Kevin Love going to “look around” this summer as free agent; Celtics, Lakers, Rockets possible

Kevin Love
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Kevin Love has denied that he is going to leave the Cavaliers this summer. Repeatedly.

That has not stopped the chatter around the league that he will consider leaving this summer — the volume of which have gone up since the emergence of Tristan Thompson replacing the injured Love these playoffs.

The most likely outcome is Love remaining a Cavalier and playing alongside LeBron James. However, the well-connected Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was on The Jason McIntyre Show on Yahoo Sports Radio and said expect Love to test the market. As transcribed at Sheridan Hoops:

“I think he’s going to look around,” Wojnarowski said. “I think he’s going to look closely at Boston. I think he’ll look at LA. I’m sure the Texas teams are going to try and get involved.

“If you remember, he really liked Kevin McHale in Minnesota,” Wojnarowski continued. “Would he fit potentially in Houston? It seems like every summer, they have the ability to go out and create a max slot, and they do this summer again. They know they have the option to do that.

“I think he’ll be in play. He could stay where he is, but there’s no question he’s going to look long and hard at what his options are.”

I expect Love will stay in Cleveland, at least for one more year.

The reason is simple: image. If he bolts Cleveland this summer (particularly to play for the rebuilding Lakers or Celtics) he will look like a guy who cares about his own numbers and being the focal point of a team more than he does winning and rings. The spin (outside the market he chooses) will be “Love couldn’t handle playing next to LeBron” and that he wouldn’t make the sacrifices needed to win. Fair or not, that’s how it will be spun.

Love is concerned about his image, and how the perception of him could impact his ability to get national endorsement deals (among other things). He knows how it would look if he left this summer.

If Love stays for a year or two — particularly if he wins a ring — then says he wants out, he can rightfully say he tried to make it work, but he’s not happy and is leaving. It will feel different than him having played just one year in Cleveland.

Or, maybe he stays next year, they win a title, and he doesn’t want to leave at all.

That’s what he’s said all along. It’s just that a lot of people around the league doubt his sincerity on that front.

PBT Extra: Klay Thompson’s injury highlights concern with NBA concussion protocol

Getty Images
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When Trevor Ariza’s knee hit Klay Thompson in the head, everyone in the building and watching at home knew it was ugly.

Yet after a few minutes he was back on the sideline, his ear was stitched up and ESPN’s sideline reporter Dorris Burke was clearly told “he didn’t need to go through the concussion protocols.” She’s too good a reporter, she did not make that up, someone with the Warriors told her that.

After the game — and showing symptoms — Thompson was put through a concussion protocol and shown to have symptoms. He now has a week until the start of the Finals to clear the NBA’s protocols and be cleared for that game.

But how this was handled raises questions that Jenna Corrado and I discuss in this PBT Extra.

PBT Extra: Did Chicago make the right move in firing Thibodeau?

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets
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Chicago just fired a very successful coach who helped craft the identity of their franchise, a guy who twice led them to the best record in the NBA.

But was firing Tom Thibodeau the right move?

Yes… but now the Bulls have to hire someone who can take the team to another level. That is the real challenge.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss the Bulls moves and their love of all things Fred Hoiberg in this new PBT Extra.

Report: Scott Skiles also being considered for Pelicans job

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You know how it goes in a job search, you can’t get a nibble seemingly forever, then when one door starts to open you suddenly seem to have a few people beating down your door.

Welcome to Scott Skiles world.

The experienced NBA coach is considered a frontrunner to land the Orlando job because the former Magic player is a favorite of the owner. And owners get what they want. But now his name is popping up in the New Orleans coaching interview process, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

Scott Skiles has unexpectedly emerged as a candidate for the ‎New Orleans Pelicans’ vacant coaching position, according to league sources….

Skiles also has a longtime admirer in the New Orleans organization in Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, who played for Skiles when he coached in Greece.

Here’s why I take this rumor with a little bit of salt: If I wanted to push the Magic to move sooner rather than waiting around on Skiles, this is precisely the kind of rumor I would lead. Make them think someone else is coming for him.

Skiles is a defensive minded coach, and the Pelicans need help on that end, so there is some fit there. Not so sure he fits in terms of modernizing the offense or using creative lineups. Plus, if Demps is a little hesitant to bring in Tom Thibodeau (if/when he is let go by the Bulls) because Demps has already had issues with a strong-minded, defensive coach in Monty Williams, what does he think he’s getting with Skiles?

But the rumor is out there.