Derrick Rose defends (embattled?) Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau

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Rumors have swirled Tom Thibodeau is losing the Bulls’ locker room.

One piece of evidence was Derrick Rose’s uncharacteristic harsh public criticism of the team. Some saw that as the point signaling an unhappiness with the status quo that included the coach, Rose’s way of getting his message out.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman has denied Thibodeau is on the hot seat. Just in case that’s not enough, Rose is on the record now strongly supporting Thibodeau.

Rose, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“This don’t have anything to do with Thibs at all,” Rose said. “The way that we’ve been playing don’t have anything to do with Thibs. He’s preparing us right. He’s doing everything and did everything possible to prepare us as a coach. It’s up to the players to give that effort.”

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Thibodeau is not completely out of the woods yet. The Bulls have lost six of nine. Their defense is still well below its usual standards under Thibodeau, and he and Taj Gibson publicly disagreed about the source of the problem earlier this season. Thibodeau has had a rocky relationship at times with Chicago’s front office.

But Rose’s support goes a long way in cooling this story (as does the Bulls’ 23-point win over the Spurs last night).

Rose is the team’s highest-paid player, a marketing star who is getting healthier and hopefully returning to form on the court. His sway might be down from its peak level, but he still carries a lot of say in the organization.

At minimum, Rose should buy Thibodeau time. The Bulls have championship potential this year, and Thibodeau – a very good coach – can help them on that quest. It’d be a shame if he and the team couldn’t work out whatever problems they’ve been going through.

Winning cures all ills, and that will get easier once Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy get healthy. If Chicago gets hot, everyone stops talking about Thibodeau’s job security.

Rose just made it easier for Thibodeau to reach that point. Now, the coach and players have to do their part to get out of this slump.