Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman
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Rumor: Bulls have poor reputation among coaches

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Bulls general manager Jerry Krause repeatedly tried to replace legendary coach Phil Jackson. Despite previously insisting he wouldn’t quit, Tim Floyd “resigned” as Chicago’s coach on Christmas Eve 2001. The Bulls fired Bill Cartwright the Monday following Thanksgiving Weekend 2003. Chicago fired Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve 2007. Bulls executive John Paxson actually fought coach Vinny Del Negro, who got fired in 2010. Paxson and Chicago general manager Gar Forman repeatedly clashed with Tom Thibodeau, who got fired in 2015 despite his successful record. The Bulls hired long-rumored replacement Fred Hoiberg then left him out to dry as players walked all over him.

Does that coaching history explain why new Bulls president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley are being so deliberate in assessing current coach Jim Boylen?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Suns-Times on 670 The Score:

There is a perception problem, and when you come from the outside – like Arturas did and Marc Eversley have – you know what that perception problem is. Carlisle, the Dallas coach, has made it very clear the disdain the coaches association and a lot of coaches have for the Bulls and the practices they have toward coaches. The way they’ve treated them as commodities for more than three, four decades, the way they’ve fired guys on Christmas Eve. So, there is a perception problem that I think these guys want to change coming in now to this that the old regime didn’t care about nor did they maybe even see fully.

It’s twofold. They’re buying time because they have time to buy, but also I think it’s also a perception thing that they’re looking to change.

As long as Jerry Reinsdorf sits in that powerful chair and he’s allowed executives to treat managers and coaches like this – look, everyone thinks players talk. Coaches talk, too. This place – in the Bulls and the Advocate Center – does not have a good reputation with coaches.

Coaches love to claim other coaches got unfairly victimized, circumstances barely mattering. That isn’t changing.

Will Chicago’s reputation change?

Maybe, but Jerry Reinsdorf remains Bulls owner. These issues have spanned multiple front-office heads. Reinsdorf is the common link and remains in charge.

Top candidates to replace Boylen – Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin and 76ers assistant Ime Udoka – have emerged. If other coaches want, they could easily claim Chicago treated Boylen unfairly by seeking his replacement while leaving him dangling.

Or coaches could appreciate Karnisovas and Eversley giving ample opportunity to a coach who wants to prove himself despite struggling on and off the court.

Karnisovas shouldn’t get too hung up on immediately flipping Chicago’s reputation among coaches. He should focus on finding the best coach available then treating him right. If he does, everything else will fall in line.

Russell Westbrook suffers strained quadriceps, out Friday, could miss playoff games

Russell Westbrook injury
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The Houston Rockets are going to be a trendy pick to make a deep in the West playoffs, but that will be hard to envision if Russell Westbrook misses time.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey announced that an MRI revealed Westbrook has a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg. He is not playing today (Wednesday) against the Pacers and will be out Friday against the 76ers as well. He will be re-evaluated before the playoff tip-off next week, but his status for those games is unclear.

Westbrook has been just a little off at the restart. He averaged 27.2 points per game during the regular season, but that has been down to 24.3 in the Orlando restart. His 53.6 true shooting percentage for the season (near the league average) fell to 50% in the bubble.

The Rockets have been a strong 4-2 in the bubble with their small-ball system and have held on to the four seed, but they haven’t completely found a rhythm yet (as we saw pre-shutdown. In a likely first-round matchup with Oklahoma City, Houston would need Westbrook and his explosive athleticism.

Without Westbrook expect more of Eric Gordon, who just returned to the rotation Wednesday from injury, plus Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore, even maybe Jeff Green — with a switchable roster Mike D’Antoni has a lot of options to soak up those minutes.

He just doesn’t have anyone as good.

Celtics sign coach Brad Stevens to contract extension

Celtics coach Brad Stevens
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The Celtics shocked by hiring Brad Stevens from Butler in 2013. He was a mid-major college coach, and even big-time college coaches rarely translated to the NBA. In fact, Stevens was viewed as such a college coach, rumors of him returning to that level persisted for years.

But Stevens has turned into a quintessential NBA coach. Despite taking over amid a rebuild, Stevens has won 56% of his games with Boston. It’s difficult to see him anywhere else.

Especially now.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics have signed head coach Brad Stevens to a contract extension, the team announced today.

Stevens, who previously signed a contract extension in 2016, is one of the NBA’s top coaches. He implements crisp schemes on both ends of the floor and communicates roles clearly to his players. At just 43, he could rival some of the longest coaching tenures in NBA history.

There are still questions about Stevens’ ability to coach stars. They might become more pronounced as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown ascend.

But that’s a first-world NBA problem – having a coach who raises his team’s level and premier talent young players who could lift it even higher.

Another week, still zero players test positive at NBA restart

NBA COVID-19
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It’s starting to sound routine, but it shouldn’t — that the NBA is pulling off an impressive feat keeping COVID-19 outside the bubble (just watch other sports try to come back).

The league announced that 342 players were tested for COVID-19 on the NBA campus in the past week and there were zero confirmed positive tests. The league has had no positive tests inside the NBA bubble since it started.

It’s a testament to the tone Commissioner Adam Silver set (working with Chris Paul and the players’ union) setting a tone of patience and — to use a coaching cliche — not skipping steps.

The NBA began testing players in their home markets before they arrived in Orlando (that’s where a number of players tested positive, and were quarantined/treated in those markets). Once teams arrived in Orlando, players were quarantined and tested again.

The idea was simple — to keep the virus outside of the bubble — but the execution was not. Nor was making sure there was buy-in from the players (and, for the most part, there has been).

At least so far. There are about two months of games remaining through the end of the finals, and when family members arrive next month there will be new ways the virus could penetrate the bubble.

It isn’t time for an NBA victory lap yet, but so far so good.

Nate McMillan agrees to contract extension as Pacers coach

Nate McMillan extension
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The rumor that Nate McMillan was on the hot seat in Indiana? Turns out, about as accurate as the rumor Nicholas Cage is a time traveler.

McMillan and the Pacers have agreed to a contract extension, the team announced Wednesday (it was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN). McMillan had one year remaining on his current contract. There are no details about the length or compensation. But McMillan isn’t going anywhere.

“What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension,” said President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner.”

This is the right move by the Pacers, McMillan has been one of the better coaches in the NBA the past couple of seasons (he was fourth in Coach of the Year voting a season ago and will get votes again this season). He has gotten the Pacers to exceed their on-paper talent level a few seasons in a row. Talks to extend McMillan were likely in the works already, but the push to get a longer contract announced now — while the Pacers are still playing at the NBA restart in Orlando — likely was tied to that rumor going public.

The Pacers are the fifth seed in the East and will face the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. That Indiana got there without a healthy Victor Oladipo — thanks to strong play from Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis for most of the season, then from T.J. Warren at the NBA restart — is a testament to McMillan’s coaching.

McMillan’s style isn’t flashy or modern — the Pacers are bottom eight in both three-pointers attempted and pace this season — but it works. The Pacers offense has been pretty average this season overall (18th in the league), which is not bad considering the team was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level). The Pacers also have found and developed good young players.

All of that ties back to coaching, which is why McMillan earned this extension.