Bulls front office on Tom Thibodeau firing: “We probably wouldn’t be sitting here if we won a championship”


CHICAGO — To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau on Thursday. It’s been an open secret around the league for months that the relationship between Thibodeau and the Bulls’ front-office brain trust of GM Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson was irreparably broken. It was a matter of when, not if, Thibodeau would be fired, and when the final decision was made Thursday afternoon, the two executives reflected on a season of missed opportunities.

“We probably wouldn’t be sitting here if we won a championship,” Paxson said at the press conference immediately following Thibodeau’s firing. “That’s just the truth. But we haven’t done that. And we go back to this year, when we had a real missed opportunity.”

Indeed, the Bulls came into their second-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers with an unexpected advantage. Kevin Love was out for the year, after suffering a shoulder injury in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round sweep against the Celtics. The Bulls, for once, were healthy, and Kyrie Irving was hobbled. But the Bulls couldn’t put a run together despite taking the first game of the series and then taking a 2-1 lead after Game 3. Cleveland won Game 4 on a LeBron James buzzer-beater, and the Bulls did not win again for the rest of the series.

“Cleveland’s a great team and they’re in the Finals,” Paxson said. “But we really felt like, given their injuries, the path was there for us and we could have seized it. It’s about trying to take advantage of the moment, and we didn’t do that this year, and that was really disappointing.”

Thibodeau’s coaching style has been a source of controversy for some time. In particular, the minutes loads for players like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, who were coming off knee injuries, were a point of contention. Thibodeau is famously hard-nosed and doesn’t believe in minutes limits or saving anything for the playoffs, while the front office wanted to take a more conservative approach.

For the first time in several years, the Bulls entered the playoffs with Rose healthy, but the team simply underachieved. They went long stretches without scoring and weren’t able to capitalize on a weakened Cavs team.

Beyond their disappointment with the way the season ended, though, Paxson and Forman repeatedly declined to go much into specifics about where things went wrong between management and Thibodeau.

“Out of respect for everybody involved, we’re not going to go into a lot of specifics and a lot of details in this decision,” said Forman. “We sit here today, we a great belief system in the core of players that we have, and we believe we’re headed in the right direction. After the meetings we had last week that I talked about, we feel like we’re headed in the right direction. We’re focused on the future and continue to feel our future’s very, very positive, that we’ve got a bright future.”

Jared Dudley apologizes for calling Carmelo Anthony the NBA’s most overrated player


Jared Dudley said players avoid playing with Kobe Bryant, called Carmelo Anthony the NBA’s most most overrated player and said there’d be something wrong with Kevin Love leaving the Cavaliers.

Now, the Bucks forward is walking back one of those controversial statements.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Dudley appeared on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “Hahn & Humpty Show” and apologized for calling Anthony the most overrated player in the league.

“I shouldn’t have said that that was my fault for saying that because it’s not the truth,” Dudley told hosts Alan Hahn and Rick DiPietro. “… I apologize for saying that about Carmelo.

“You get kind of frustrated at times seeing because of him having to make his other guys better and defensively certain things, but for me to say he’s the most overrated that was wrong for me to say. He’s arguably a top 3 or 4 scorer, between him (Kevin Durant) and (Russell Westbrook). But if you see, that’s not enough in this league. If [you’re] a No. 1 guy and you’re a max guy, this is a superstar league, you have to be able to do certain things.”

Dudley is correct to recant on Melo being the NBA’s most overrated player.

Because Kobe Bryant is.

Jared Dudley on Kevin Love: ‘If you leave LeBron, there’s something’s wrong’


Kevin Love might leave the Cavaliers in free agency.

Cleveland fans, if history is any indication, wouldn’t treat him well if he does.

What would Love’s peers think?

Colin Cowherd asked Jared Dudley – whom you might remember from saying players avoid Kobe Bryant Bryant and calling Carmelo Anthony the NBA’s most overrated player – whether Love leaving would validate the perception Love cares about only money and scoring.


As players, we already know. We know that Kevin Love, his numbers are deflated to a fault. We understand when you play on a bad team and getting your guys. You heard J.J. Barea make certain comments about it.

I would say this: If you leave LeBron, there’s something’s wrong.

LeBron is the most unselfish superstar we have. You see they’re winning. You’re in the Eastern Conference.

You’re going to turn down an extra $25 million to go to L.A. because of the sun? I mean, we all love the sun. But you can buy some sun over there or a house over there and have all the sun you want.

At the end of the day, it would validate it.

I mean, you’re leaving a winner. Cleveland has the best facilities. I mean, you can go on how good it is there.

I can understand you might want your own identity. But, to be honest with you, man, he’s got to prove, hey, win one or two then opt out.

This is unfair.

Love has played out his contract, and he has the option to become a free agent and sign wherever he wants. He doesn’t need to win a championship to validate exercising that right.

Maybe Love wants to join the Lakers for the sunshine, but I doubt that’s the only reason. Even if it is, so what? Plenty of people choose their job based on its location.

I’m sure playing with LeBron James appeals to many players, probably most players. But it hasn’t exactly been heavenly for Love.

If Love wants to be a team’s No. 1 option, that’s his prerogative. That obviously can’t happen in Cleveland with LeBron.

I think Love will return to to the Cavaliers next year (after opting out). But if he moves on, I hope other players are more understanding.

In a sense, they’re all in this together. Free agency is a collectively bargained right the players have fought for. A perception players should be vilified for changing employers serves only owners.

Rockets had an excellent season. Are they content with that?


After the Rockets just completed a surprisingly strong season – winning 56 games and reaching the Western Conference finals – their biggest stars were asked about keeping this group together.

“There’s been so many cases to where we could’ve folded, hung our shoes up,” James Harden said. “But they didn’t quit. I think, if you can have those guys around you, you’re going to be successful more than not.”

Howard, given two chances to answer similar questions, was much more vague.

“We just want to win,” Howard said. “I’m all about guys who want to get in there and fight and never give up.”

Put that quote in context with Howard’s comment after Game 3 – “I saw quit from everybody in the arena” – and draw your own conclusions.

Houston had a heck of a season. Houston might turn over large portions of its roster this summer.

These are both valid statements in Daryl Morey’s world.

The Rockets are always tinkering, always looking for edges. Lately, that has meant pursuing a third star – an effort that kicked into overdrive this summer.

But Houston missed on LeBron James, missed on Carmelo Anthony, missed on Chris Bosh, missed on Dirk Nowitzki and missed on Kevin Love.

The Rockets’ fortune didn’t improve from there.

Dwight Howard missed half the regular season due to injury, and Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas were sidelined the entire postseason.

Yet, Houston still secured the No. 2 seed and won more playoff series than the previous 17 years combined. By any reasonable standard, this season was a resounding success.

The Rockets proved they belong in the West’s second tier with the Clippers and Spurs and maybe the Grizzlies and healthy Trail Blazers. Houston just ran into an all-time juggernaut in the Warriors. Without Golden State in the picture, the Rockets might be on their way to their third championship.

Plenty of teams would love to be in that sub-Warriors group, a Golden State injury or two away from title contention. But I doubt Morey is content to leave his team’s fate in the hands of another team’s medical luck.

After Houston was eliminated Wednesday, the MVP-winning Curry hugged Harden, who placed second in voting.

“All year, dog, you pushed me,” Harden said. “All year.”

The Rockets were the secondary character in the Warriors’ story this year.

And that’s great!

The Rockets traded Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik and declined to match Chandler Parsons’ offer sheet in order to maximize their chances of landing another star. Morey was willing to take a step back this season.

Thanks to Harden, the year was a major step forward.

Houston can go a number of directions from here. Beverley and Josh Smith will be free agents, and Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry were backup options after the Rockets struck out on major free agents.

Morey, due to his nature and how it was created, might be less attached to his roster than any general manager ever has been with a team so successful. If he’s looking for change, he can point to this final loss. Harden had nearly as many turnovers (a playoff-record 13) as points (14), and Howard lost his composure a couple times.

Howard was asked what Kevin McHale told the team afterward.

“To be honest with you, I was zoned out, boss. I was zoned out,” Howard said. “All I heard was, ‘Great job this season.'”

There’s a lot for the Rockets to process, but Howard heard the most important part.

LeBron James calls himself, Mike Miller and James Jones ‘The Big Three’


Two Cavaliers won a championship with LeBron James with the Heat, Mike Miller and James Jones.

Those two obviously share a bond with LeBron, because they followed him to Cleveland – and they’re not even from there.

The Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference title has only intensified their bond.

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

LeBron James wandered across the locker room holding a champagne bottle in his left hand when he wrapped each of his arms around Mike Miller and James Jones.

“The big three,” he whispered quietly before taking a swig of champagne.

Screw Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, apparently.

I get what LeBron actually meant – and I love it. I’m all for the silliest Big Three groupings possible, especially when a member of a real Big Three is the one changing the members. Paul Pierce got this started, and I hope others in addition to LeBron follow.