Does Tom Thibodeau work his players too hard?

Last night, the Heat held the Bulls to their lowest point total ever in a postseason game (65), as well as lowest field goal percentage ever (25.7%).  And this happened while Dwyane Wade has bone bruises on his left knee. After the game Wade spoke with the media: “When you have a [bone] bruise, you try to move the kneecap over so it won’t rub When you get into game sweat you have to re-tape it a bit.” Ouch.

But speaking of injuries, the clearest cause of the Bulls’ troubles has been the plethora of health problems their team is facing. Derek Rose has been out for a year, and Luol Deng has been sidelined after a health scare relating to a spinal tap he had done.  Until recently, Joakim Noah was sidelined with plantar fasciitis.  Kirk Hinrich’s calf has been bothering him for a while now. Derek Rose has been cleared medically to play for months now, but has yet to play in a real game.

Is it possible that Bulls Coach Thibodeau worked his players too hard this year? It’s certainly a possibility.  Thibodeau’s trademark defensive strategy is one of the best in the league, and in the past 2 years prior, with a healthy Rose, the Bulls obtained the top record in the East.  It’s undisputed that the Bulls push themselves hard in every game, but could that strategy backfire?  Injuries are a function of exhaustion, age, and randomness.  The Lakers this year certainly saw the results of a combined ancient team with a lack of depth. Almost every player on the Lakers saw time on the bench due to injury, not least of all Kobe Bryant’s crushing torn ligament at the end of the season after the 35 year old had been playing minutes in the high 30s all year.

But the Bulls are not an old team, especially in comparison to the Heat, which leaves exhaustion and randomness. The injury to Derek Rose could be a source of extra minutes to other Bulls players this past year, resulting in them being more injury prone. And Tom Thibodeau has a history of pushing his players hard in the regular season. On the other hand, Luol Deng’s injury was a medical freak accident which could not have been foreseen.  And sometimes injuries just pile up and there isn’t a lot to be done.

If it is random, then it is likely we will see the Bulls be much better next year, especially if/when Derek Rose returns.  But if the Bulls continue to fall short due to injuries, there may be a deeper root of the problem.

  • Well written…I think he’s obviously considered one of the best coaches in the sport and his players love him but clearly his guys are getting hurt. Just a coincidence? Maybe, but the amount and severity of the injuries seems to show something a bit more serious than a little bad luck.