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Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Repeat: Thibodeau top coach again

NEW YORK — Even if the Bulls hadn't harpooned the Heat last week, the overtime epic validates why Tom Thibodeau is remarkably worthy to become the first in NBA history to earn back-to-back coaching honors.

The career assistant, now in his second season as Chicago's cunning capo, doesn't coach by the book, by the clock, by the numbers, by reputation or from fear of consequence should things go horribly amiss.

Thibodeau already had my yet uncast vote. He reinforced that position by keeping Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton cuddled up alongside him for almost the entire fourth quarter and extra session because C.J. Watson, Omer Asik and Kyle Korver were taking care of business, same as they've been doing throughout the season.

How many living locks for the Hall of Fame, much less a relatively obscure coach, would have the fortitude to bench lift last season's MVP, design a devious plot for Watson — versus continuing to rely on the sizzling long-distance-dialing of Korver that deadbolted regulation, and then leave him in to direct the demise of Miami in the bonus episode?

On TV, it appeared as if Thibodeau's new seating plan stunned the rusty Rose.

Why wouldn't it frustrate him to sit out a dance he's used to choreographing and controlling?

But there's little or no arguing with success. That's especially true in the case of someone so reputedly coachable.

Until we find out differently, that's one of many revered rudiments separating Rose from christened deities and aspiring statues.

One characteristic that makes Thibodeau particularly unique is his fearlessness to fail, which doesn't make any sense considering how long it took him to rate an interview for a head job, much less get promoted.

He seems equally at ease with facing his franchise player or, for that matter, Bulls' managing partner Jerry Reinsdorf regardless of how such unconventional warfare plays out.

Come to think of it, Thibodeau's handling of the delicate situation really wasn't that odd at all. In actuality, by recessing his guiding light, he simply continued to play percentages that have paid astonishing dividends with Rose out of service for 24 of a possible 61 games due to assorted injures.

Despite his prolonged absence, the Bulls have registered a 46-15 mark, best in the East, and own the league's preeminent (22-8) road record.

It's not as if Thibodeau is guessing Korver, Watson, Asik, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and John Lucas might have some idea how to master a succession of undermanned one-night stands.

Thibodeau has a glut of good reasons to believe in these players. Their success bolsters his ongoing belief in them and the two-way confidence-building beat goes on.

So, naturally, Thibodeau felt no compunction to call up the reserves and keep them on active duty with the imperial Heat in town. And he'll do it again, if necessary, until Rose demonstrates he's healthy enough to floor it . . . in other words, put the peddle to the metal.

In the meantime, those with a genuine pulse on Rose, insist he'll be unfazed by sitting should Thibodeau stage a reenactment.

* * *

For the last month or so, Gregg Popovich has been periodically resting starters and older Spurs so they're not too pooped to participate in the playoffs.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were left in San Antonio last week when the team had its 11-game win streak busted in Utah.

So what does Mike Brown do?

He out-slicks his old boss by "resting" Kobe Bryant for the Lakers' overwhelming victory in San Antonio.

Is that what really happened?

Did Kobe's ailing left shin really need another day off?

You draw your own conclusions. I like my take and it's my column.

Either way, should the two teams meet in the playoffs, the Spurs will have been gnawing on that malfunction for quite awhile.

When just-drafted Andrew Bynum showed up at Pete Newell's instructional Big Man Camp in 2005, the Hall of Fame (1979) college coach told the Lakers they had made a major mistake taking him No. 10 overall. The following summer, he told them they had made a great pick.

Strong opinions regarding the 7-footer continue to fluctuate daily, but mostly concerning his conduct which is often unbecoming a high school graduate.

I think we all agree Bynum is probably the league's second-best center, but appears to be on the threshold of surpassing Dwight Howard.

Bynum's 30 rebounds in the Spurs' siege is a quantum leap in that direction. His 18.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and .558 field goal shooting percentage certainly doesn't damage that case either.

Bynum may not be tuning out all the voices outside his own head these days, but it's clear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got through to him when they worked together for several seasons . . . until he stopped listening, and then it was time for the Lord of the Rims to withdraw.

* * *

Once Iman Shumpert learns how to play within himself he'll have everything it takes to become one of the NBA's topmost two-way players . . . a forceful Walt Frazier, only armed and dangerous beyond the arc . . . a straight version of Micheal Ray Richardson. You have a lot to look forward to, if you're a Knicks fan.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.

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