CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tom Thibodeau doesn't care about aesthetics when it comes to how his Chicago Bulls play basketball. He doesn't care how dirty things get over the course of a 48-minute affair, just that his team comes out on top when it ends. That's why he and his team were so proud after Saturday night's 89-87 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back set, in the middle of a long, 82-game season, Thibodeau's players found a way to squeeze out one more victory by doing just enough in an ugly-looking game.
"As long as we come out on top," Thibodeau said. "I love it."
So do his players.
Thibodeau's gift is that he has the rare ability to motivate his players to play hard every night. The Bulls' front office deserves credit for being able to find the right players to plug into Thibodeau's system -- players who have no problem taking orders from a demanding coach. One of those recent pickups was D.J. Augustin, the man who didn't have an NBA job a little more than a month ago after being waived by the Toronto Raptors. Augustin has been a season-saver for Thibodeau and the Bulls, as evidenced again by the fact that he scored a season-high 28 points, 15 in the fourth quarter, in Saturday's win. Augustin has quickly bought into the Bulls' way of thinking.
"That's what Thibs told us," Augustin said. "We get knocked down but we always get back up and we keep fighting. And that's the motto of our team, fight til the end of the game, and that's what we did tonight. It's been working for us."
It's been working because of the example Thibodeau sets for his team. This game was another illustration of why he is among the best coaches in the league. Both teams were tired, both were missing shots, but it was the Bulls that came out on top.
"This game tonight, both teams, it was about will," Thibodeau said. "It was a hard-fought battle. They played very hard, and I thought our guys responded to the challenge."
That has become a mantra for a Bulls team that continues to pile up wins in what was supposed to be a lost season.
"We have this motto," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "He just keeps saying, 'I'm so proud of you. I'll go anywhere with you guys.'"
Thibodeau sells an "us against the world" mentality to a room full of players who have bought into the message completely. He routinely praises their heart and guts, taking pride in the fact that his team hasn't rolled over after losing Derrick Rose to another knee injury and Luol Deng to a trade.
"That's the way we look at it," Gibson said. "Guys don't complain. Thibs -- he stresses it. Like, 'Come on, fight through it. This is going to be a great year. It's going to be a good outcome. Just keep fighting through it.' But he's a good coach as far as getting [us] amped to play."
For his part, Thibodeau continues to take great pride in this particular group. He thrives off situations where people say he and his team aren't good enough. He has instilled that belief in this group.
"This team is great," Thibodeau said. "They know -- we talked about what happened [Friday] night and what we had to do today, and that's the best part about this team. They got great pride, they're going to bounce back, they're going to give you everything they have. For us, we just got to keep scratching out wins, and we can never lose sight of how hard we have to play to give ourselves a chance to win, particularly when you're short-handed."