DEERFIELD, Ill. -- When Tom Thibodeau announced recently that his last name is actually pronounced, "Thib-o-Dough" instead of "Tib-o-dough" most of his new players were surprised. Keith Bogans just nodded his head and chuckled.
"Yeah I knew it," he said recently. "I knew it. We just call him “Tibs” for short, I don’t think anybody wants to say his full name, so we just call him Tibs."
Bogans not only has known Thibodeau long enough to know how to pronounce his name correctly (he played for Thibodeau, when the veteran coach worked on Jeff Van Gundy's staff in Houston during the 2005-06 season), he's also known the Bulls new coach long enough to earn a spot for himself on the team. Thibodeau has always liked what he's seen from the nine-year pro and that has been clear during the preseason. When Ronnie Brewer went down at the beginning of training camp because of a sore hamstring, it was Bogans, not Kyle Korver, who got the starting nod from Thibodeau.
"Keith’s been around a long time," Thibodeau said. "He’s started a lot of games in this league, he’s a veteran, he’s a defense-first guy, he’s a tough guy, he knows how to compete and the team functions well with him on the floor. And you can’t leave him unguarded at the three point line so he creates space, and allows Derrick [Rose] to get into some penetration. He’s a willing passer, he hits the open man, so he’s done a good job so far."
The stats back Thibodeau's praise.
Over his last three games, Bogans is 8-for-12 from the field, including 7-for-8 from behind the arc. Along with his usual solid defense, Bogans has already created a bit of a niche for himself in the rotation and has given Thibodeau reason to at least consider him as a possible starter once the season rolls around. While Brewer will still likely get the nod, Bogans, and for that matter, Thibodeau, haven't ruled anything out yet.
"Whatever happens, happens," Bogans said. "It would be nice [to start], but I’m not just totally banking on it. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m still going to play the same way."
That's the reason he and Thibodeau have seemingly always gotten along so well. He is Thibodeau's type of player. He works hard, he plays solid defense, he can hit an open shot and he doesn't complain.
"Even when I wasn’t playing for him, we would always talk basketball," Bogans said. "He always told me I played hard. He always liked the way I played and I always liked Tibs as a coach, even when he was an assistant. He’s a head coach now, [I] like him even more."
The rest of the Bulls players like having Bogans around as well.
"Keith is somebody who’s a hard defender," Rose said. "I hate when he [guards] me. [He’s] always being physical, a good open shooter, and he plays hard when he’s on the court, so that’s what we need him to do."
The long-range shooting is something Bogans takes even more pride in. He's a career 35 percent shooter from behind the arc, compared to just 23 percent from Brewer. If Bogans does end up getting the starting nod, that will be a major reason as to why.
"A long time ago I was told I couldn’t shoot," Bogans said. "It’s something I’ve worked on throughout my career, I still work on today. I’m going to stay after [practice], I’m going to shoot. I think if you stay in the gym and work on your game then the game will take care of you. You just got to put the time in."
Bogans is a firm believer that if he continues to put in more time on the Berto Center practice floor, good things will come his way during his time in Chicago.
"I know I’m coming in as a veteran guy, to be a leader in the locker room, and a leader when I’m out there on the floor, because I’ve been around and this is kind of a younger team, so anything Coach pretty much asks me to do I’m going to be willing to do it," he said. "I didn’t come here with nothing specific in mind, I just wanted to come in, work hard, because that’s what I do and just see where it goes from there."