Tom Thibodeau's appointment as an assistant coach for the USA Basketball team couldn't have come at a much better time for the Chicago Bulls. Not only is it a personal honor for one of the best coaches in the league, but it could also serve as a huge asset for an organization that wants to add another star to pair with Derrick Rose in the future.
Thibodeau has developed a reputation as one of the league's best coaches and All-Star players always sing his praises when asked about the Bulls. With Rose’s knee injury looming over the start of last season, Kevin Durant said last summer he knew the Bulls would be just fine because of the veteran coach's presence.
"Thibodeau is an unbelievable coach," Durant said. "They have an unbelievable system. Their defense is great and they play together. So if you have that combination, no matter what, you're going to be a good team."
Those kind of sentiments have become commonplace around the league and were clearly a major part of the reason Thibodeau was tabbed as an assistant on USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski's bench.
“To have Tom Thibodeau join us, I think his reputation speaks for itself," Krzyzewski said in Team USA's official release. "He was a great assistant who has become an outstanding pro coach, and nobody wants to play the Bulls. The toughness that they show, their togetherness, their competitiveness, and the preparation that is there, that is shown by he and his staff. I think he is one of the best defensive coaches, his defensive game plans are incredible,and so I’m really looking forward to working with him."
Thibodeau has to be relishing this opportunity. Over the next four years, Thibodeau will have the ability to form his own personal relationships with the greatest players in the game. They've watched him from afar several seasons but now they will get the chance to learn about him on a personal level. Thibodeau's relationship with Rose will only grow stronger as the pair will play an integral part in Team USA's success as it prepares for the 2016 Games in Rio.
In the process, Thibodeau and Rose's presence can only help pave the way for a potential star to end up in Chicago. Maybe playing for consecutive summers alongside Rose and learning from Thibodeau will finally push one of the game's better players to sign with and/or push for a trade to the Bulls.
Of course, like many teams, the Bulls face an ongoing quandary as far as available cap space is concerned. It seems certain that the Bulls will amnesty the final year of Carlos Boozer's deal next summer and must make a decision on Luol Deng's long-term future in Chicago. They're likely to have roughly $20 million in available cap space, which would allow them to sign a star on the open market or acquire one in a trade. But if they decide to keep Deng and bring former first-round draft pick Nikola Mirotic over, then the dream of acquiring that star anytime in the next year or two goes out the window.
Still, the fact that of all the coaches in the game Krzyzewski decided to tap Thibodeau for his bench speaks volumes to the type of reputation the 55-year-old Bulls coach has earned. Players respect coaches that put in the work, but most importantly players respect coaches that win. That's why none of them seemed to be surprised about the success the Bulls had this season without Rose and that's why they all seem to have the same opinion in regards to Thibodeau.
"They play hard, they play together, they play for each other -- which is the biggest thing," Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard said of the Bulls at the All-Star break. "When you watch those guys, they're connected. That's why every time I see a team play against Chicago I know Chicago is pretty much going to be in the game because of their effort and their intensity."
That effort and intensity starts from the top with Thibodeau and could go a long way towards building a championship contender for years to come in Chicago. It's too early to say just how much of an impact Thibodeau's Team USA appointment has on the Bulls, but as the veteran coach prepares for his first summer around the game's top young players one thing is for sure -- it certainly can't hurt.