Opening Tip: Thibs channels Belichick

CHICAGO -- It's fitting that during Super Bowl week, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau decided to reference one of the most successful coaches of all time in one of his answers when talking to the media before Monday night's game. When the topic of injuries came up, and why there seems to have been a proliferation of them recently in the NBA, Thibodeau noted an opinion given by a man he respects more than almost any other in the coaching profession -- New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

"It's interesting," Thibodeau said. "And I think that there's not a lot of science right now to back that up one way or the other. I thought Belichick made a great point about all the restrictions that are being placed on players in the offseason. You have to ask the question, 'Are we de-conditioned?' But you'd have to look at it over time. But it's interesting."

Thibodeau, who served as an assistant with the Boston Celtics from 2007-10, got to spend some time with the Patriots coach, and Hall of Fame baseball manager Tony La Russa, a couple summers ago. It was an experience he appreciated -- especially given his respect for Belichick over the years.

"He's a great coach," Thibodeau once said of Belichick. "Year after year, he finds a way to win. Whenever they lose players, he always finds guys who can step in and fill the roles for the team to succeed. And he's done a great job of building a culture there. Each year they have a chance to win it."

You think that sounds a little like what Thibodeau has been trying to build in Chicago? Yeah.

As for the injuries, the domineering head coach did sound intrigued about how and why the NBA continues to deal with so many of them, especially to key players.

"I think you'd have to really study all the science behind it," Thibodeau said. "What is the cause? It seems like there's an awful lot of guys getting hurt right now. Injuries have always been part of it, but it seems to be trending like there's more."

What's next: The Bulls fly to San Antonio later this afternoon to begin a six-game road trip.

The last word: Thibodeau, on whether he's still in favor of having a playoff format with eight teams coming out of each conference.

"When you look at it over time I think it's the thing that makes the most sense. I think it's good; whatever the rules are, that's what you go by. But it does make sense -- it's worked well for a long time. Sometimes one conference may appear to be slightly better than the other. But last time I checked, the defending champion is from the East."