Who Deserves It More?
THIBODEAU IS COACH OF THE YEAR
Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP, has missed 17 games this season because of various injuries and is expected to miss several more. Luol Deng, the Bulls' All-Star small forward, has missed nine games because of a torn ligament in his wrist and still may have to sit again before the postseason to deal with the ongoing pain. Rip Hamilton, the man who was acquired to provide consistent offense and stability from the 2-guard spot, has missed 35 games because of various injuries and is also expected to miss more time. Rose, Deng and Hamilton have missed 61 games combined, yet the Bulls still have the best record in the league at 41-10.
Just give Tom Thibodeau his second coach of the year award right now.
For the second consecutive season, Thibodeau has done more with less than any other coach in the league. What makes this season even more impressive than last season is that the Bulls are winning even without Rose in the lineup.
How has this happened?
Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson deserve a large amount of credit for creating a roster full of players who work hard every day, but it's Thibodeau who should garner a majority of the praise because he is the one who has to get every player to buy into his system. He is the one who has to make them believe that they can win every night, no matter who is on the floor. He's been able to do that this season despite a rash of injuries that would have broken weaker teams. That's why he should become the first coach in history to win back-to-back coach of the year awards.
POPOVICH IS COACH OF THE YEAR
The Spurs recently soldiered through a lockout trifecta by winning all three games of their home-away-home back-to-back-to-back against Dallas, New Orleans and Philadelphia. This rugged little patch of games could stand for the season in miniature. Put differently, the three-game sweep was a great reminder of why Gregg Popovich should receive COY honors this season.
Popovich "rested" Tony Parker for the first game of San Antonio's B2B2B. It didn't matter. The Spurs dispatched the defending champion Mavericks with a 17-point victory.
During that win streak, the Spurs featured a different starting lineup every night and didn't feature a lineup that included Tim Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili on the court together. Some of the lineups in those games had not played together this season. The Spurs, after all, just mixed newcomers Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw into the rotation.
The Spurs lean heavily on 20-year-old rookie Kawhi Leonard. They start former D-League standout Danny Green at shooting guard. San Antonio lost its backup point guard, T.J. Ford, to an injury-forced early retirement. Tiago Splitter, Parker, Ginobili, Duncan and Gary Neal have spent important games in street clothes. Ginobili, the team's best player, has missed more games than he's played. And so on.
Here's what it comes down to: The Spurs execute better than any team in the NBA. The argument for Popovich as COY is not merely that he has built a remarkably resilient, always successful system in San Antonio. The argument is that Popovich has led so many different players, and so many different combinations of players, to execute the system to perfection.