Bulls buying into Thibodeau

SACRAMENTO -- Joakim Noah has a secret that he's not afraid to share.

He wants to explain why the Bulls came from behind yet again to knock off the Kings on Saturday night. He wants on-lookers to understand how the Bulls just capped off their first winning "Circus Trip" since the 1997-98 season. So, why did the Bulls wrap up November with a 9-6 record and a seldom-seen confidence?

"We definitely have the identity of our coach," Noah said over the excitement in the locker room late Saturday night. "I think he's probably the hungriest guy I've ever been around, in terms of coaching. I mean, this guy ever since the summer, the guy's in the gym all day. That's an understatement."

To truly understand why the Bulls look like a completely different team this season and why they have a totally different attitude, one must look no further than the clean shaven-man with the baritone voice: First-year head coach Tom Thibodeau.

After Friday night's heartbreaking loss to the Nuggets, the Bulls could have easily folded up their tent and head home. They trailed by 16 points yet again on Saturday and appeared to have no more gas left in the tank. But, as they have so many times this season already, they found yet another way to claw back into the game.

How did they do it?

Thibodeau had a meeting with his players on the team plane Friday night to talk about what happened in Denver and get their minds focused on what they were facing in Sacramento. But long before that, he instilled in them that no matter what obstacle they were facing, they could beat any team in the league. He fostered a confidence and a drive in his players that is unshakable at the moment. Thibodeau and the Bulls truly believe they can beat any team on any given night, no matter what the circumstances are.

"I think it's just our competitive spirit as a team," Noah said, describing how they were able to come back yet again. "I think that that's kind of been our identity so far. I think that not a lot of teams have that. That's something we're proud of and I think people in Chicago can be proud of."

It's something that Thibodeau is undoubtedly proud of as well, but good luck trying to get him to admit it.

"To me, I'm concerned with how we're going each day," he said. "The big thing for us is our improvement. We're still not where we want to be, but I liked our attitude and our approach throughout the trip. I thought we had great focus. I thought we didn't get caught up looking ahead or thinking about being on the road. We took it one step at a time. We didn't get ahead, we didn't look backwards. I thought our focus was great. And I thought each game, we gave ourselves a chance to win. There's still a number of things we've got to clean up."

That attitude is the same one that Thibodeau's players have both on and off the floor now. They have completely bought into everything their new coach is selling.

"This is a game where there were a lot of excuses," Noah said. "Four games in five nights. Carmelo hitting that shot [Friday]. Injuries. People make a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day you got to go out there and you got to play. I think that that's what we've done so far."

The difference in attitude is evident, especially to veteran forward Luol Deng. He's been through all kinds of high and lows with the Bulls over the past few years and he can see that Thibodeau has the team pointed in the right direction.

"Obviously, everybody knows he's a great coach, but he just really knows how to manage us," Deng said. "[We have] a great group of guys, but he knows when to make us work hard and when to step it up. It's just been a great trip. A great trip. And now and we get back home and refocus."

Deng believes that the key to finally pulling of a winning "Circus Trip" was Thibodeau's ability to focus the team on the task at hand.

"I think coach just did a good job of getting our mind off of that," Deng said of past 'Circus Trip' failures. "I've been here for a while, and in the past it was just what everybody talked about. I thought Coach did a good job this year, we took it one game at a time. It didn't even feel like a 'Circus Trip.' That wasn't our mindset. And that's just the right way to attack it."

But how have the Bulls been able to continually attack this year? How does Thibodeau continue to pull the maximum amount of energy out of his players?

"Where does that competitive spirit come from?" Noah said. "I think it's just our character. It's our character. We're a team that, we dig in, we dig deep, and that's something that not everybody has that."

As Noah and his teammates are the first to point out, not everybody has a guy like Thibodeau, either.

"He's hungry," Noah said. "He wants to win so bad. It's great."