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Basketball / Sports

Speculation about future of Bulls' Thibodeau continues

Some speculation surrounding Tom Thibodeau's future -- much of it a stretch -- has him following close friend Doc Rivers' path from last summer, in which an organization trades for a coach.

Rivers helped the Celtics receive a 2015 first-round pick in compensation when he bypassed the final three seasons of his contract for an identical three-year, $21 million deal with the Clippers. He called Thibodeau "one of my best friends," so he's biased.

But Rivers, who spent three of his nine seasons in Boston with Thibodeau as his associate head coach, said Bulls management shouldn't let Thibodeau walk from the final three seasons of his extension.

"It'd be nuts not to have him here," Rivers said. "He's one of the best coaches in this league. ... I don't think any right-minded organization would allow that asset to leave. Because with all this adversity they've had with injuries, if you allow that one to leave, things will fall apart. That would be pretty much a guarantee."

Bulls management, which consistently praises Thibodeau publicly, gave him his first NBA head coaching chance and rewarded him with a $17.5 million extension. So any suggestion the front office doesn't value him is misleading.

Still, management has talked about the need to "unite and move forward" after decisions Thibodeau didn't fully endorse, such as assistant coach Ron Adams' dismissal and the trade of Luol Deng. Behind the scenes, divisiveness remains.

Thibodeau poked fun at the media for creating rumors about his future.

"Now the rumor about my date with Kate Upton started by me, I'm not commenting on that either," he said.

The speculation mostly has centered on the Knicks making a run at Thibodeau should they fire Mike Woodson. While Thibodeau has strong feelings for his time assisting Jeff Van Gundy in New York, it would be a surprise if he walked away from Derrick Rose and the potential of a retooling in a city he has grown to enjoy.

Sources indicated the Bulls would demand compensation similar to what the Celtics received for Rivers if the situation got to that point.

Thibodeau repeatedly has said he loves his team and the fight it shows through adversity.

"He just doesn't relent," Rivers said. "He doesn't believe because a guy gets injured -- even a guy like Rose -- that the team should go away. He instills that in his players. And he has some pretty good players who believe that.

"They have a lot of like-minded players to Thibs. (Joakim) Noah is that way. (Kirk) Hinrich is absolutely that way. (Taj) Gibson is becoming that way."

The Bulls drafted all of those players before Thibodeau arrived.

Kirk Hinrich wasn't scheduled to travel to Charlotte because of his strained right hamstring, which Thibodeau said will sideline him at least until next week.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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