SAN ANTONIO -- Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf views the Chicago Bulls as a "mediocre" team. And given that they entered Wednesday night's game here against the San Antonio Spurs with a 22-22 record, that point would be hard to argue.
But coach Tom Thibodeau sees it differently, saying: "Jerry owns the team, so he is entitled to say whatever he wants. The way I feel about our team is this: I'm really proud of them, and I think we can do even better. So I'm not selling them short."
The Bulls began their six-game trip with a 96-86 victory over a Spurs team that began the night 21 games above .500. Not bad for a "mediocre" team.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Bulls, who were led by Jimmy Butler's 19 points and Carlos Boozer's 12 rebounds.
The Bulls, who committed just seven turnovers and allowed just six offensive rebounds, took control in the third quarter with a 14-3 run.
Joakim Noah had 10 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 blocks in 39 minutes. This after he missed Monday's game with an illness and said repeatedly Wednesday morning that he felt terrible.
"He's fine now," Thibodeau said. "You guys all know Jo's not a morning person."
Kirk Hinrich returned after missing four straight games with a hamstring injury. He scored 11 points, hitting a runner high off the glass in the fourth quarter.
"I felt good," Hinrich said. "I felt like my second stretch of minutes was better."
While calling the Bulls a "middle-of-the-pack team," Reinsdorf also told WGN-Ch. 9 that the "future looks good, and you have to be proud of the way they've played this year. ... They never give up. That's a reflection of the coach and also the general manager."
The Bulls improved to 14-6 since Dec. 21, handing the Spurs their third straight loss.
"It's one win; you can't get crazy about it," Thibodeau said. "But I love the spirit of our team."
Thibodeau also reflected on comments Charles Barkley made to WMVP-AM 1000 that the Bulls were "cheap" in how they dealt with Thibodeau's extension.
"The guy is one of the best coaches in the NBA and they make him wait," Barkley said. "It was like pulling teeth getting a contract. I really don't have any problem with anything else they did. I have no problem with the Deng trade. ... "(But) I think they are in a very awkward situation. If they don't do something dramatic like bring in a Carmelo (Anthony), they are going to be irrelevant for the next few years."
Thibodeau's response: "Jerry, with me, has been terrific; I don't have any problems with Jerry. There are a lot of decisions that have to be made that are tough. You do what you think is right. You don't get 'em all right, but hopefully you get more right than wrong."
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