2:18pm: Forman once more denied any issues with the coach, as he told reporters, including Johnson (All Twitter links). “While as an organization we try to avoid responding to rumors, there is absolutely no basis to this recent speculation,” Forman said. “We are very proud of what the team and our players have accomplished to this point in the season, and we will not allow anything to detract us from our ultimate goal. The focus of the entire organization from top to bottom is on winning basketball games.”
2:04pm: The tension between the front office and Thibodeau appears to be higher than ever, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com.
9:18am: The relationship between Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls front office is “beyond repair,” several league sources believe, and many people around the NBA wouldn’t be surprised to see the sides mutually part ways this summer, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Still, the Bulls don’t have any plans to make a coaching change this season, Johnson cautions.
Thibodeau is under contract through 2016/17, though a source told Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops recently that the Bulls wouldn’t mind simply eating the rest of his roughly $11MM in salary if they were to let him go. Executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson feels “lukewarm at best” toward the coach, Sheridan hears, but more recently Paxson publicly backed Thibodeau with a strident response to criticism of the coach. GM Gar Forman dismissed the idea that Thibodeau’s job is in jeopardy, as Forman told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times last week.
Rumors of tension between Thibodeau and Bulls management date back more than a year, and the Knicks, among other teams in the past 12 months, eyed the former Coach of the Year in case he shook free from Chicago. Still, at the beginning of this season there was more talk around the Bulls that the team would end up giving Thibodeau a raise than that the sides would part ways, as USA Today’s Sam Amick reported then.
Thibodeau’s hard-charging style is a challenge for his players, and while many of them have publicly backed their boss, some have felt as though he goes too far, according to Sheridan. The Bulls are in a disappointing fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but they’re only a game and a half behind the second-place Raptors and are coming off a signature overtime win against the Warriors.