Central Notes: Thibodeau, Blatt, J.R. Smith

It’s well-known throughout the NBA that the Bulls would grant other teams permission to interview Tom Thibodeau if they asked, but no team has done so this year, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Johnson believes that suggests the options for Thibs to coach elsewhere next season are fading and sees Chicago’s slow-paced approach to Thibodeau so far this offseason as a sign that the team isn’t opposed to simply paying off the $9MM left on his contract and parting ways with him. There’s more on the Thibodeau drama amid the latest from the Central Division:

  • There is indeed a set-off clause in Thibodeau’s contract, so the Bulls would recoup at least part of that money — and as much as 100% of it if his contract is like that of most coaches, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com recently detailed — if the Bulls fire him and he ends up with another job, Johnson reports in the same piece. Still, it’s unknown how owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who Johnson refers to as an occasional “oasis” of sorts for Thibodeau amid the coach’s squabbles with management, wants the situation to play out, Thibs received more pushback from players this year than ever, Johnson adds.
  • Cavs owner Dan Gilbert insists that the team never considered firing coach David Blatt, in spite of a report to the contrary and another that indicated the organization was concerned by Blatt’s uneven early season performance, as Gilbert said to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The owner said his confidence never wavered about the coach who’s in his first NBA job. “It really didn’t,” Gilbert said. “I don’t care what the expectations were, especially after we changed coaches twice in two years. This was a guy with a long-term record of success. You have to at least give a season, maybe more than just one. I think it would have destabilized the entire franchise and it would have been bad.”
  • Cleveland received permission from the Knicks to talk to J.R. Smith prior to trading for him in January, and he impressed upon the Cavs that he was excited for the chance to play with them, writes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Smith later said that he would walk to Cleveland to play with LeBron James, Isola adds amid a story that casts the Cavs as a long-term threat atop the Eastern Conference.
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