Tom Thibodeau gets defensive over Bulls' minutes allocation

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Thibodeau came out swinging after another wave of criticism of how he's playing some Chicago Bulls heavy minutes.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn't ducking questions about how many minutes he keeps his best players on the court. After a triple-overtime win against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, Thibodeau took heat for playing swingman Jimmy Butler 60 out of an available 63 minutes.

On Friday, he not only responded to the criticism, but made it clear he's going to defend himself regarding the issue, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

"Overall, our minutes are way below what normal starters do," Thibodeau said. "And if you guys study the history of the league, which I'm sure you do, the great Bulls teams you'd see that (Michael) Jordan and (Scottie) Pippen well into their 30s were playing huge minutes. So I'm trying to be like Phil (Jackson)."

The snappiness was a theme of Thibodeau's media session. The Bulls coach also cited Spurs coach Gregg Popovich playing Tim Duncan heavy minutes in the big man's younger days. Thibodeau's main gripe is that the criticism doesn't take into account how Chicago takes days off of practicing.

"There's a lot of things that go into it," he said. "I think I have a pretty good understanding after 24 years how to pace a team."

While being tired after one game is one thing, the Chicago media has been critical of the longterm affects of such heavy minutes.

The minutes argument, Thibodeau said, is "apples to apples." Butler relatively hasn't been playing many minutes and is averaging 34.4 minutes per game in 24 outings this year. In his last 10 games, however, Butler is averaging 41.6 minutes per game and is dealing with a thigh bruise and turf toe injury.

After the game in which he shot 6-for-17 from the field, the Bulls swingman made it clear he was a bit worn down.

It seems that Thibodeau isn't going to change. And so the debate over how he handles his players' minutes will likely rage on.

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