Generally speaking, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is precisely the kind of guy you'd want at the helm of your basketball team. He's a borderline genius when it comes to scheming defenses, his track record of success in the head coaching role is superb, and his players are seemingly always as focused on winning as he is.
The way he used Luol Deng and Taj Gibson against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, however, is something worth genuinely questioning.
In that game, a 93-89 loss for Chicago, Thibodeau didn't just play his forwards for heavy minutes -- he refused to even take them out of the game. With Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer sidelined by injuries, Thibodeau decided that nobody else on the roster was worth playing.
Now, it's worth noting that Thibodeau likely thought it was the best way to give his team a chance to win, and those two players didn't have any public issues with the decisions after the game. But the way he used arguably his two best players -- Gibson played all 48 minutes, while Deng sat out four seconds -- does garner some legitimate questions.
For example, why does Thibodeau have the likes of Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic and Daequan Cook on his roster if he doesn't plan on using them, even when three starters are injured? Obviously the construction of the roster can't be pinned on the coach, but isn't there a disconnect when the front office is acquiring players the coach won't use?
But more importantly, one has to wonder how this kind of playing time will affect the likes of Deng and Gibson in the spring when the team will ideally be competing for a championship. Noah, playing more minutes this season than ever before, has already shown signs of breaking down -- he's currently sidelined indefinitely with plantar fasciitis.
The Bulls may have gone cheap over the summer in rebuilding their bench, but this is still a team built to win today. With that said, Deng and Gibson aren't on their last legs, and they're supposed to be part of a core that can contend for awhile. Playing entire games with zero rest does little to keep that plan intact.
Even if guys like Mohammed and Cook aren't good players, they're serviceable, and it's not like Thibodeau needs guys to play 20-plus minutes a night. Getting each of them 10-15 minutes in February games that aren't especially important is worth considering, if only to keep the better guys fresher late in the season.
Generally speaking, I prefer to defer to the brilliance of someone like Thibodeau, who has shown along the way that he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, what he did on Friday is something few coaches would do, and it's worth wondering how smart it really was.