By David Schuster-
(CBS) Out of the blue Monday night, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau brought up the San Antonio Spurs to the point that the reigning champions are already setting the example of a team that wants to defend their NBA title. In Thibodeau’s words, San Antonio is the “gold standard” on how to operate, and he’s exactly right. But in the context he was referring to the Spurs, Thibodeau was off base in using them as an example when it comes to getting a team as ready as possible when it comes to winning championships.
Thibodeau tried to rationalize the minutes being played by both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in the Spurs’ first two exhibition games as evidence that you have to go all out all the time. Yes, it was true that both Duncan and Parker played at least 33 minutes apiece in each of those two contest. It’s also true that those games were being played over in Europe, where the NBA is trying to showcase their stars on a goodwill tour of sorts, and the Spurs then had four days off until their next preseason contest.
You can bet your bottom dollar that neither Duncan or Parker will play those kind of minutes once the Spurs return to the States and likely will even take a game or two off before the regular season arrives.
And if Thibodeau wants to follow Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s ways, then he should really do his homework. Popovich is truly the “gold standard” for putting winning championships in front of winning every quarter of every regular-season game. Popovich is well known for resting his star players during the regular season so as to have them in optimal condition comes April, May and June.
More than once, Popovich has rested his star players for entire games. The most classic example was two years ago, when the Spurs were in the midst of a four-games-in-five-days stretch and playing a nationally televised game at Miami against LeBron James and the Heat. This was a marquee game for the league, but Popovich couldn’t have cared less and sent his stars home and sacrificed that game in order to have them fresh for later on. In other words: To heck with the battle, he was trying to win the war.
Thibioeau is a brilliant coach on a multitude of levels, but he continues to have that stubborn streak when it comes to driving his players to perfection. This year’s roster is both talented and deep, and he needs to have a firm control of knowing how to utilize it. And that means the proper rest for players, so as to not have them burned out or injured come the all-important playoff months in the spring and summer.
Thibodeau is known for his attention to detail, but when he used the Spurs as an example of how to get a team ready to win a championship, he was incorrect. Popovich gets it, and hopefully Thibodeau will go back and re-examine the blue print from that “gold standard.”
David Schuster is a reporter, update anchor and weekend host for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @Schumouse.