By Dan Bernstein–
CHICAGO (WSCR) Stacey King called for retaliation. Pacers hoodlum Jeff Foster had just knocked Derrick Rose to the floor, inciting another heated exchange of words between the teams, and King had some words of his own.
“I tell you what, “King said on Comcast SportsNet, sounding eerily like Norm Van Lier. “Any time Foster gets that ball around the basket, he’s gonna get it. The Bulls need to do that, too.”
He had more to say minutes later, after Foster delivered a direct elbow to the head of Luol Deng that was something less than inadvertent.
“I’m gonna tell you right now, he gotta pay,” King insisted. “Somebody gotta hard-foul him.”
I’m glad the Bulls were listening to their coach instead of watching the TV broadcast.
Payback came in the form of another loss, with the Bulls now poised to move past this first-round irritant. No pro-wrestling response was necessary.
After Rose was clobbered by flailing weirdo Tyler Hansbrough on Saturday, Deng was widely praised for his decision to confront Rose’s assailant – a move that drew a technical foul. The rare show of emotion from Deng was seen as a positive.
By everyone not named Tom Thibodeau.
“What I don’t want are fourth-quarter technicals, I can tell you that,” he said. “We have to be smart. Teams that are smart ultimately win. You have to find that balance of playing aggressively but very smart.”
It may feel good to react as King did in the heat of the moment. It’s a natural response to basketball goonery. It’s also detrimental to the goal of winning the game, the series, and ultimately, the championship.
The Bulls, thankfully, are coached to channel that anger into defense and rebounding.
Frank Vogel has instructed his team to clutch, shove, bump, and rake at the ball. That’s what an underdog can do to even things out – deny layups, take away drives, make them hit their free-throws. Test their focus.
It’s reassuring to see that the Bulls are content to play around it. In Rose’s case, around it, over it, around it again, and through it.
“This is the playoffs,” Thibodeau said after the first game, clearly aware of Indiana’s plan for the series. “There are going to be fouls like that. This is ordinary. This is no big deal. Just play.”
A hard foul on Foster may provide cheap, short-lived satisfaction for King and those who agree with him, but it would have done nothing to make the Bulls more likely to win. Foster has been in the NBA for twelve years, playing the same way, and no forearm from Kurt Thomas or undercut by Taj Gibson is going to change anything.
Thibodeau, himself, has no problem with Foster. He went so far as to laud him even after the fouls last night, saying “I have a lot of respect for Foster. He’s tough.”
The Thibs doctrine, we are learning, does not include lowering oneself to an opponent trying to muck things up, abandoning core principles in the process. In fact, it’s the opposite – such tactics are reason for his team to redouble its commitment to them.
“All that other stuff is nonsense,” he said of the post-whistle posturing. “You have to concentrate, execute, do your job, play hard, play defense, set screens. That’s toughness.”
Foster, Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts should enjoy their horseplay while they can, since they’ll be home soon, watching the Bulls on TV with everybody else.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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