By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) As the Bulls begin again, keep in mind the biggest reason why Fred Hoiberg is here and Tom Thibodeau is not.
Management and ownership were frustrated and angry about their team being used up by playoff time, overworked on too many nights in the fall and winter in the relatively meaningless chase for regular-season wins. With Thibodeau, it was always about the very next possession, with no larger vision applied to what was best in competing for more important goals.
Enter the handpicked alternative coach, with whom there will be no clashes over minute loads and practice demands.
This is the NBA now. Teams know that maintaining health through 82 preliminaries is the only way to remain viable for championships, and they’re doing everything in their power to ensure it. Many are hiring specialists, others consulting and tracking more data, all working to figure out how to avoid injuries. Everyone is Gregg Popovich, who was ahead of his time in understanding this and acting on it.
There are no guarantees, only likelihoods. The Bulls have made it clear that they want to try harder to give themselves the best chance.
So, remember: There are no “statement games” until next spring, no “messages sent” to rivals by beating them any time before it’s part of a series. That’s half a calendar year from now, during which time the Bulls want to establish their new offensive identity and win enough to ensure more playoff games at home.
It’s fun when the season starts, of course, but when you’re a contender that’s not really until May.