Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on Friday defended how he divvied up playing time in Wednesday night's triple-overtime win over the Orlando Magic, specifically the fact Jimmy Butler played a franchise-record 60 minutes, 20 seconds. "Any time you have a triple-overtime game, if you look at any box score in a triple-overtime game, there's going to be guys that play minutes," Thibodeau said after Friday morning's shootaround. "You can't not play guys." Thibodeau has been criticized in years past for overplaying All-Star Luol Deng and, before his string of injuries, former league MVP Derrick Rose. Now he's come under fire for his use of Butler, even though none of his players lead the league in minutes played. "I think you guys watch that," he said. "I think when you look at that, you have to compare apples to apples. If you look at the top small forwards in the league, and you look at where their minutes are, they all average 37-38 minutes. So if you want to say Lu played 20 seconds a game more than he should have, so be it. If you look at total minutes, he wasn't even close. But overall, our minutes are way below what normal starters do." Thibodeau referenced the championship Bulls, and the way Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson doled out minutes, in his defense. "And if you guys study the history of the league, which I'm sure you do, and the great Bulls teams, you'd see that Jordan, Pippen well into their 30s were playing huge minutes," he said. "So I'm trying to be like Phil." Having spent almost 20 years in the NBA as an assistant before getting his first head coaching chance with the Bulls, it's clear Thibodeau learned a lot from watching Jackson. "I sat on that other bench," he said. "And I was always sitting their saying, 'When's he going to take them out? When's he going to take them out?' And he never did. And you know what? That was great coaching. "And [Gregg] Popovich was the same way with Duncan early on in his career. I think Pop, he and Phil are two of the best, maybe the greatest of all time." For his part, Butler says he will play Friday night against the Washington Wizards after spending much of Thursday getting treatment for his aching body.
Thibs defends Butler use after 60-minute game
ESPN Chicago | Jan 17