BOSTON - It's been a season of memories in Boston and the nostalgia tour continues Sunday as Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau visits the Celtics. Thibs has enjoyed nearly unprecedented success early in his first NBA head coaching job and developed his model from success in great part from the Big Three era under Doc Rivers.
"I think the willingness of the best players to sacrifice is huge," Thibs said. "I thought that was the type of team that we wanted to build in Chicago. We wanted to build on our defense, sharing the ball and playing together. Playing as team, putting the team first. And I thought the Celtics teams have embodied that."
Not surprisingly, it was that exact quality that Thibodeau considered his best memory of Boston (aside from that shiny ring). "Probably the group, the willingness to sacrifice for each other," he said. "Of course it starts with Kevin, Ray and Paul. They set the tone for the team and what you didn't see is how hard they worked in practice and I thought that's what made them so special."
Thibs also opined on the return of Rajon Rondo, who has enjoyed a steady and healthy return after Derrick Rose's was cut short.
"It's a tough injury to overcome. I think he's put the work in and just watching his growth overall from where he was when he first came in to; he's experienced it all. When he first got here, it wasn't a very god team. He got through it starting point guard on a championship team. He's gained experience and now he's a veteran leader and he has a new challenge and I think he's one o their building blocks for the future."
Although he's never worked with Brad Stevens, Thibodeau recognizes how well Stevens has performed despite bad results this year. He sees the foundation and support in place for Stevens to succeed in Boston.
"Well, I think Brad is well prepared. You know this day was coming, so I don't think it surprised anybody. It was a great six-year run. I think the future is bright. You have great ownership, great management. Brad's a great coach. To have a guy like Rondo to build around and you have some good players and Danny has been through it a few times now.
"So the one thing about Danny is that he's not afraid. He'll do it through the draft he'll do it through trade. I think people have to be patient. Those were six great years. I know when the trade was made to get Kevin, they were hoping for three. So getting six was a huge plus. The Celtics have always found a way. When you look at the history, every decade they've had great teams and I'm sure this will be no different."
Thibodeau has a similar situation with Joakim Noah assuming leadership two years in a row with Derrick Rose going down. Noah has garnered MVP talk from many, including Stevens, despite not being a dominant scorer.
"Well, it depends on how you define it. For us, I think he does." Thibodeau told CLNS Radio when asked if Noah should be considered for MVP. "What he's meant for our team over the course of the season: we've faced a lot of adversity and he helped lift the team up. He's improved, I think significantly offensively. The defense has always been great. The rebounding; and it's more than just the passing. It's his scoring now, his making quicker decisions. I think that's helped us a lot. But I think the most important thing is helping us win."