Sports

Bulls players on Thibs: Pay the man

Tom ThibodeauChicago BullsDerrick RoseLuol DengCarlos BoozerRichard HamiltonJoakim Noah

A report Friday not only painted coach Tom Thibodeau as “dismayed” over not having been offered a lucrative contract extension, it alleged that “his displeasure with the situation is an open secret in team circles.”

If that’s the case, several Bulls players opted to play dumb.

“No, I didn’t even know that’s the situation,” Luol Deng said of the ESPN.com report.  “He’s not the type of guy to talk to us about it and we’re not the type of team to talk about it.”

Derrick Rose said he wasn't thinking about it.

"You know me, I feed off positive energy," Rose said Saturday at practice. "I'm not worried about it at all. (Thibodeau) wants to be here. It has nothing to do with me. That's all the front office. I know they'll get it done."

Asked if the issue was talked about as a team, Rose said, "Not at all. Just trying to win games."

Said Kyle Korver: “I guess someone mentioned it because it came out (in ESPN.com). But when you say ‘open discussion,’ it’s not locker-room conversation, so I don’t know who’s talking about it.”

Carlos Boozer also played it cool.

“Nah, he doesn’t talk about that stuff,” Boozer said, “but we need to get him an extension ASAP. We know how great he has been for us and what he has meant to this team.

“This is a tough season -– 66 games crunched into four months. I think he has done a great job of pushing us when we need to be pushed and taking his foot off the gas pedal when we need some rest. Our record reflects that. And he’s still teaching us great things. That’s the coach we all want to play for until we finish.”

Asked if he believes Thibodeau will get an extension, Boozer replied: “I wouldn’t worry about it if I was y’all. I’m not worried about it. I don’t think he’s worried about it.”

For the record, Thibodeau said he is not dismayed: “I don't know where that's coming from. I'm not worried about any of that stuff. I'm under contract. I'm fine with everything here.”

And even if he were, there’s not much he could do about it. The second-year coach signed in June 2010 for two years plus a team option, so the Bulls control him through next season.

His reported salary of a little over $2 million was good for a first-time head coach. Thibodeau had leverage because of an offer from the New Orleans Hornets and heavy interest from the New Jersey Nets.

Thibodeau boosted his market value by winning Coach of the Year. And he could repeat, considering the Bulls have the NBA’s best record at 42-11 despite injuries to Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton and Luol Deng.

That could put him in the $4-$5 million range, comparable to what Milwaukee’s Scott Skiles, Orlando’s Stan Van Gundy and the Lakers’ Mike Brown reportedly make. One insider suggested, though, that both sides would rather wait until after the season to gauge his value.

“I think everybody wants to have a long-term contract, whether they play basketball or are an accountant,” Korver said. “Everyone wants to know where they’re going to be. And you want to be appreciated for hard work.”

The Bulls obviously have great affection for their leader.

Joakim Noah said he’d “go to bat for Thibs any day.”

Deng did just that, saying he hopes Thibodeau will be extended.

“Not just for me but for this organization,” he said. “If we don’t bring him back, someone is going to take him. He is that good.”

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

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