Del Negro: ‘Minutes are up to players’


Feb 6

By Adam Fluck

Life was so good for the Chicago Bulls just one week ago.

Fresh of a successful Western Conference road trip in which the team won its last five games against opponents with a winning record—the first time that has ever been accomplished in NBA history—Chicago itself had climbed to one game above .500 at 23-22 and looked as if it might be poised to climb up the ranks of the Eastern Conference standings.

Three losses in three games, Joakim Noah being shut down temporarily due to a foot injury and one suspension later, the Bulls find themselves in dire need of a victory or two before the All-Star break.

On Saturday, the Bulls suspended Tyrus Thomas for one game for conduct detrimental to the team.  Thomas will serve his one-game suspension when the Bulls host the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Del Negro did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding suspension, but called the situation “unfortunate” and added, “It’s an internal matter and Gar [Forman] and myself will handle it.”

On the year, the Thomas has appeared in 25 games, starting three times, and averaged 8.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.68 bpg, 1.28 spg and 1.0 apg in 22.5 mpg.

“It’s a one-game suspension,” said Del Negro. “We’ll move forward and get Tyrus back here to practice with us on Monday and get ready for Indiana on Tuesday. It’s unfortunate timing in the short run, but no one player is bigger than the team and there is a responsibility to do things right.”

Upon Thomas’ return from injury on Dec. 26, it appeared as if the fourth-year forward would receive regular minutes and be an important key to the Bulls’ success. At times, he was, but as of late, his playing time had decreased and Friday’s loss in Atlanta marked the fifth consecutive game in which Thomas played 20 minutes or less.

“Minutes are up to players,” said Del Negro. “I’m going to play the guys that give us the best chance to win, that execute the game plan and play hard all the time, that get after it defensively and rebound. There is accountability in things and that doesn’t just go for Tyrus, it goes for all the players. Whatever players are going to give us an opportunity to be successful and play the right way are going to be out there the majority of the time. That’s just the way it is.”

When asked about his most recent individual conversations with Thomas, Del Negro characterized them as “fine.”

“I have an open door policy,” added Del Negro. “I’m available 24/7 for my players and that’s how I deal with it. If there are any issues, whether it is basketball or anything else, I’m there for the players, as is the organization. That’s the way we do business and that’s the way it works.”

Win or lose on Saturday, the beat goes on for the Bulls, who play at Indiana on Tuesday and return home to host the Magic on Wednesday.

With the exception of NBA All-Star Derrick Rose, set to take part in the Skills Challenge and the main event, and Taj Gibson, who will compete in the Rookie Challenge, the team will then get a much-needed break when All-Star festivities take place in Dallas Feb. 12-14.

Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on the one-game suspension of Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah’s progress and defending Heat guard Dwyane Wade (02.06.10):

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