MINNEAPOLIS — With his Timberwolves leading the Lakers by 17 points with five minutes to play Monday night, coach Tom Thibodeau decided his team needed a stop. So he crouched down into a stance on the sideline and started to slide his feet.
Not bad form for a guy two weeks shy of his 60th birthday.
After the game, Thibodeau denied the action before smiling and stepping away from the podium, but the tape provides all the evidence you need. When asked about the coach's defense after the game, Jimmy Butler said he'd already heard about it.
"He's into the game," Butler said. "I guess that defensive stance is showing, 'Yo, I can play defense if I'm needed.'"
Just another day in the life of one of the NBA's most active sideline generals. From his incessant yelling at officials, to calling plays to imploring his players to defend or run in transition, to trying to will shots in (or out) with his body language, Thibodeau coaches — hard — from the first play of each game to the last.
"It's like he's in the game, too, so that's amazing," Jamal Crawford said. "You don't see that often. You watch other coaches, that's not happening."
Yeah, there are probably times when his players wished Thibodeau would cool it for a bit during games, but Taj Gibson revealed a simple coping mechanism.
"Most of the guys have been here for a while, everybody knows to block him out," said Gibson, an expert on playing for Thibodeau. "He's going to let you play. The only time when you really listen is when he's giving defensive coverages; but other than that, you've got to block him out."
Because Thibodeau will keep yelling, whether you're playing well or not.
"He's like a kid like playing 2K," said a laughing Gibson, referencing the NBA video game. "He's always raging, no matter what. He's always raging throughout the whole game. He doesn't care, he's always on you, good or bad, he's on you. You've just got to block him out sometimes."
Or, if you've got the kind of rapport Gibson has with Thibodeau, you can occasionally respond.
"I'll be yelling at him sometimes when I mess up, like, 'Be quiet, sit down, Thibs!'" Gibson said. "You've got to just throw your shots and keep running. He's into it. No matter if we're up 30, he's still into it. The moment the ball tips off he stands up, you can't do nothing about it."
Traditionally, Thibodeau spends about 10 seconds sitting in his seat on the bench — the first 10 seconds.
"I laugh when he sits down at first, because I know his seat is not going to be warm," Gibson said. "It's not going to be warm long. He's out of there."
Butler doesn't dare laugh at Thibodeau's in-game antics "because he'll probably be even more angry." But it's clear the players find the humor in them, and see the positives, too.
"You see your coach over there and knowing he can't get in the game, but that passion he has, I think it's very, very motivating," Crawford said, "because that's real."
Said Butler: "I don't know, man, the way he coaches, that style, we all love it — and hate it, sometimes — but at the end of the day, you're going to run through the wall for that guy."