Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

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Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

DEERFIELDWhen Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau started his breakdown of the Wizards, his teams next opponent, after Fridays practice by saying theyre good, at the time, it could be chalked up to the coachs habit of showing almost reverential deference to every squad in the league. But after Washington won its fourth game of the season later that evening, beating a Magic team that has impressed observers thus far in the campaignalbeit not the most talented club and playing without arguably their best player, injured power forward Glen Big Baby Davisto snap an eight-game losing streak, one can assume that the Bulls will do everything in their power not to let Thibodeaus cautionary advice become prophecy.

If you look at their record, you would say, Oh, OK, theyre not having a great season, and once you look deeper and you see that, OK, theyve had a lot of injuries, Thibodeau rhapsodized after the Bulls shootaround Saturday morning at the Berto Center. John Walls been out virtually the whole season, Nene was out for a good chunk of that. So, you take a quality big like Nene and a good point guard off your team, youre going to feel it, and theyve had an opportunity to have some time together, guys are coming back, their bigs are tough to match up with.

Jordan Crawford is a load, Bradley Beal is a bright young player, Martell Webster has been a good player in the league for a long timeand hes had some health issues to deal with in his careerbut those all are quality players and then you add in a couple of guys like D-League call-up point guards Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack, two quality players that are under the radar, that are very hungry, so theyre a dangerous team, he continued with his breakdown. To me, theyre a quality team and the reason their record is like it is, is more because of the injuries that theyve had, but they played very, very well last night. Theyve played well in a lot of games that they lost, so we know how good they are. We have to be ready.

To face those aforementioned juggernauts Saturday night at the United Center, Thibodeau will have the services of Rip Hamilton, the Bulls starting shooting guard, who broke into the league with the Wizards, after the veteran missed nearly a month of action after tearing his left plantar fascia in a Dec. 1 win over Philadelphia. The coach wouldnt divulge it to the assembled media but Hamilton will playand start, moving understudy Marco Belinelli back to the bench, though the reserve will likely play the bulk of the minutes at the position, with Hamilton in a limited-minutes rolea source told CSNChicago.com.

Well see before the game. He went through shootaround, Thibodeau said. Everything is good so far. If there arent any problems, hell go.

Like Hamilton, bookend starting wing Luol Deng is a game-time decision after spraining his right ankle in the teams Christmas Day loss to Houston. Deng was also a full participant in the morning session and while Thibodeau wouldnt confirm whether or not the small forward and league minutes-per-game leader would suit up, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, Deng will also play Saturday.

Thibodeau is more focused on the Bulls righting the ship after two consecutive double-digit defeats than informing the media of his plans and with the opportunity to log some practice time, the coach indicated that the specific aspects that troubled him the most in blowout losses to the Hawks and Rockets were addressed.

Weve had the opportunity to have some quality practice time, so well see when we get out there, he explained. Usually, you have slippage in a lot of areas and often times, when you look at your schedule, you see that you havent had a lot of practice time and youre trying to make your corrections in film sessions, walk-throughs and sometimes, you need to be on the floor to get it done.

We had the opportunity to watch and see some of the things were not doing well, and you have to correct those first. I think the big thing is to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourselves first. We know if we defend and we rebound, and we take care of the ball, you do those three things, youre going to be in position to win, so we have to get back to taking care of those three things.

Aside from his own team, Thibodeau also touched on the coaching fate of Avery Johnson, who he coached in San Antonio. Johnson was fired from his position as the Brooklyn Nets head coachassistant P.J. Carlesimo is the teams interim head coach, but among the names who are being speculated to potentially be permanent replacements are Phil Jackson and current TV broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, Thibodeaus former bossThursday after being named the Eastern Conferences Coach of the Month in November.

Johnson is a hell of a guy and I think hes a great coach. Its a the unfortunate part of this profession. It seems like its awfully quick. They got off to a great start and they had some injuries, so I wish him well, Thibodeau said. I know him personally. I know the type of coach that he is. Hes a terrific coach, so I feel badly for him.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”