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.