SAN ANTONIO — Heading into Wednesday night’s matchup with the Spurs, the Bulls are in the familiar situation of not being at full strength.
But in Tom Thibodeau’s opinion, that shouldn’t matter, particularly when considering his team’s opponent, who are missing All-Star point guard and MVP candidate Tony Parker.
[RELATED: Bulls battle Parker-less Spurs on CSN]
“You’re never going to replace Parker individually. You have to do that collectively and that’s pretty much been the Spurs’ philosophy from Day 1, since Pop’s been here,” Thibodeau said before the Bulls’ morning shootaround at the AT&T Center. “They do everything as a team and that’s what allows you to get past, when you do have injuries, to give yourselves a chance to win.”
Thibodeau went on to praise the Spurs’ depth, but singled out future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili — the other member of San Antonio’s “Big Three,” which was out of the lineup when the Bulls lost to the Spurs at the United Center last month — and coaching counterpart Gregg Popovich.
“Tim is Tim and Manu gives them another guy who can go off the dribble, but I think they have quality depth. They’re so deep that when one guy’s out, they can shift to a different facilitator for their offense. The way they run their offense allows them to put a lot of different people in charge of it, too. They can run it through their twos, they can run it through their bigs. They share the ball, they make quick decisions, they have great spacing. But the biggest thing for them has been their improvement defensively. Even last year, they were pretty good, but they’ve gone to a different level last year, so it says a lot about their commitment,” Thibodeau said.
“[Popovich is] such a great coach. I think he’s set the standard for all of us and not only a great coach, but the way he carries himself. You’re talking about a guy who’s accomplished so much, but he still has great humility. He does things with integrity.”
Although Parker will miss Wednesday’s contest with an ankle injury, the Bulls will also be without their own starting point guard, veteran Kirk Hinrich, who will miss his second consecutive game with a sore right foot.
“No, not tonight,” said Hinrich, who was wearing a walking boot at shootaround. “It’s just not at the point where I can put pressure on it. I’m still in the boot and hurting to walk.
“Still just treating it and resting it. Hopefully it’ll get better sooner than later,” he continued. “Take it day-to-day and do everything I can to take care of it and get it healthy.”
[RELATED: Thibodeau preaches patience on Rose's status]
The Bulls will have the services of power forward Carlos Boozer, who didn’t travel with the team Monday to San Antonio and missed Tuesday’s practice due to personal reasons, but was present Wednesday.
Boozer confirmed that he’ll be in action for the game and said he was looking forward to competing against Duncan, a former Western Conference rival from his days in Utah.
“Awesome player. Huge fan. Good friend of mine. Very skilled, having another great season. Should be a great matchup,” Boozer said. “Timmy does a good job of taking care of his body, does a great job of playing under control and he’s a very efficient power forward. Very efficient player, takes shots he can make, passes the ball when it’s not going to be a turnover, very rarely makes mistakes out there. Very good player.”
Thibodeau wouldn’t reveal his starters for the contest — “Depends on who’s available,” he said, tongue-in-cheek — but he’s expected to trot out the same lineup as he did for Sunday’s loss at Indiana: Boozer, All-Stars Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, Nate Robinson in place of Hinrich and Marco Belinelli for injured shooting guard Rip Hamilton, who didn’t make the trip due to lower back spasms.
“No, not really,” the coach said, when asked about a timetable for Hamilton’s return. “His back locked up.”
Robinson is also banged up, having suffered a left-rib injury in Saturday’s home win over Brooklyn, but Thibodeau noted that the backup point guard “was good yesterday.”
“It’s the NBA. Everyone on the team is capable and whoever you have, you just have to get out there and get the job done,” he said. “The big thing for us is to continue to concentrate on improvement, build the right habits, so we can be successful at the end.”
Boozer acknowledged that the Bulls’ health moving forward is the team’s top concern as the postseason approaches.
[MORE: Bulls' absences continue to pile up]
“We have a few guys out there that we’re going to need in the playoffs in a big way. The No. 1 thing to me is being healthy. Two, continue to execute the way we execute, be a little bit more efficient offensively,” he said. “But the biggest thing is being healthy. I think us being healthy gives us our best chance of being successful. Short-handed, not that we couldn’t do it, but I think our chances go down a little bit.”