DEERFIELD, Ill. — For the first time in two weeks, the Bulls will play in Chicago, and while the team is grateful to be back at the United Center for Monday night’s game against New Orleans, coming off their 1-5 record on the “Circus Trip,” there’s also a sense of urgency.
“We’re excited to play at home, haven’t played at home in a long time,” All-Star center Joakim Noah said after the team’s morning shootaround at the Berto Center. “Got to get it together and it starts tonight.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: “Everyone’s dangerous. You’ve got to be ready for everyone. All we’re thinking about is New Orleans, that’s it. We’ve had a heavy road schedule, so we’re coming home.
“But we have to play well. We have to understand what goes into winning.,” he continued. “We had some games that we felt we could have gotten on that trip, so we have to make the necessary improvements and get ready for New Orleans.”
The visiting Pelicans will be without Chicago native Anthony Davis, the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, as the big man, who is in the midst of a breakout season, suffered a left-hand fracture in Sunday’s win in New York. New Orleans still has plenty of offensive firepower, between the potent backcourt of shooting guard Eric Gordon and All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, and reserve scorers Tyreke Evans and stretch-four Ryan Anderson.
“You hate to see that. He’s a great talent, he’s a great kid. I was around him with USA Basketball. You feel for him. But they’re a really good team. They’re a very deep team,” Thibodeau said. “When they went to the bench, Anderson got in, played more. They spread you out. Evans is a very explosive off-the-bench guy, Gordon can light it up, Holiday was a great pickup, [center Jason] Smith is very active, [backup point guard Brian] Roberts has done a nice job for them, Austin Rivers is an X-factor, [small forward Al-Farouq] Aminu can guard as well as anyone in the league. So they’re a tough team.”
Noah chimed in: “They’re very different [without Davis]. They’re more perimeter-oriented. Ryan Anderson is playing really well. He’s shooting the ball very well, he’s a matchup problem. So we have to be aware of him. They’ve got a lot of great scorers. It’s going to be a tough game.”