DEERFIELD — For whatever reason, the seemingly illogical question of whether the Bulls would watch the Heat’s championship ring ceremony before Tuesday night’s regular-season opener in Miami has been posed, and even followed up on repeatedly.
As one might expect, none of the queried parties expressed much interest in observing the event—perhaps if recently-waived center Dexter Pittman, who began his NBA career in Miami and won the 2012 NBA title with the squad, was still around, he would have had a different response—but what it led to was the more legitimate question of how the Bulls will spend their time instead. For those who have never paid attention to how the defending champions handle their home opener the subsequent season, both teams will warm up, and then the holdover players and coaches on the title squad will be presented with the championship rings, with the visiting team having the option to either watch the proceedings or return to their locker room.
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In the Bulls’ case, the latter will be the circumstance.
“That’s their moment. We’ll be in the locker room,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There will be things we talk about.”
The coach’s response was essentially the more politically-correct version of what All-Star center Joakim Noah said when asked the same question the previous day: “I don’t want to talk about that.”
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Teammate Luol Deng, who has experienced being on the visiting team when the hosts were presented with their rings in the past—ironically, also in Miami, when the Heat hosted the Bulls to open the 2006-07 regular season after winning the 2006 championship—offered more insight on the topic at hand.
“It’s tough. You’ve got to go through the whole ceremony. It’s a great day for them. The fans are loud, fans are excited. Mentally, you just have to be ready. It takes forever for the game to get started. You just have to stay ready in the locker room,” he explained. “It’s different because after you warm up you go back to the locker room. You’ve just got to find different ways of staying loose. You don’t find yourself in that kind of situation very much. You get a few minutes and you come back out. You’ve just got to do a good job of staying with your routine.”
Thibodeau claimed to only vaguely remember when he was in a similar situation—as an assistant coach in Houston, Thibodeau and the Rockets were the guests of the Pistons for the 2004-05 regular-season opener, the following season after Detroit won a title—but while the detail-oriented, basketball-encyclopedic coach feigned hazy recollections, he acknowledged the pomp and circumstance of being a part of a ceremony for the home team, something he experienced in Boston when the Celtics celebrated their 2008 championship.
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“One time I believe in Detroit we stayed in the locker room. It was so long ago, I can’t really remember. I have a hard time remembering yesterday,” he quipped. “I was fortunate to be part of one. In the NBA, there’s always something. The challenge is always to block whatever distraction there may be out. That’s why you want to establish your habits of how you get ready. Sometimes, there are late starts, early starts, and back-to-backs. You just have to be ready to play. Hopefully you have the mental toughness and discipline to prepare yourself properly.”
Besides the suddenly-taciturn Noah, Thibodeau’s players also took the diplomatic route.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but no, I don’t want to be out there. I’m happy for them, it’s great for them, but it doesn’t make sense for me to watch it,” Deng said. “We’ve been there before. It’s not so much do you like or do you not like. In a regular season we have to play them four times. It just happens to be the first time is when they’re getting their rings.”
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Derrick Rose chimed in: “That’s their ceremony. It’s not ours. I’d see if we were getting our rings. It would be a little bit of a distraction, but for us, we know that we’ve just got to stay focused, come together as a team and really take their first hit because they’re really going to be on charge.”