Hinrich day-to-day as Bulls prepare for Celtics

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Hinrich day-to-day as Bulls prepare for Celtics

DEERFIELD, ILL.After suffering a right hip strain in the first half of Saturday nights Bulls home win over Minnesota, starting point guard Kirk Hinrich underwent an MRI Sunday morning, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed. No determination has been made yet, but its unlikely that the veteran suits up in Monday nights contest against the Boston Celtics at the United Center.

He had an MRI this morning, Thibodeau explained after the teams Sunday-afternoon practice at the United Center. I still havent talked to Bulls head trainer Fred Tedeschi, other than its a strain and right now, hes day-to-day.

Backup point guard Nate Robinson would assume Hinrichs starting duties in the event that the starter is indeed sidelined. Robinson, who scored 18 points in a relief effort Saturday, played for Boston during parts of two season, including the Celtics 2010 run to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers, and part of his role included guarding All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo in practice.

Watching him over the years, just being a fan of basketball, great player. He gets everybody involved and he has a great motor to his game, so Ive got my hands full, but Im ready, said Robinson, who compared playing for Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, a Chicago-area native, to playing for Thibodeau, his former assistant. Just match his intensity, thats about it. Bring the energy, match his intensity and just be ready to play.

Im not trying to make it about me and him. This is a team. Were trying to win the game, were trying to beat the Celtics. Its not me vs. Rondo, its the Bulls vs. the Celtics, he continued after Sundays practice. Hes become a better shooter, as everybody can see. Over the years, hes getting better, more confidence. He knows hes good and thats one thing you need as a basketball player, first and foremost. Know that youre capable of being a great player and hes understood that.

Added Thibodeau: The next guy has to get the job done, so Natell be ready. Nates been around, Nates played against him.

Rondos a great player, but theyre a lot more than just Rondo. Its a very talented team, a very deep team, so we have to be ready for that challenge, the coach went on to say. Rondo, hes a great player. Each year, hes gotten better, hes very smart and theres not anything he cant do. Hes a great playmaker, he can score when he has to, hes a tremendous defensive player, He keeps a lot of pressure on you at all times.

Boston has started out slow this season, as the Celtics are prone to do, but after a busy offseason that saw them lose future Hall of Famer Ray Allen to the rival Heat in free agency, but add several talented newcomers, Thibodeau is wary of his old team. Of course, the core of the team remainsRondo, go-to scorer Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, now playing center on a full-time basisremains the same.

Theyre deep, theyre really deep. They had a great offseason when you have guys like Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa. Their draft was very productive, Jared Sullinger was a great pickup for them. Theyre two-deep at every position, maybe even more. Rondo has the ability to make everyone better, so does Garnett and you cant overlook how great Paul Pierce is, he said. The four and five in their system are basically interchangeable, so I dont think Garnett playing center is a big adjustment. Hes always had the ability to guard everybody on the floor, but I think his quickness at the five is an advantage, it opens up the floor. He and Bass complement each other extremely well and then, of course when you look at Jeff Green, theres another guyall those guys who are coming off the benchBarbosas been a big-time player, Courtney Lees been a starter on a Finals team, Jeff Green started on an excellent Oklahoma City team. Thats quality depth.

Thibodeau claimed that he places no more importance on playing the Celtics than any other team, being that hes worked for so many NBA franchises during his 20 years as an assistant coach before coming to Chicago. Still, he acknowledged that winning the 2008 title with Boston does make somewhat of a difference.

Ive been with so many teams, so I guess it is good motivation every night, he explained. Its interesting because obviously Doc, the organization, Ive been close with them. You win a championship, you are tied to them, so I appreciate that friendship and what their organization did for me. That being said, that was 2008. That was a long time ago, so I look at the roster now, a lot of those guys are gone. But I always have a special spot for them. Its a great organization, Docs a close friend of mine. I wish them well all the time, expect when they play us.

In a light moment Sunday, Thibodeau displayed his humorous side when asked about Hinrichs rivalry with Rondo. For those who dont recall, the two feisty guards got into an altercation during the epic 2009 first-round playoff series between the Bulls and Celtics.

Oh, thats nothing. Those are the good old days, joked Thibodeau, a Celtics assistant coach at the time. To take a line from John Paxson, I dont recall.

Hinrichs potential absence means that rookie Marquis Teague will get more of an opportunity moving forward. Thibodeau was complimentary of the first-round draft picks performance Saturday and is pleased with his progress overall.

I think its just learning the NBA game, learning his teammates, learning the system. Its a big jump going from college from the pros, so hes right where he should be. He gets there early, he stays late. I think hes starting to develop more confidence, he put a lot of work in, Thibodeau said. Hes got to run the team, so in order to run the team, you have to know what your job is and then, youve got to be able to do your job. Then, hes got to be able to do it every day. Hes got to be able to do it in practice, in games, whenever youre called upon. Like yesterday, he didnt play in the first half, called upon and was ready to go. Thats what we expect from him.

Hes figuring it out. Part of it is knowing what our schemes are, part of it is knowing the opponent and what the team is trying to get accomplished, and hes starting to figure that out. His individual defense is actually pretty good. Hes learning more because everything is done in a team scheme. If one guy is breaking down, its going to hurt your scheme, so away from the play, hes still figuring that out. Hes got the initial part down, but hes got great instincts, great quickness, very intelligent and so, I think as he reads things more, I think he can be very disruptive and so, I want him to play to his strengths.

One potential area of concern for the Bulls is the recent play of the slumping Carlos Boozer. The starting power forward shot 0-for-5 from the field Saturday night, but Thibodeau said he was unconcerned.

If you look at his plus-minus, its a plus. His rebounding was very good. His team defense in the third quarter was excellent. Guys go through that. When the balls not going in, you do other things. Hell come around. Hes already proven what hes capable of doing. Hes just got to get some easy scores and once that happens, hell be fine.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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