Default

Hinrich day-to-day as Bulls prepare for Celtics

938041.png

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.

Wake-up Call: Cubs best Sox in Game 3; Fox, Pace feeling the heat?

Wake-up Call: Cubs best Sox in Game 3; Fox, Pace feeling the heat?

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

Are Ryan Pace and John Fox feeling pressure to win in Year 3?

In midst of breakout season, Avisail Garcia sent to DL with right thumb strain

How the Bears view Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky and their QBs heading into training camp

Pernell McPhee placed on PUP list to start Bears training camp for second straight year

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Why this year feels different to Bears head coach John Fox: 'There's a lot of optimism'

How Addison Russell saved the Cubs' season...for now

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

The Cubs already have a Cy Young Award winner, someone who was transforming into the hottest pitcher on the planet around this time in 2015, and then beat the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in last year’s World Series.

So the Cubs can keep discussing Justin Verlander and trying to figure out the price point where it makes sense, what caliber prospects they would have to give up and how much money the Detroit Tigers would have to kick in to cover a bill that could soar toward $90 million. 

But Jake Arrieta showed why the Cubs might finally start to run away from the division and become a very dangerous team in October, dominating the White Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field during an 8-3 win that vaulted them into first place in the National League Central.          

“We expect to remain in first place,” Arrieta said. “We know it’s going to be a tough task, but that’s kind of what you deal with at the highest level of sports. You expect to have really good competition from teams that are either equal with you or close behind.

“We feel like we have the group to separate ourselves at this point in time and remain in first place for the remainder of the way.”

The Cubs probably don’t have the blue-chip prospects – and the appetite to raid their farm system again – to blow away the Oakland A’s and win a bidding war for Sonny Gray. The Cubs kick the tires on everything, but Yu Darvish would be a rental and the Texas Rangers are torn over what to do with their Japanese star. 

This is another reason why the Cubs are focusing on adding a veteran backup catcher and strengthening the bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline: Arrieta Watch is back, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning in front of a sellout crowd of 38,517 before Omar Narvaez drilled a ground-rule double into the right-center field seats.  

The Cubs are 10-2 since trading for Jose Quintana during the All-Star break, erasing a 5.5-game deficit against the Milwaukee Brewers heading into this weekend’s showdown at Miller Park. At 53-47, the Cubs are a season-high six games over .500, and it all starts with pitching.  

“I think we’ve got the pieces to get it done,” Arrieta said. “If there’s a situation where we can get another guy and not lose any key players, it might work in our favor.

“Obviously, when we traded for Quintana, that’s a huge addition to our ballclub. This guy’s really good. He works his butt off. And just seeing how he carries himself in between starts is a really great sign. To have a guy like that who works extremely hard and cares about the team winning ballgames – you can’t replace that.

“That trade right there in itself is one that’s going to pay huge dividends for this ballclub, not only for this year, but for the next couple years. But we’re a great team right now, and I think we have the pieces to get it done.”  

Arrieta was on cruise control until Yoan Moncada launched his 98th and final pitch – an 0-2 curveball – 409 feet over the center-field wall with two outs in the seventh inning. Arrieta only allowed those two hits, giving up two runs and finishing with five strikeouts against two walks, continuing the correction super-agent Scott Boras predicted when the Chicago media and Cubs fans wondered about his flashes of diminished velocity and spikes in hard contact during a free-agency push.

Arrieta has methodically put together 10 wins and three straight quality starts after the All-Star break, chopping his ERA down from 5.44 in the middle of May to 4.03. Ricky Renteria’s White Sox are obviously tanking for the future and there are a lot of conditions attached to this statement: 

But if Arrieta pitches like this, Jon Lester continues to be one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation, Quintana excels in a pennant race and Kyle Hendricks regains his feel and rhythm after six-plus weeks on the disabled list, then the Cubs might have a better playoff rotation than the one that ended the 108-year drought.     

“We’re feelin’ it,” Arrieta said, thinking back to last summer, when Theo Epstein’s front office added 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman to a team with close to a 99-percent chance of making the playoffs. “I remember last year we were in this clubhouse around this same time, and it’s no different.” 

Look at the competition: The Washington Nationals might be forced into adding a frontline starter now that Stephen Strasburg is headed to the 10-day disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right forearm. The Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping a strained lower back won’t stop Clayton Kershaw from making a few tune-up starts in September before becoming their Game 1 starter in October.

With or without Verlander, the Cubs are ramping up to defend their title.

“I’m going to continue to get stronger as the year progresses,” Arrieta said. “I feel like my best baseball, my best pitching, is still ahead of me. And I’m ready for it.”