Hinrich a game-time decision for 'Circus Trip' opener

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Hinrich a game-time decision for 'Circus Trip' opener

PHOENIXKirk Hinrich was one of the first players on the floor at U.S. Airways Arena for the Bulls morning shootaround and immediately began shooting with an assistant coach, conveniently avoiding the small group of media who had traveled from Chicago. However, while the veteran point guard didnt talk about his status for Wednesday evenings game against the Suns, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, in his typically cautious fashion, expressed optimism that he would be in the lineup.

Well see. Hes feeling better. Well see what he can do, a surprisingly jovial Thibodeau said.He was a lot better yesterday and well see after this morning and then tonight, warming up.

I know hes feeling a lot better, so we have to let him get out there. He did some out there yesterday and feels a lot better today, he continued. Its always a game-time decision. A lot can happen between shootaround and the game. A guy gets treatment. You never know.

Obviously Nate will be the backup, Kirk will start and Marquis is there and ready. As I mentioned before, each day he comes in, hes working hard, hes improving and were not afraid to use him. Hes a good player.

A person familiar with the situation said he expects Hinrich to suit up Wednesday, a sentiment Hinrich was unwilling to fully commit tothough he was dealt to Washington just prior to Thibodeaus hiring, the floor generals habit of not disclosing personal information is very similar to the coachsafter Tuesday afternoons practice at the Berto Center, the teams final session before departing for the current five-game road trip.

Im feeling better, so Im just happy with the progress and Ill just keep trying to get better. I guess just how I move. Between now and Wednesday, I just have to do as much treatment as I can, and at some point, I have to really push it, test it, to see how I feel, Hinrich explained, noting that the Bulls mostly reviewed film Tuesday, though they were engaged in some light shooting and drill work when media availability began. Its come down over the last couple days. Originally, after I had to leave the Minnesota game, I was pretty bummed out. It just wasnt trending good. I dont want to be in and out of the lineup. I want to be in the lineup, stay in the lineup and my focus right now is to figure out the root of my problem, and whats causing these issues and take care of them, and stay on top of them.

My focus is just trying to figure out whats causing all my muscular problems and just go from there.

Hinrich, an understated type, also discussed the benefits of the team-building experience that occurs on extended road trips, as well as expressing confidence in the play of rookie Marquis Teague, who played solid basketball down the stretch of Monday nights home loss to the Celtics.

I think were all excited to get out on the road. On the road, its just us. Were all weve got. We dont have the fans, everything like that behind us, so its kind of a fun experience. So, well get out there, hopefully play some really good basketball, he said. Teague did really good. Hes a very talented player, very good athlete, long arms, good shooter. I try to sometimes step back and think what it would be like if I was 19. He did great. I try not to overwhelm him. I want him to know that if he has any questions, Im here for him, but more than anything, help him by example.

Thibodeau, as usual, broke down the strengths of his teams opponent, Phoenix, a rebuilding squad that has some offensive firepower.

Theyre versatile, theyre quick, they get the ball up the floor quickly, they can get into multiple pick-and-rolls, the skill set of their players. Dudleys a terrific basketball player. Dragic puts a lot of pressure off the dribble. Beasley, he can play the three, the four, hes inside, hes outside, hes off the dribble. Scola is very clever, you have to be discipline, shot-fake discipline, he knows how to score. Gortat is one of the most underrated big guys in the league. So, theyre a very good team, they have excellent shot-blocking. If they turn you over, now theyre in the open floor. That puts a lot of pressure on you. We just have to be ready from the start of the game, he said. There will be many pick-and-rolls in this game and often times, its not the initial pick-and-roll, its the second or third one on the same play, where theres the constant re-picking, so you have to have the discipline to, if you defend the first one well, you have to defend the second one, the third one. So, it has to be a multiple-effort mentality and everybody has to stay tied together. So, if we do that, we take care of the ball, the paint, then react out, well be okay.

When asked about the recent playing time of shooting guard Rip Hamilton, the coach revealed that due to the veterans injury-plagued campaign last season, hes being careful about the starters minutes.

I think Rips done fine and Im trying to monitor his minutes also right now, and the big thing for him and for us is his health, so thats what Im concerned with most and obviously, if we have to extend our defense, that changes things, too. But I think Rip has done well, Thibodeau explained. Hes fine. I just want to make sure it remains that way.

Of course, were monitoring that Hinrichs playing time, as well, just because of whats happened so far, but well see.

Sights and Sounds from Cubs visit to Donald Trump's White House

Sights and Sounds from Cubs visit to Donald Trump's White House

The 45th President of the United States Donald Trump welcomed the 2016 World Series champion Cubs to The White House on Wednesday afternoon.

While attendance was optional due to the Cubs already holding a formal ceremony with former President Barack Obama last January, several Cubs players and manager Joe Maddon attended Wednesday's gathering. 

Check out some of the sights and sounds from the Cubs busy day in D.C.

Vice President Mike Pence gets his own Cubs jersey.

Trump wants to know who the best hitter on the Cubs is so he can pick them up for his fantasy baseball team (we made up that last part).

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert crashes the party.

The Cubs display a card displaying No. 45 for President Trump.

Who is the Cubs owner in this picture?

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Miguel Montero is out and Victor Caratini is in.

The Cubs made a shakeup at catcher Wednesday and will have to forge the last half of the 2017 season without the presence of veteran Montero, who has 1,149 MLB games under his belt and was hitting .286 with an .805 OPS this year.

But Montero talked his way out of town and Caratini is the immediate choice for a replacement behind starting backstop Willson Contreras.

[Where it all went wrong with Miguel Montero and the Cubs]

Caratini is a 23-year-old switch-hitter whom the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 as part of the Emilio Bonifacio/James Russell deadline deal. The Braves initially selected Caratini in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

The Puerto Rican native has mostly played catcher (297 games) in his minor-league career, but has also seen time at first base (76 games) and third base (57 games). 

Caratini got his first taste of big-league spring training action this season, impressing with a .379 average and 1.175 OPS in 16 games (29 at-bats).

He is enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .343 with a .384 on-base percentage and .923 OPS.

Caratini has already set a career high with eight home runs while clubbing 20 doubles and driving in 54 runs in 68 games. He also has only 40 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.

The Cubs named Caratini the organization's minor league player of the month in May after he drove in 17 runs in 24 games while hitting .366 with a .573 slugging percentage.

Caratini also should help the Cubs running game — an area where Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners. Caratini has nabbed 28 percent of would-be basestealers in Iowa, a mark that is directly even with the MLB average.

Contreras is throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.

Caratini figures to be the short-term answer for the Cubs at catcher given the organzation doesn't have many other options. Kyle Schwarber has not been a viable option behind the plate after recovering from major knee surgery that sapped almost his entire 2016 season. Taylor Davis — a 27-year-old catcher/infielder — is currently on the disabled list and has yet to make his MLB debut.