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.

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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