With Kirk Hinrich sidelined for Mondays contest against the Celtics with a right hip strain, Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson will be thrust into a starting role.
Robinson has already started and played tremendously in Hinrichs place during a pair of preseason contests and overall, the diminutive energy player has been solid, at minimum, thus far during his stint in Chicago.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers isnt surprised at Robinsons success. Robinson played under Rivers for parts of two seasons, including the Celtics 2010 run to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers, but since leaving Boston, Rivers has been pleased with Robinsons progress from afar.
Well, I just think hes matured, honestly. Ive told Nate this: Its never been his basketball. Nate knows how to play. Hes grown up. Hes more of a professional. I think hes got better focus, Rivers said after the Celtics shootaround Monday morning at Moody Bible Institute. I thought he started doing it last year. I thought last year, you could see the difference in Nate and Im happy for him. I want him doing that. Its not like we dont want players to be good. Im a fan of Nates talent and this is good for Nate.
Added former teammate Rajon Rondo, who will match up with Robinson in Mondays affair: He was the starting point guard for part of the season in Golden State, so hes been there before."
Rivers acknowledged that the Bulls are in a tough situation without All-Star Derrick Rose, but believes that behind his good friend and former assistant Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls' head coach, the team will overcome the major setback.
Its like not having Rondo, but theyre better at it because theyve done it for a while. Injuries are bad obviously, but when you have a training camp without the guy, you can make a team. I think injuries are far tougher when you have them in the middle of the season and then youre working a guy out. Its like Sunday night in the Bears game. The starting quarterback goes out, its tough because they didnt have training camp doing that. Its a little different, but Chicagos playing well, the Maywood, Ill., native explained. They play great D, Nates come in and done a terrific job. Its not like the guys they have playing are bad players. Hinrich may or may not play tonight, but Im talking about their team as a whole, and Nate Robinson, theyre NBA players, so theyre pretty good.
I dont look at it, honestly, because Derricks not playing. I dont prepare that way. I just look at what they are now and obviously, having Derrick, youre a better basketball team because he creates their offense all on his own for the most part and they dont have that. They still run the same stuff, but the same thing with any great point guard. What great point guards do is run the offense better, but more important is at the end of a set or anything, they can create their own offense in transition or off the end of sets, and thats the difference, he continued. I hope every coachs team takes on their identity or somethings not right, unless the best players that good, where they take on that players identity. In this case, I think the team has clearly taken Thibs identity and Derricks, for the most part, but I think its Thibs leadership. I think he sets the tone and he didnt let them give in, and to me, thats the value of Thibs.
They also use the clock on offense. They shoot the ball with one second on the shot clock a lot. They have great ball control. Its not like they wont run they will but theyre going to exhaust the clock until they get the exact shot that they want and so, you can be a running team all you want, it cuts your possessions in half.
Chimed in Rondo: Theyre still a defensive-minded teamI think its worked so far. Different guys have to step up.
Rivers revealed that Thibodeau, despite signing a new contract prior to the start of training camp, is still very frugal, joking, Hes still cheap as hell. Ive been trying to get him to buy a place here, instead of renting. But he tips now. Thats the first step. One step at a time.
The coach was also very complimentary of Bulls starters Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
Deng likes playing against us, if you go by the numbers. Hes good against us. I love Luol. Hes just a good player. Solid, solid basketball player. Hes another one of those All-Stars thats a role player, but hes an All-Star. Hes just such a team-oriented guy. Hes a great guy to have on your team, he gushed. Noah is being more aggressive, hes taking people off the dribble a lot and his I.Q. is as good as there is in the league. Noah, Kevin Garnett. Theres only a handful of bigs that have great I.Q.s, as far as point-guard I.Q.s and Noahs one of them.
Rivers also opined about the Lakers hiring of Mike DAntoni as head coach to replace the fired Mike Brown and eventually, interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, a former Bulls assistant instead of former Bulls and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, an 11-time NBA champion.
Ive kind of heard about it through the media. Thats good. Hes a hell of a coach. Its a good fit, he said. I think its a terrific fit.
Not my team, so I could care less, as you know, but I dont know how anyone can scoff at Mike DAntoni being a head coach.