Hinrich day-to-day as Bulls prepare for Celtics


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.

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

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The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”

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