DEERFIELD, ILL. — After Wednesday night’s Game 2 shellacking in Miami, the Bulls returned to Chicago and held a light practice session Thursday afternoon at the Berto Center.
While Luol Deng returned -- the All-Star small forward didn’t do much -- Kirk Hinrich didn’t participate, as the veteran floor general continues to recover from a left-calf bruise.
A second MRI on the lingering injury was performed, but the results weren’t in yet, according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“He’s still not great,” the coach said.
As for rumors that former league MVP Derrick Rose will return to action in Friday’s Game 3 at the United Center, Thibodeau would only say, “same,” in regards to the point guard’s status.
Thibodeau also explained why former starter Rip Hamilton has been out of the rotation in the playoffs.
“He’s feeling okay, but I still don’t think he’s moving great. It’s a tough situation, he’s handling it well, we’ll see,” he said about the shooting guard. “Mentally he’s great. Rip has a great mind, that’s the thing I have a lot of respect for what he’s done. Physically, he’s not there right now.”
But more than personnel decisions, the aftereffects of the thrashing the Bulls took in Game 2 was still evident, as Thibodeau spoke about his team needing to improve their mental toughness and not be baited into conflicts, so as to avoid a repeat of Wednesday’s contest, in which they were hit with six technical fouls and both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were ejected.
“Not only Joakim, but our entire team. We’ve got to do better, do a better job with that. You can’t get sidetracked. We know how it’s going to be called; we’re not going to get calls. We just got to be tough mentally, physically, emotionally, we’ve got to be a lot stronger,” Thibodeau said. “That’s just the way it is. We didn’t allow that to impact us in Game 1 and I thought we allowed it to impact us in Game 2.
“It’s playoff basketball, it’s emotional, so we had some calls that didn’t go our way, we can handle it better,” continued the coach, who noted that the Bulls hadn’t yet heard from the NBA about possible fines or suspensions for either Gibson or Noah. “Playoff games are emotional, they’re physical. [Miami is] saying a lot of things, too.”
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As always, the Bulls will attempt to make the necessary adjustments and salvage the home-court advantage they earned by virtue of stealing Monday’s Game 1 in Miami.
“As a team, they imposed their will. We imposed our will in Game 1; they imposed their will in Game 2. So we’ll see in Game 3,” Thibodeau said. “When you’re facing adversity you’ve got to be mentally tough. So we’re short-handed, and we could never underestimate how hard we have to play when we’re short-handed, and that’s the reason we’ve been able to have some success. When we do that we put ourselves in position to win. When we lay back, we’re not aggressive, that’s when we have problems.”
“You can’t get wrapped up in stuff that’s not important. The important stuff is to concentrate on doing your job and to have the toughness, the physical and mental and emotional toughness, to get through all the things that you have to go through on the road. For the most part Jo has done a good job with that, but as a team we let our emotion get to us. We can’t do that,” he went on to say.
“Just like when you win, when you lose you try and analyze why, try and make the necessary corrections, prepare to move yourself forward, and just get ready for the next game. You don’t want to look backwards; you don’t want to look too far forward, just look ahead. We know we’re capable of playing a lot better than we did and we’ve got to get that straightened out.”