Chicago Sun-Times

December 2012 Archives

chi-chicago-bears-fire-coach-lovie-smith-2012.jpgTom Thibodeau knows that one day his name will be part of the daily sports transaction wire. Whether it is his firing or him simply walking away.
"The nature of the beast, I guess,'' the Bulls head coach said on Monday afternoon.
The latest to fall victim to that "beast'' was Bears head coach Lovie Smith. And while Thibodeau never met Smith since taking over as Bulls coach three years ago, he knew of Smith's reputation.
"I watched him from afar and think he's a great coach,'' Thibodeau said. "I'm saddened to hear it. He had a great run. You know, 10-6 [record this year], I thought they got the most out of the team. It's the unfortunate part of the business and you hate to see it.
"[Boston Celtics coach] Doc Rivers knows Lovie and has always spoken highly of him. I watched their teams play, they always played hard. It's sad.''
Smith isn't the first head coach Thibodeau has been asked to comment on, just the latest. And the first firing not NBA related this season.
Thibodeau talked freely about Mike Brown being canned from the Lakers just a few weeks into the season, and more recently Avery Johnson being let go by the Nets. Both hit him, especially Johnson, who Thibodeau coached at one point in his career.
The news that Smith was fired on Monday morning was just another reminder of how fragile these jobs really are.
"Yeah, it's pro sports, it's unfortunate,'' Thibodeau added. "Lovie has proven to be a terrific coach and he seems like a great guy, so you hate to see anyone lose their job.''

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is undoubtedly someone rooted in routine, keeping his team on a rigorous schedule that requires them to do walkthroughs in a hotel ball room on the second day of a back-to-back.

But Thibodeau thought the NBA made the right decision by postponing Wednesday's game against the Pacers even though the Bulls had already arrived in Indianapolis.

There are many different aspects to winning games in the NBA. But as far as Kirk Hinrich is concerned, the Bulls have been deficient in the two most crucial areas over the most recent two-game skid in which they have lost to the Hawks and Rockets by a combined 40 points.

"Just the basics," Hinrich said. "We hang our hat on our defense and rebounding. It hasn't been what it needs to be that last couple games and I think that's where you're seeing the losses coming from.

"We just have to bounce back. We have a bad taste in our mouth right now. We had a good practice today and hopefully we get it out of our mouth tomorrow."

Bulls humiliated by Rockets.jpgBulls coach Tom Thibodeau warned his team about the Houston Rockets.

The one thing about them is you have to play for 48 minutes,'' Thibodeau said 90 minutes prior to the Bulls' Christmas night game against the Rockets at the United Center. ''If you let your guard down at all, you can be in trouble because of their ability to score. If you jog back, they push the ball after makes and misses. You've got to take those easy scores away.''

Less than a minute into the game, Bulls guard Marco Belinelli missed jump shot, Omer Asik rebounded and passed to Jeremy Lin, who looped a long pass to James Harden for an emphatic dunk. Five seconds elapsed from Belinelli's miss to Harden's dunk.

''Obviously, we did not understand, and I did not do a good enough job of delivering the message of what we were giong to have to do to be successful,'' Thibodeau said after the Rockets' throttled the Bulls 120-97 before a sellout crowd of 22,310 at the United Center.

taj-gibson-dunk-over-dwayne-wadejpg-2d49638313e4dee2.jpgNEW YORK - Taj Gibson is playing Friday night against the Knicks, Derrick Rose is still in light practice mode, and Richard Hamilton? Well, the torn plantar fascia in his left foot still has him sidelined. All this, and another meeting with the New York Knicks - this time with Carmelo Anthony in the lineup.
In the first meeting of the two teams almost two weeks ago in Chicago, it was the Bulls out-scoring New York 26-20 in the fourth, holding off one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, 93-85.
A nice win, no doubt. But also a slightly empty one, considering Anthony was out with an injured finger that required stitches.
Anthony is back, and the Garden lights will be on. A whole different test for the Bulls tonight.

Three keys to not letting the bright lights of Broadway blind the Bulls:

1. Luol! - It's that simple for the Bulls. Luol Deng will likely draw the Melo assignment on defense, and still have to help carry the load on offense, like he did two weeks ago. In that win over the Knicks, Deng put up 22 points and had five rebounds, but was an eye-opening plus-22 in the plus/minus category when he was on the floor that night. Expect heavy minutes once again for Deng, and a chance to continue to throw his name in the hat for an All-Star spot if he can slow down Anthony.

2. Stop Felton! - The Bulls had no answer for point guard Raymond Felton in Round 1 of the series, and actually have had their troubles dealing with opposing point guards as of late, with Rajon Rondo and Mike Conley each giving them fits in their last two games. Kirk Hinrich is slowly getting back from the left knee injury, so there is a chance that head coach Tom Thibodeau will have to also give minutes to Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague in order to give Felton some different looks.

3. Hope it holds - The Bulls needs Gibson and his sore right ankle, and after missing practice on Thursday, declared himself fit to go during the Friday morning shootaround. The Knicks are a physical team inside, and as the Bulls have shown most of the season, they need to match the physicality of teams in the paint in order to be competitive. Gibson is a big factor in that physical play.

Taj Gibson day to day

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Reserve forward Taj Gibson missed Thursday's practice with a sore right ankle and was characterized as day-to-day by Thibodeau for Friday's game against the Knicks.

Gibson did do some cardiovascular activity and stretching.

Tom Thibodeau said after Thursday's practice at the Berto Center that Derrick Rose had participated in non-contact drills.

The Bulls' coach cautioned that Rose still has work to do in his rehab before he can become a full participant in practice. Rose will not travel with the team tonight to New York.

C.J. Watson returned to the United Center on Saturday night and attempted to clarify a comment he made during the offseason about how current teammate Deron Williams is a better point guard than former teammate Derrick Rose.

Or did he?

"Actually, I didn't say that," Watson said. "I said, 'To me, he was the best point guard.' The guy asked me who was better. He said compare the two and I said you can't compare the two."

Watson went on to say he never considered re-signing with the Bulls after last season and that he wasn't treated fairly in the wake of the Bulls Game 5 loss to the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Watson, who was an 81-percent free-throw shooter, passed to Omer Asik, a 45-percent free-throw shooter, with seven seconds left. Asik was fouled and missed both free throws and the Bulls were later eliminated 79-78.

"The season ended how it ended," he said. "I wasn't sorry about that. I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake maybe at the time but I didn't think it was. I just thought I got mistreated but it is what it is."

Watson is averaging 18.7 minutes, 7.1 points and 2 assists for the Nets this season.

"As a coaching staff, we had to figure out exactly how we wanted to use him," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "He's back to playing C.J. Watson defense, he's shooting the ball better. We know some of his favorite spots now where he likes to operate. He and Joe Johnson play real well together. He's starting to get into somewhat of a good rhythm."

Watson said he keeps in touch with former Bench Mob members Kurt Thomas, Ronnie Brewer and John Lucas III.

"It was fun because we all knew our roles and knew what to do and knew who was going to get the ball and score and who was going to play defense and all that kind of stuff," Watson said of playing with the bench mob. "Everybody just played their role to the best of their ability."

Watson may not have shed much light on his offseason comment about Rose, but left no doubt when asked if he missed Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's practices.

"No," he said. "Not at all. I like these 30, 45-minute practices."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said that injured guard Kirk Hinrich is a game-time decision for tonight's game against the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center.

Hinrich is currently recovering from what the team has classified as a bruised right knee.

hi-res-6653830_crop_exact.jpgPHILADELPHIA - Kirk Hinrich is running out of body parts to hurt.
An hour before the game with Philadelphia, the Bulls point guard tried to give the latest injury a go, and the decision was made to shut him down for the night, starting Nate Robinson in his place.
"Banged up his knee,'' head coach Tom Thibodeau said of the newest ailment to hit Hinrich.
Not that Thibodeau was in the mood to give details, saying it was the left knee and it wasn't believed to be serious.
Asked when the injury occurred against the Clippers on Tuesday night, Thibodeau responded, "At some point in the game last night.''
Hinrich has already been sidelined with a hip injury, a thumb, a groin, a left elbow and now the left knee.
The bigger problem is it's not like the Bulls have been feeding him heavy minutes so far this season, as he entered the game with the 76ers averaging 27.2 minutes per game.
So coming up with a plan to protect the veteran moving forward really isn't an option.
"I mean he's not a big minutes guy right now,'' Thibodeau said. "That's part of the league, you're going to get banged up, and when one guy goes down the next guy has to step up. We've been in this situation before. In the Boston game [Nov. 12], Nate started, Marquis [Teague] came in and did a very good job. We have a lot of confidence in his ability.''
As far as Rip Hamilton and his torn left plantar fascia, Thibodeau said that he was progressing, but as far as an exact timetable for the guard's return, that was still up in the air.
"Just got to be patient,'' Thibodeau said. "Plantar fasciitis is different with everybody. He's doing more and more each day, still not ready, hopefully it will be soon.''

Rip.jpgDETROIT - When Richard Hamilton tore the plantar fascia in his left foot last weekend, there was a lot of one- to two-weeks thrown out there as the recovery time.
That still might be the case for the Bulls shooting guard, but Hamilton admitted on Friday that a month on the shelf might be more realistic.
"[The doctors] said four weeks, but they said I could probably come back before that,'' Hamilton said. "Every one's body is different, so it's just one of those things where you want to try and get better every day.
"We're working really hard on it, trying to get flexibility, trying to get the swelling down, get all the blood that's in there down. Every day it gets better. The good thing about it is there hasn't been a setback or anything like that.''
Hamilton did go into more detail on the injury, reiterating that tearing it might have been the best thing to happen, just because it will heal and then shouldn't be a lingering problem.
"Yeah, it was the craziest ... I thought the tape exploded on my foot,'' Hamilton said. "In talking to the doctor, they told me that it was probably a good thing that it happened that way. The whole plantar fascia, when you have it, it tends to stick with players all year. So by me popping it, it was actually a good thing because once it heals, it heals for good.''
More than the pain in his left foot, Hamilton expressed the heartache of missing the game in Detroit. The veteran played nine seasons with the Pistons, won a title for the city, and was really looking forward to another homecoming.
"Oh man, this is the game I got on my calendar, if any,'' Hamilton said. "The one game you mark before the season even starts and say, 'Oh man, I can't even wait.' To be injured, it's frustrating for me because you want to help the team get a win.''

Three keys to surviving Detroit:

1. Keep streaking - The Bulls have been in the heads of the Pistons for quite some time, bringing a 15-game winning streak into "The D'' tonight. The Pistons have some new faces, but also are bringing back a core that has continually lost to Chicago, no matter who was on the court for the Bulls or who was on the shelf. No Rip, no Rose, no problem.

2. Marco! Polo! - Fresh off a season-high 23 points, as well as the most points he scored since putting a Bulls jersey on, Marco Belinelli is finally looking comfortable. Maybe it's just his time to settle in or maybe it's now being in the starting lineup in place of the injured Hamilton, either way, it's working. If Belinelli can get off against the Pistons, his confidence will only continue to grow.

3. Getting defensive - The Bulls are just a bad match-up for a Pistons team that has trouble putting the ball in the basket against an average NBA team. Now factor in the best defensive team in the league is coming to town? That 93.2 scoring average per game for Detroit is not going to be enough.

Life without Rip begins

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Rip-Hamilton-Suit-e1332962296810.jpgAs organized and prepared as Tom Thibodeau is, it's highly unlikely that the Bulls head coach actually hasn't made up his mind about a replacement for Rip Hamilton against Indiana Tuesday night.

No, this is Thibodeau. The likely explanation for his ambiguity after the Monday practice is he doesn't want anyone else to know who the starter will be.

"I'm not sure yet,'' was the Thibodeau response to naming a replacement for the injured Hamilton.

Asked if Marco Belinelli or Jimmy Butler would be the leading candidates, it was a "could be'' from Thibodeau.

What he would say was that no matter which player is put in that No. 2 spot, he would be comfortable with the decision.

"Yep, everybody we have has played well at one time or another, so I feel good about that position,'' Thibodeau explained. "Marco has started a lot of games before, Jimmy has been playing terrific all season long, and we have some flexibility, too. Kirk [Hinrich] can go to the two, so we'll be fine.''

The media is seemingly not the only ones in this cat and mouse game, either. According to Butler, even the players have no idea who the starter would be.

"I really do not know,'' Butler said. "Coach hasn't said anything. He said he's going to try out the lineups and see how everything is looking, and then he'll let us know [Tuesday].''

Hinrich, who is usually the starting point guard for the Bulls, did admit to playing some two in practice on Monday, which means in the scenario Nate Robinson would be the starting point, with Hinrich - who has played shooting guard before - would then try and fill the vacancy left in Hamilton's departure.

"I would be comfortable doing whatever,'' Hinrich said. "I've been working in on a dummy offense at the two a little bit, just so I would know it. I would have no problem with anything [Thibodeau] did, to be honest, as long as it's what we would want to do as a team and the direction we'd want to go with to give us the best chance to win.''

Belinelli had been jumped by Butler the last week as far as minutes handed out to the reserves, but Butler also seems to be a player that feeds off playing along side of key reserve Taj Gibson. That duo might serve the Bulls better to stay together, especially because of the defense and energy that unit has been bringing.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau insisted throughout training camp that when Belinelli is on the court, the offense functioned much the same way it does when Hamilton is on the court.

"We're going to look at everything and take a look at what makes the most sense for us,'' Thibodeau said. "We'll go from there. I like the way Jimmy's played, and Marco's playing better and better. We have a lot of things going in the right direction right now.''

As for Hamilton, the diagnosis for the torn plantar fascia in his left foot is still the same.

"Basically, could be a week, could be two weeks, could be longer,'' Thibodeau added. "Once he feels good enough to play, he'll be back.''

Rip Hamilton out indefinitely with torn plantar fascia

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Rip Hamilton carried off the court.jpgAn MRI exam revealed that Bulls guard Richard Hamilton suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot in Saturday night's 93-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

''He will return to play as his symptoms permit,'' the Bulls said in a statement.

The team's statement indicates that Hamilton's status is day-to-day. But the torn plantar fascia is one of those injuries with a variance of recovery schedules. Some players return in a week. Others take months. Toronto Raptors shooting guard Alan Anderson is out three to six weeks with a torn plantar fascia.

plantar fascia2.jpgHamilton suffered the injury jumping to make a pass to Carlos Boozer in the third quarter against the 76ers. He said he ''felt something pop'' when he jumped and had to be carried off the court by teammates. After getting examined by trainer Fred Tedeschi, Hamilton was cleared to re-enter the game and did so twice in the final 20 seconds of the game. He hit 3-of-4 free throws to clinch the victory.

The Bulls (8-7) play the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night at the United Center. They play at Cleveland on Wednesday and at Detroit on Friday before returning to the United Center to play the Knicks on Saturday.

If Hamilton can't play, second-year guard Jimmy Butler or newcomer Marco Belinelli likely would replace him in the starting lineup. Butler, who is averaging nearly 16 minutes a game off the bench this season, appears ready for the opportunity for a bigger role.

Bulls-76ers (Boozer).jpgIt wasn't a work of art, but the Bulls played as complete of a game as they can play right now in their 93-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at the United Center.

Luol Deng scored eight of his 25 points (10-of-16 shooting) in the fourth quarter.

Carlos Boozer hit a clutch fourth-quarter jumper and added 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Joakim Noah added 12 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and kept alive a missed free throw by Richard Hamilton with 14 seconds left, leading to Hamilton's two clinching free throws.

Hamilton scored 12 points and returned in the final 16 seconds after needing to be helped off the court by teammates when he suffered a sprained left foot in the third quarter.

Richard Hamilton.jpgRichard Hamilton returned from a third-quarter injury to hit three free throws in the final 14 seconds to clinch the Bulls' 93-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at the United Center. But the Bulls still will have to sweat out an MRI on Hamilton's sprained left foot to know whether they survived the latest injury to their veteran shooting guard.

Hamilton suffered the injury when he jumped to throw a pass to Carlos Boozer with 3:15 left in the third quarter. ''[It happened] when I jumped up,'' Hamilton said. ''As soon as I came off my feet, that's when I really felt something on the bottom of my foot. I felt something pop.''

Hamilton was carried off by teammates and went directly to the trainer's room. The Bulls announced Hamilton had a sprained foot and his return was questionable.

''It was a lot scarier than I thought,'' said Hamilton, who scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. ''But we'll see. [Sunday] I'm supposed to get an MRI on it. But the good thing about it I was able to put a little bit of weight on it and was able to go back into the game.''

Playing at its highest level of efficiency, the Bulls' offense can actually become its best defender.

When the Bulls are cutting hard and getting to the basket, they're getting fouled. Getting to the free-throw line prevents an opponent from getting out in transition and allows the Bulls' to get their defense set. Tom Thibodeay said the Bulls aim to shoot 27-30 free-throws each game.

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