ORLANDO - Time to dust off Nazr Mohammed. All 35 years of him. The way Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was sounding on Wednesday morning, Joakim Noah's flu-like symptoms are beating the starting center up enough where he could miss tonight's game against the Magic.
That means Taj Gibson would be the starter in the middle, and Mohammed would be the first big man off the bench for the Bulls in the rotation.
Not such a bad thing, considering how well Mohammed played in extended minutes in the preseason.
What Thibodeau is hoping is the same bug that kept Noah out of Tuesday's practice and then the Wednesday shootaround, isn't spreading. Vladimir Radmanovic was feeling it Wednesday morning, also making him a game-time decision. The last thing the Bulls need right now is "Outbreak II'' to happen.
Here are the three keys for tonight's game with the Magic:
1. Captain Kirk - In the world of Thibs, the Bulls are a better team when Kirk Hinrich is healthy and starting. Hinrich, who has been working through a bone bruise in his left knee, went through the Wednesday shootaround, and was feeling optimistic that he would be able to start against Orlando after he missed the Monday loss to Charlotte. The Bulls are 2-2 without Hinrich starting this year, and Thibodeau is the veteran guard's biggest fan.
"You look at his plus/minus and how the team functions when he's on the floor, it's both,'' Thibodeau replied, when asked if Hinrich helped the team more offensively or defensively. "That's what a point guard has to do, run the team. He's played well all season, and he understands how to run a team. Look at the shot distribution when he's on the floor, the right guys get the right shots and that's a big part of it.''
2. The Derrick factor - The idea that the Bulls will now somehow be more inspired because Derrick Rose is traveling with them is ludicrous. Yes, Rose is on his first road trip with the team, but the only way Rose helps the Bulls is when he's on the court playing.
Thibodeau again expressed patience on Wednesday from the outside world.
"It's when he's ready,'' Thibodeau said of the MVP's return. "It's not going to be sooner, later, this is the target date - it's when he's ready. He's doing the predictable contact in practice, the next step is [full] practice, and then he'll have to show that he can go through full practices for awhile. If everything goes well, then he plays.''
3. The big O - Don't sleep on the Magic. They took the Heat into overtime on Monday, and watched Nikola Vucevic pull down 29 rebounds, as well as score 20 points. Hedo Turkoglu is getting healthy, while J.J. Redick gives them a three-point presence off the bench. The Bulls have been sleep-walking since New York two weeks ago, and need to wake up quickly.