NEW YORK - Off the court, Derrick Rose is still traveling with the team, just likely not sitting on the Bulls bench. And Kirk Hinrich is still a game-time decision with a right elbow injury.
As Joakim Noah pointed out, however, it's all eyes on the court tonight, when Round 3 between the Knicks and Bulls takes center stage at the Garden.
The last time the two squared off? It resembled a pick-up game at Rucker Park, with nine technicals handed out and four ejections. Two of those ejections included Noah and New York's Tyson Chandler, after they were "tangled up'' in a rebound, with both players sneaking in attempted head-butts as they went nose-to-nose.
The Bulls are 2-0 against the Knicks this season, and with Noah returning to his hometown, there's a reason he was so hyped for the game.
"They definitely aren't going to forget that, and they will be ready for the game,'' Noah said. "But we will too. It's definitely going to be an exciting game, being able to play at home like that in front of my family, in front of my friends, and in a hostile environment like that, what more can you ask for?''
Three keys in escaping New York:
1. Play with emotion - So far this season, the Knicks have looked deep on talent, shallow in heart. The Bulls got in their heads in the December win in New York, and everyone saw Kevin Garnett get into the head of Knicks star Carmelo Anthony last week. There's a formula in beating the Knicks, and it's occupying that space between their ears.
2. Elbowroom - The Bulls need Hinrich to play. The right elbow was feeling better on Friday, but he was still a game-time decision, in danger of missing his sixth game of the season. The Bulls are 2-3 with Nate Robinson starting, with the problem being the defense they lose when Hinrich is on the bench. Robinson is a great spark off the bench with an ability to score in bunches, but against the Knicks you need ball distribution on offense and lock-down defense on the other side of the court.
3. Pass the rock - It's Basketball 101: Make the extra pass. That's the way of life in the NBA, especially on team's void of a real superstar - or in the case of the Bulls, having an injured superstar waiting to come off the rehab shelf. When the Bulls get caught up in the one-on-ones like they did against Milwaukee in the second half of Wednesday's loss, it's Murder She Wrote. This is a team incapable of that kind of basketball. At least until the No. 1 returns.