Ten days until the trade deadline, and the rumors continue to swirl around the Bulls. Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton ... who goes, who stays?
In all likelihood, the Bulls will be very quiet come trade deadline, knowing they could be landing one of the premiere players in the league maybe as soon as Feb. 26, when the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town and Derrick Rose can write the final chapter of "The Return.''
"I think it's the time of the year where all that stuff happens, and most of it is generated by you guys,'' Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of the trade rumors as the Feb. 21 deadline approaches. "So we don't overreact to that. It's sort of the nature of the beast now. For every 100 trades that get talked about, one gets done. It's not important. We just focus on what we have to do.''
What they have to do tonight is play a red-hot Spurs team, and do so without Kirk Hinrich, who will remain out with the elbow infection.
Three keys for the game against San Antonio:
1. Need the All-Stars - Luol Deng will be there tonight. As far as the other All-Star in Joakim Noah, well, he remains a game-time decision, according to Thibodeau. Noah was limited in the Monday morning shootaround, participated in the walk-through, and did do some shooting and drills around the basket, with the plantar fasciitis in his right foot still slowing him. It's about pain tolerance for Noah this week, as he is still looking to participate in his first All-Star Weekend starting Friday. With the Spurs and then Boston on the schedule before then, the Bulls could use him, even in restricted minutes.
2. The Italian import - The Bulls did get some good news on the injury front with Marco Belinelli, who is expected to play against San Antonio, as he works through a sore right ankle. As good as the Spurs are defensively, stretching them out is key and also Belinelli's specialty.
3. Getting defensive - The Bulls defense is coming off an inconsistent road trip, and will have no room for a letdown against the Spurs. San Antonio is too experienced and too good for that.
"[Head coach] Pop [Gregg Popovich] has established a great system, the core of the team has been intact for a long time,'' Thibodeau said of the Spurs. "When you look at [Tim] Duncan, [Manu] Ginobili, [Tony] Parker, and then the rest of the parts are basically interchangeable. It's a great system, a great style of play, well balanced. They put a premium on shooting, character, toughness, and it's reflected in everything they do. They're pretty much the gold standard.''