MJ wasn't here. But he knows what's going on.


Dec 16

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

I ran into Kirk Hinrich coming off the court about two hours before Tuesday’s game here and with his shirt soaked with sweat. Ready to play? Had a bucket of water dropped on him? Nah. Hinrich is running to keep in shape, and has his first big day coming Wednesday for his injured right thumb. Hinrich gets the pin taken out, which is attacked to the screw, which is attached to the bone which is… Isn’t there a thigh bone song about that? Anyway, Hinrich is nowhere close to playing yet, but it is a truly unfortunate injury in that he has no real pain or discomfort and you cannot tell anything is wrong until he rolls up his sleeve and you see the wrap on his thumb. Tough break.

Anyone seen Michael?

Not Bobcats coach Larry Brown much lately, though Brown remains one of the NBA’s best interviews and most approachable coaches and talked at length about Jordan before the game.

“I don’t see him much on a daily basis,” said Brown. “He’s very much involved. I talk to him a lot and value his opinions. He’s always throwing things at me without making me feel like he’s trying to coach. He evaluates players on our team and in the league. When he’s around here, it’s great. The guys have so much respect for him. I wish he were around all the time. But obviously he has other things to do.”

Jordan has been at about four games here, though Brown says Jordan “watches every game” and they talk daily.

“I’m in constant touch with him,” Brown said. “He’s always sharing his thoughts with me without me feeling like he’s telling me to do things. The coach and GM have to be connected. It’s the only way you can be successful. His values are the same as mine. We come from the same background. If you’d ask him who influences him the most, other than his dad he’d tell you coach (Dean) Smith. He wants the kids to play hard, play unselfishly, play smart, try to defend and rebound.

“Do we have a perfect situation with this group? No,” acknowledged Brown. “I think we all realize that. It’s what we’re working toward. I call him and apologize when I think (we played poorly) and tell him I feel bad. He never says anything to me. He just keeps saying, ‘We’re going to get better.’ He wants me to coach the guys and have them show progress and hopefully we can figure out a way to turn things around. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.

“I came here because of Michael,” Brown said. “No other reason. I’m not disappointed in what has happened thus far. I know we’ll get this thing done. I admire the guy. If he wasn’t involved, I’d probably be at some college on the west coast. I’ve always admired him and his personality and I thought what a wonderful thing it would be to work with someone like that and (that thought) hasn’t changed.”

Jordan has expressed interest in purchasing the team, though nothing seems imminent.

Brown, who is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, also weighed in on the epidemic of coaching firing. Brown was a consultant last season for the 76ers, who just fired Mo Cheeks.

“It takes time,” said Brown. “You can make the case Mo Cheeks did the best job of coaching of anyone in the league the last half of last season. Then they bring in Elton (Brand) and it’s a difference. Eddie (Jordan) loses Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood and he’s gone. It’s not an easy thing to understand. Reggie (Theus) won 38 games last season with a team very few people thought could win and he’s gone. Sam (Mitchell) is coach of the year a year and a half ago and they bring in Jermaine O’Neal and that changes the makeup of the team. And he’s gone. Maybe they think it’s a job anybody can do.

“It’s changed,” said Brown. “Years ago guys got in the profession because they loved it. Now guys are getting in for the wrong reasons, that you can make a lot of money. I’m troubled by it. There has to be some kind of plan on how to get things accomplished and it doesn’t always happen as quickly as you’d like. When I came back to the league from Kansas, I was out five years. We won 21 games that first year, but the owner kept me. He could have said it wasn’t working. Low and behold we get David (Robinson) and win 56 or something games.”

Brown was once mocked for leaving jobs so quickly, but now it’s the norm.

As for the Bulls, coach Vinny Del Negro said Larry Hughes, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah were suffering from flu symptoms, and I was wondering how it is NBA players get colds and flu so often. After all, I mentioned to Del Negro in the pregame press chat, the reporters always seem in good health.

“They actually work hard,” Del Negro explained in what I surmised might be a suggestion about the physical activity of the media.

“Your system breaks down and we’re traveling and one guy gets it and it spreads around,” said Del Negro. “Guys are pushing themselves.”

I was going to challenge Del Negro on this, but then I heard there might be tacos in the press room.

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