Bulls get ready to begin road trip


Nov 16

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Day 1 of the Bulls longest trip of the season. So it’s a morning shootaround at the arena, some lunch back at the hotel and then back to the arena for the 7:30 game.

There are two buses to the arena with some of the players coming to shoot early. Luol Deng and Brian Scalabrine were on the floor about three hours before the game shooting with assistant coaches.

Carlos Boozer, who seems anxious to play, also showed up early and was watching in the virtually empty arena. I sat down with Boozer, who said he asked the doctors if he could return a bit early as he hits his seventh week out. I looked, and Boozer’s hand is still a bit swollen. He’s doing some shooting from maybe a foot or two in front of the basket at shoot arounds, but refrains before the game. He said the doctor told him a solid hit now before he’s ready could set him back months, so he’s being cautious. He’s wearing something of a compression glove to help speed healing.

GM Gar Forman and his assistant, Randy Brown, are along on the trip, though they’ll veer off later for some college scouting.

Kyle Korver came in on a commercial flight late Monday night—bad seat in the back as he has no frequent flier status by flying charter all the time—after an MRI on his sore knee. “He said he’s feeling a lot better and we’ll see how he moves when he’s out there,” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters in his regular media session 90 minutes before the game.

Coaches are required by the NBA to meet with reporters before or after shoot around, and then before and after the game. Thibodeau, who had an erroneous reputation as a distant character, has been comfortable with the routine, if only because it allows him even more time to talk basketball.

“Hyperextended for Kyle, but the swelling done and he’s moving fine,” Thibodeau said.

“It’s a little tender,” said Korver. “We’ll see. If I’m not playing well, I’m sure the coach will take me out. When your knee is going backward on you when you make certain movements, it is a little scary. I was a little worried about it.”

Last season, Korver had a broken kneecap on the other knee. This time Korver twisted his knee trying to contest a shot. “It’s scary, especially after last year,” Korver said. “Getting an MRI was just to make sure before going on this road trip.”

The locker room is open to reporters for 45 minutes and until 45 minutes before the game. The players generally have headphones on as they watch tape of the night’s opponent. There’s a board in front of the room with some basic plays the opponent will run and some reminders, like pushing the ball, making sure someone is back when you shoot and keys for playing the night’s opponent.

Thibodeau addresses reporters about 90 minutes before the game followed by the opposing coach, Rick Adelman. Adelman, a Bulls guard as a player in the 1970s, mentioned that Luis Scola is one of the most underrated players in the league, and I agreed, and he said it was a gift to get Brad Miller with Yao Ming out again injured, though Yao is due back in a week or so.

There was a lot of talk about former Bull Miller, and I wondered if Thibodeau would fine anyone who went for Miller’s pump fake.

Adelman said guys in the NBA will go for anyone’s pump fake, even guys who can’t shoot. And Brad can, he added.

Miller, who looked good with a boyish haircut, sat courtside before the game talking with Chicago writers and said he was most influenced into leaving Chicago—other than the money—by playing for Rick Adelman, who he said was his favorite coach.

A regular hunter, I asked Miller what game he’d found so far and he said he’d shot a pig. But Miller joked this was the ideal place because they had laws that required you to not have a concealed weapon but wear it on the outside. Texas, a little bit of heaven for Brad Miller.

It was a return to where Thibodeau had coached as he spent several years in Houston with Jeff Van Gundy, sort of a Boston Jr. for Thibodeau as there was no championship here. So it was the same round of questions as in Boston, and Thibodeau was graceful in his responses about the organization and finally getting a chance to coach.

Thibodeau has handled the media responsibilities professionally and fairly casually. He said the time management of setting up practices, figuring days off and elements like that have been the biggest adjustment for him as head coach.

And then it was time for his next big test with a two week road trip. Let the games begin!

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