Hinrich with groin strain in Bulls win


Oct 24

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Hello, this is Gar Forman. Is Derek Fisher there? No. Well, how about Mike James? OK, what about Chris Quinn? Zabian Dowdell?

I don’t think the Bulls are quite there yet. But in defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 94-89 Tuesday in the United Center, the Bulls endured the worst of all tweaks.

This being the one to Kirk Hinrich, the replacement for injured Derrick Rose. Hinrich left Tuesday’s game at halftime with what was described as a right groin strain.

Kirk HinrichIt actually was the wrong groin strain since it was Hinrich’s. He is perhaps the Bulls most important non-Rose player given his responsibility to run the offense.

And Hinrich was playing exceptionally well as the Bulls, 4-2, started out ahead 17-8 and up 28-22 after one quarter as Hinrich had eight points, three rebounds and a steal in the first quarter and helped push the Bulls to seven first quarter fast break points.

“(Trainer) Fred (Tedeschi) at halftime said Kirk tweaked something,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau “It happened in the game. We’ll see (Friday if Hinrich is ready to play in the final preseason game in South Bend). I don’t know how serious it is. If he needs time, he’ll get time. If he doesn’t, he’ll play in the next game.”

I certainly hope he doesn’t as Hinrich has shown in the preseason not only how well he can play but how important he is to the team without Rose. Hinrich’s fast paced play has fit well with Thibodeau’s apparent philosophy to score more with transition given the inability to count on Rose like before. Hinrich’s defense has been excellent and relentless, and though Thibodeau praised backup Nate Robinson, Thibodeau also admitted after halftime (when the Bulls scored 43 points to 51 in the first half), the Bulls tended to over dribble and hold onto the ball.

“Everyone in that room is capable of playing and playing well,” Thibodeau repeated in his “next man up” mantra we’ve heard so much before with all the injuries the last two seasons. “We are going to need everyone over the course of the season. I expect when they are called on to be ready and get the job done. You never know when it happens. You have to be ready for whoever the other team puts on the floor. You’ve got to know everyone on their roster. Just because you sat the game and are not in rotation, there could be foul trouble, injuries. Readiness to play is critical. Having the right attitude and the right approach is critical. It could be the fourth quarter you are called upon after sitting there for three quarters but you have to be ready and get the job done. ”

Now, take that hill!

It’s unfortunate Hinrich went out because the Bulls looked sharp even with the Thunder sitting out stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Thibodeau went pretty much with his regular rotation of starters playing 32 to 37 minutes. Though Luol Deng pretty much got the night off with just 37 minutes. And chasing around James Harden. Deng ran Harden into a two of 17 shooting night. I’m assuming the Thunder lowered their extension offer after the game to the possibly pending free agent.

Deng had 21 points and three steals with the fine defensive job on Harden and got himself to the free throw line with aggressive play, making nine of 11.

“I feel pretty good right now,” said Deng. “We’re working hard, trying to make each other better. We’ve got a new bench and we’re trying to get those guys used to what we are doing and get those guys going.”

It’s coming slowly, though to be fair the much celebrated Bench Mob of the last two seasons wasn’t much to look at or rave about when they opened their first season together.

Thibodeau seems to be pulling in the reins on them a bit as Marco Belinelli played just 12 minutes and got one shot, which is no way to break a slump. Nazr Mohammed got seven minutes, but he’s shown in preseason he can be effective. Jimmy Butler got just 11 minutes while Marko Jaric and Vladimir Radmanovic didn’t play.

But with just one more preseason game, Thibodeau did have to get the starters meshing. And they appeared to be ready.

Joakim Noah, who had 15 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals, was running the court like Usain Bolt. In preseason everyone works on hyperbole.

But Noah was making impressive plays early with a block from behind on Harden after he beat the defense, then making a steal from Eric Maynor and going fullcourt for his own score. Noah even had a nice spin move in the lane for a score while Richard Hamilton scored on a jumper after a crossover dribble and Hinrich had a block on 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet, who really was pretty good and changed the game for the Thunder in the second quarter.

“I like the way we played in the first half offensively,” said Thibodeau. “We had a good pace and the ball was hopping. In the second half, we slowed down and started dancing with the ball. Once we started doing that, they have great size upfront. When you are dancing with the ball, you are going one against five and you are not going to get a good shot. We have to clean that up.”

The Bulls always talked about running and pushing the ball. But the truth is Rose like a lot of star players — and Michael Jordan did this, too — liked to go back and get the ball and not push into the front court all the time. Rose, though, was so good he could make up for it with drives to beat defenders from anywhere on the court mixed in with his full court thrusts. Now without Rose, scoring is going to be more difficult. So it seemed apparent Thibodeau was emphasizing transition play even after made baskets. It enabled the Bulls to get to the free throw line more (they are second in the preseason in getting to the line) and produced 61 percent first quarter shooting and the nearly 30-point quarter which is difficult to come by without a star go to scorer in the halfcourt like Rose.

It’s also helped an energized Carlos Boozer, who had another big game with 24 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals.

“He’s been aggressive,” said Thibodeau, “mixing up his game, attacking the basket, taking it up strong, rebounding the ball, running the floor. He’s played really well.”

Boozer’s scoring will be vital to the team without Rose, and Boozer has looked quicker and more aggressive. Several times he attacked the basket and made post moves to score, seemingly a product of both being in better shape and with the added opportunities.

Remember, in Utah Boozer had an offense built to feature him. Which never was the case with the Bulls given Rose. And Deron Williams played to Boozer often in transition, where Boozer did much of his scoring in Utah. He didn’t have as many of those kinds of opportunities with the Bulls.

“Usually with the shot clock winding down we look to No. 1 (Rose) and he makes something amazing happen and always came through,” said Boozer. “We’re not going to have that for the first half of the season, so we’re doing a good job of playing together and using each other to get good shots. And finishing off the game, Nate and Rip (team high 14.8 scoring average) hit big free throws to seal the game. It’s going to take a team effort to have a great season for us. Personally, I feel great. My whole mentality is the same with the whole team, to get better every day.

“We feel we’re one of the fastest teams in the league,” said Boozer. “Lu’s a runner. Jo has power forward speed, maybe quicker than that. Rip is one of the fastest guys in the league. I’m a little slow, but I’m working on my speed. Our transition works to our advantage. We’ve got to play fast, get as many easy baskets as possible.”

But it’s not always possible, and the pace slowed in the second quarter with the second unit. Thibodeau had Deng playing with them before going back to most of the starters midway through. Thabeet was giving the Bulls trouble inside, but the Bulls went ahead 51-40 at halftime thanks to the defensive effort. It was instructive to see Maynor starting as he had anterior cruciate surgery last January. Though it’s difficult to make a comparison to Rose as Maynor doesn’t play an explosive game.

Though the real shock came to start the second half with Robinson playing with the starters.

Robinson has become the most popular among the fans off the bench. Of course, who doesn’t root for elves? He ended with eight points and four assists in 29-plus minutes. He does some wonderful things, rebounding impressively for such a small player and blowing out full court for scores. He did this with a nice reverse finish just after throwing an uncatchable inside pass at Noah’s feet. Robinson added three turnovers, which is an issue with him.

Though he’s never been a true point guard, and to ask him to be perfect and ideal is unfair.

He’ll take the job and do his best.

“One guy goes down, another guy steps up,” said Robinson. “I’ve always been there to substitute. I’ll go in and do my job to the best of my abilities. That’s what a team is for. That’s what a teammate is for. Same with Marquis (Teague). If I go down, Marquis is ready.”

I’m assuming Thibodeau hopes it doesn’t come to that as Teague, who has been playing better, put in a brief 3:51 appearance.

With Robinson at point after halftime, the Thunder pulled within 73-67 after three. Though not necessarily the fault of Robinson. But Thibodeau did note the offense wasn’t as fluid while Serge Ibaka scored 14 of his team high 24 points. Thunder rookie Perry Jones had 10 in the fourth as the Thunder got within three with 44.1 seconds left with no regular Thunder starter in the game. Boozer and Hamilton effectively put it away as the Bulls went to Boozer for a jumper off a nice baseline move with 34.4 seconds left and leading by three. And then Hamilton finished it with four free throws as he continued his fine preseason.

Earlier Noah got himself a technical and got into a bit of a discussion with Kevin Garnett’s fellow fake tough guy Kendrick Perkins. Perkins lumbered around 22 minutes and had the same number of rebounds that I did. Overall, the Bulls had a dozen steals, though only two after halftime. Both Boozer and Noah playing well together had double/doubles and the Bulls held the Thunder under 40 percent shooting.

“I liked the first half,” said Thibodeau. “I thought the pace was good. I did not like the rebounding in the first half. The second half was better. I did not like some of the shots we were taking in the second half. They have good size up front. You have to try to move them. It’s important to get their size out of the lane. If you go one on one, their size is sitting at the rim. When we moved the ball and had player movement we got quality shots.”

The Bulls did a lot more of that with Hinrich on the floor. They probably just forgot to tell him not to get hurt.

Hello, Mike Bibby? Sundiata Gaines?

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