Hinrich needs further improvement to play in Game 6


May 1

Though Tom Thibodeau admitted Kirk Hinrich was extremely limited in Wednesday’s practice at the Berto Center, the Bulls guard said he’s improving and labeled himself a game-time decision for Thursday’s Game 6 against the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center.

Meanwhile, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson missed Wednesday’s practice as both stayed home sick. Thibodeau was hopeful they will be able to play on Thursday, when the series returns to the United Center and the Bulls get a second chance to close out their seven-game series against the Nets.

Kirk Hinrich

“I’m doing better, seeing some improvement,” said Hinrich. “Right now, just kind of the same deal, taking it day to day, and just throwing everything at it to try and improve it as quickly as possible.

“I’m not ruling it out,” Hinrich said of playing Thursday. “I hope I can. It’s going to be a game-time decision, I’m sure. I’d have to improve some, definitely.”

Though he missed Game 5 in Brooklyn, Hinrich has taken some steps forward since suffering the left calf injury as he played nearly 60 minutes in an epic Game 4. He’s no longer wearing a walking boot and some of the swelling has subsided. That trend needs to continue in order for him to regain enough mobility to take the floor.

“I’m still walking very gingerly, and I haven’t tried to run or cut or jump or anything yet, so I’m hoping that it improves a lot between today and [Thursday],” said Hinrich. “It’s just one of those things where I took a good shot and it’s preventing me from moving very well.”

In some better news, Joakim Noah said he is “feeling good” and ready to play another 30 minutes or more. Noah said he’s focused on helping the Bulls win the war in the paint, a key factor in the deciding outcome of all of the meetings between Chicago and Brooklyn this season.

“It’s important to try and keep them off the glass as much as possible and limit their easy baskets,” said Noah. “It’s definitely been the difference in this series.”

As for Thibodeau’s game plan, he’ll stick with the fundamentals of what has worked for the Bulls all season long – emphasis on defending, rebounding, limiting turnovers, playing inside-out, and sharing the ball. He added that a little extra determination on the defensive end could go a long way against the Nets’ explosive offense.

“There were several plays [in Game 5] in which we defended them well and we didn’t finish our defense,” said Thibodeau. “That’s probably the biggest thing to correct. Offensively, we shot a very high percentage. We shot 49 percent and 70 percent in the third quarter – that should be good enough offensively. Defensively and with our rebounding, we’ve got to do a lot better.”

Thibodeau and Hinrich were also asked about the comments made by TNT’s Steve Kerr during Game 5 in which he suggested that Derrick Rose owed it to his teammates to come back and play this postseason, even if it were for limited minutes.

“Derrick owes it to [do] what’s right,” responded Thibodeau. “And the more I’m around him, the more I’m impressed with this guy’s character. He’s not being swayed by anybody. He’s not quite there. We made that clear to him from the beginning. We’re going to support him in every way possible. I would never question him. Ever.”

“We don’t feel that way,” said Hinrich of Kerr’s opinion. “It’s been a very difficult year for Derrick. I’ve never experienced any sort of injury like that. I’m not one to speak on how anybody else’s body feels. We know what kind of guy he is and what kind of teammate he is and we don’t feel that way.”

While Kerr reasoned that frustration could be derived when seeing Noah and other players persevere through injuries, Thibodeau countered that the comparison is off base.

“There is a big difference between the type of injury that he’s had and all these other injuries,” said Thibodeau. “And we certainly appreciate what all the other guys are doing, but Derrick has had a very serious injury. It requires time. He’s 24 years old. We’re not going to rush him back. When he’s completely comfortable, that’s when we want him out there. If that means we wait another game, if that means we wait till next year, so be it. We want him completely comfortable and we’re not going to make that mistake.”

At the end of the day, Rose has the team’s support in how he’s handling his situation.

“No question,” said Hinrich. “I haven’t heard one ill word said about it. You give a guy that has that type of character the benefit of the doubt. We know that he’s such a big part of this organization and this team that we trust he’s making the right decision for that and for himself.”

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau meets the media following practice at the Berto Center (05.01.2013):

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