Bulls working through changes at point guard


Dec 16

Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich is a game-time decision with back stiffness for Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said Hinrich did not participate in the team’s morning shootaround at the United Center. He also missed Saturday’s game against Toronto.

“He’s feeling a little better,” said Thibodeau of Hinrich. “But he didn’t do anything this morning so we’ll see where he is tonight.”

"I think the fact that he’s already had some success as a starter in this league tells you that he’s capable," said Thibodeau of Augustin. "We have a lot of confidence in his ability."

“I think the fact that he’s already had some success as a starter in this league tells you that he’s capable,” said Thibodeau of Augustin. “We have a lot of confidence in his ability.”

If Hinrich is unable to face Orlando, point guard responsibilities are likely to be shared primarily between Marquis Teague, who got the start Saturday, and newly acquired D.J. Augustin. The team waived Mike James on Monday, reducing the roster to 13 players.

Augustin was signed Friday and he joined the team that night in Milwaukee, making his Bulls debut with 12 minutes of action. He played 20 minutes off the bench against Toronto, finishing with five points and six assists.

Thibodeau acknowledged that throwing Augustin in the mix at first was difficult, but he now feels better about doing so given the veteran point guard has been around a few days.

“D.J. was limited because he had a very small package to work with and that sort of got us away from some of the things we had been doing well with the second group,” said Thibodeau. “I think we’re a little more comfortable now with that.”

A lottery pick in the 2008 draft, the Bulls hope that Augustin can regain the form he showed throughout his first four seasons in the NBA with the Bobcats. Augustin averaged in double digits in three of those seasons, and in 2010-11, he averaged a career-high 14.4 points along with 6.1 assists.

“I thought he did a very good job [in Charlotte],” said Thibodeau of Augustin. “He was very aggressive in pick-and-rolls. I thought he had great intensity to his defense. I think the fact that he’s already had some success as a starter in this league tells you that he’s capable. We have a lot of confidence in his ability.”

Thibodeau also expressed confidence in Teague, who recorded seven points, three assists, three blocks and two steals in a starting role against the Raptors.

“I thought Marquis’ defense was very good and I thought he attacked the basket well,” said Thibodeau. “He’s got to build off of that.”

Thibodeau explained that Teague’s recent overnight D-League stint—Chicago intended to have him play for the Iowa Energy but he was recalled when an injury to James came to light the next morning—wasn’t a demotion. Rather, he wanted to allow the young point guard an opportunity to play extended minutes for a couple games. He may get that chance now at the NBA level.

While Teague has struggled with his shot this season, connecting on 25.5 percent of his attempts and just 14.3 percent from long range, Thibodeau believes that will come around.

“I think he will improve his shooting,” said Thibodeau of Teague. “I think a big part of shooting his confidence and concentration. He has improved and as he continues to grow, he’ll get better and better.”

Thibodeau acknowledges Chicago has suffered with respect to depth at the point guard position. But as the rest of the roster—both Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng have recently returned from bouts with injury—gets healthier, he likes that the team has options when it comes to orchestrating the offense.

“The challenge is that your point guard has to run your team,” said Thibodeau. “It’s probably one of the things that gets overlooked with Kirk. People tend to judge him on shooting percentage and in the end he’s always going to shoot 38 or 39 percent from three. But it’s how he runs the team. When he’s running the team, I know Carlos [Boozer] is going to have 15 to 17 shots, Lu is going to have 15 to 17 shots, and our two guard is going to be the same with Jimmy in there.

“We still have guys who are working their way back,” continued Thibodeau. “Jimmy has missed a lot of time. But Jimmy has playmaking ability and I like the way Lu is passing the ball. We can run our offense through other people. Jo has really come on and his timing has really come around. So we’ll run more offense through him too. But the strengths of the team are a little different. We want to play to those strengths and cover up our weaknesses. And we have to be able to count on our defense.”

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau meets the media following shootaround (12.16.2013):

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