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Butler and Deng improving as Bulls prepare for Bucks
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Dec 9
Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng missed practice on Monday and remain day-to-day for Tuesday’s home game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said that both players did some shooting, while Mike James, who has been sidelined with a right knee injury since Dec. 2, did practice.
“He’s improved and I don’t want to speculate, but we’ll see where he is [Tuesday],” said Thibodeau of Deng, who missed Saturday’s game against Detroit with a left calf injury. “He said he’s feeling a lot better.”
As for Butler, who has missed the last nine games while suffering from turf toe, he continues to make progress but isn’t ready yet.
“Jimmy has improved,” said Thibodeau of Butler. “He didn’t practice, but he did some shooting and is moving a lot better. Jimmy is probably at 75 to 80 percent right now. He’s got to get some conditioning and we’ll see where he’s at [Tuesday] and the next day.”
The Bulls are hardly the only team significantly affected by injuries. Chicago’s next opponent, Milwaukee, has five players—Caron Butler, Carlos Delfino, Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia and Larry Sanders—listed as out for Tuesday night.
So Thibodeau will do what he can do—work on preparing his team to be ready to go regardless of who is taking the floor and which team they’re facing.
“You have to be ready for everybody,” said Thibodeau. “That’s the nature of this league. Everybody has to go through injuries at some point usually. The important thing is not to lose sight of what you’re trying to get done which is improvement and getting ready for your next opponent.”
The Bulls are hoping to learn from Saturday’s game against their last opponent. Playing against Detroit without three starters, Chicago kept things close until midway through the second half. But a poor shooting night eventually caught up with the Bulls.
“We know we’re capable of playing better than we did,” said Thibodeau of the 92-75 loss. “It was virtually a two-point game with four minutes to go in the third quarter. We know that we have to close out better.”
Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich agreed, saying, “We felt like we let an opportunity go.”
Thibodeau spent part of Monday’s practice addressing defense of the three-point shot, something that often requires a multiple effort mentality.
“It’s the scramble three, it’s the transition three; those are the things you have to eliminate,” explained Thibodeau. “The initial part of our defense I think has been very, very good. It’s the finish of the defense, particularly with the scramble three. The long rebound we’ve got to get to quicker.
“We also have to have the discipline of not running in—sometimes our guards have to get to the elbow area so they can chase down that long rebound,” Thibodeau continued. “We’ve done a pretty good job of challenging shots on the initial one and the rebounding has been off the charts all year.”
Hinrich said the team has worked on perimeter defense all season, making it tough to explain some of the recent success opponents have had.
Detroit converted on 12-19 from long range on Saturday, good for 63.2 percent. To make matters worse, the Bulls made only 3-18 (16.7 percent) from behind the arc.
“We look at it, we talk about it and we have a concentrated effort to try and take away the three, but it just seems to keep killing us,” said Hinrich. “We’ll keep working at it. A lot of it is transition, second shots, and an unbelievable amount of times that there’s been a loose ball and teams have picked it up to hit a three against us. Recently at home, that’s happened a lot. It’s one of those things. We work on it every day and hopefully we’ll get that down.”
After an injury plagued 2012-13, Hinrich has played in all 18 games so far this season, taking on a greater role with Derrick Rose sidelined.
“One of the biggest keys for me coming into the season was staying healthy,” said Hinrich. “It’s still early, but knock on wood, things have gone pretty good so far.
“I feel like I’m moving much better,” Hinrich added. “That’s the main thing, and like I said, I’m happy about that. It’s kind of been a world of difference for me.”
Hinrich’s offseason was different than previous ones, he noted, one in which he took a “less is more” approach.
“I tried to do as much as I could and I feel like I was listening to the right people as far as doing things for my body,” said Hinrich. “It might not have been as much of a pound it out, real high intensity summer; it was more [about] feeling good on the court and in the weight room, doing all my stretching and stuff like that. I’m tying. Last year I felt like I was prepared and I had a bunch of freak injuries. A lot of it is just luck.”
While there’s no doubt you have to be good to win in the NBA, luck certainly does help. But again, don’t expect Thibodeau to ask for sympathy on behalf of his short-handed team.
“We have a lot of toughness,” said Thibodeau. “We’ve got some moving parts right now, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to keep grinding, get ready for the next one and come out with the right mindset. I like the spirit of our team.”
As Hinrich and the Bulls prepare for the 4-16 Bucks and a stretch of four games in five nights, they know that every opponent presents a formidable test.
“It’s a challenge every night,” said Hinrich. “It’s a new team, a new game, and we have to be right.
“We just want to keep moving forward,” Hinrich continued. “We believe that we can win games and do it consistently. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau meets the media following practice (12.09.2013):
Audio—Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich looks ahead to Tuesday’s game vs. Bucks (12.09.2013):