Boozer expected to return as Bulls visit Bucks


Jan 9

After missing two games with a sore right knee, Carlos Boozer will likely return to the lineup on Friday when the Bulls visit the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Carlos is good,” said coach Tom Thibodeau following the team’s practice on Thursday. “He did everything in practice and he’s feeling a lot better. We’ll see how he feels [Friday] morning, but the way he practiced, he was fine. As long as there are no problems, he’s a go.”

Thibodeau also reported that Mike Dunleavy (elbow) is better and practiced, while Joakim Noah was “feeling a little under the weather, but he’s fine.”

Boozer is expected to be back in the lineup as the Bulls go for a fourth consecutive win Friday night in Milwaukee.

Boozer is expected to be back in the lineup as the Bulls go for a fourth consecutive win Friday night in Milwaukee.

Though the Bulls are still in the process of adjusting to life without Luol Deng, Thibodeau said the team has no choice but to move on and be ready for the next game.

“That’s the nature of this league,” he said.

The Bulls on Tuesday in a victory over the Suns (20-13) proved they are still capable of playing at a high level.

Jimmy Butler scored 13 against Phoenix and he’s among the players who will be counted on as part of a collective effort to step up in Deng’s absence.

“Jimmy just has to be himself,” stated Thibodeau. “He already had a big role with our team. He’s had some bumps this year because of the injuries, but I think he’s finding his rhythm and he’s playing at a high level right now. [He needs to] just keep doing the things that he’s doing.”

As Thibodeau’s session with the media was ending, he was asked if he still had enough in the cupboard to win. It’s long been one of the coach’s fundamental beliefs, even in the face of the adversity the team has faced.

“Yes,” he stated. As a reported started with another question, he added, “More than enough.”

One of the reasons why could be the team’s versatility, as Thibodeau talked about the possibility of going with a lineup that included Boozer and Noah on the floor with Taj Gibson.

“It becomes more of a power game,” said Thibodeau of that scenario. “It can work and the challenge for us is to make it work. You look at the makeup of your team; you look at what the possibilities are and how you can try to take advantage of somebody. You might be able to beat a team because of the unique skill set of Joakim and Taj, where they can guard small guys. You can make it be a power game and pound someone on the boards. Maybe you can beat them with your rebounding.

“Taj’s perimeter skills have vastly improved,” added Thibodeau. “So we can go big; we can go small. We have players where we can go small in the backcourt with the two point guards. We can put Jimmy or Mike Dunleavy at [power forward]. That’s what I like about the makeup of the team—there is a lot of versatility to it.”

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich was encouraged by defeating the Suns and said he feels good about the team’s makeup.

“We like our group,” said Hinrich. “We enjoy playing with each other and we feel like we can count on each other to bring it every night. That goes a long way in this league. I think we showed some really good signs in the last game and we’ve got to keep moving forward. We can’t take any steps back.”

As Chicago (15-18) goes for a fourth straight victory on Friday, it finds itself with the sixth best record in the Eastern Conference. Hinrich is hopeful the Bulls continue to play towards a postseason berth, something he is confident will happen.

“I believe so,” said Hinrich. “If they started today, we’d be in. We feel like we still have a lot of improving to do. The things we can get better on are definitely correctable and I think that’s what we’re focusing on.”

Roster moves possible in near future

With 12 players on the roster, Chicago will have to bring in another to reach the league minimum of 13.

“I’m not certain; I know we will eventually add one,” said Thibodeau. “Gar [Forman] and John [Paxson] are looking at all the possibilities right now. Probably in the next week or so we’ll have an idea of what we’ll do.”

Thibodeau also said the Bulls will eventually recall Marquis Teague from his stint with the Iowa Energy of the NBA Developmental League, where he’s averaged 13.8 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the field in five games.

“This has been good for him,” said Thibodeau of Teague. “He’s had an opportunity to play significant minutes in a number of games which was the intention all along. So we’re pleased with that. He’ll be back.”

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau talks with reporters following Thursday’s practice (01.09.2014):

Audio—Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich on moving forward without Luol Deng (01.09.2014):

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