Thibodeau, Bulls ready for opener with healthy Hinrich
October 31, 2012, 12:26 pm
DEERFIELD, ILL.—First, the good news. Starting point guard Kirk Hinrich will play in the Bulls’ regular-season opener, apparently with no limitations in the wake of the strained right-groin injury he suffered in the preseason, according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“He’s fine,” the coach said after the team’s Tuesday-morning shootaround at the Berto Center. “He’s been fine the last two days in practice, so he’s good.”
Thibodeau has been pleased with how Hinrich has picked up a system that’s changed since his original stint in Chicago. Although he was sidelined for two exhibition contests—he also missed a game with a right-thumb injury—Hinrich appeared rejuvenated in his return to the Bulls during the preseason.
“You judge your point guard by how the team is functioning and so, I thought he set the tone on offense and defense for us. The ball pressure was good, his help defense was good, he kept us organized, he played with a good pace, his willingness to read matchups, read the extra pass, the ability to understand what everybody’s strengths and weaknesses are. I thought he had a very good preseason,” Thibodeau said. “He’s been around. He’s hard-working, he’s tough. He gets in early, he stays late. He’s done a good job.”
Now, the negative situation surrounding the Bulls on Halloween. The organization has an 11 p.m. Central time deadline to reach an agreement with valuable reserve Taj Gibson on a long-term contract extension.
The desire for Gibson to remain in Chicago is mutual, but the two sides have had a gap when it comes to closing the deal, though it should be noted that the Bulls would be able to match opposing offers next summer, if the fourth-year player were to hit the open market. Thibodeau believes Gibson is doing a good job of not letting the ongoing negotiations between the franchise’s front office and his Chicago-based agent, Mark Bartelstein, affect his play.
“He’s handled it well. He’s just focused on playing,” Thibodeau said of Gibson, whose peers in the 2009 draft class have found it hard to get extensions, though Golden State’s Stephen Curry reportedly reached a deal Tuesday morning and Denver’s Ty Lawson, another point guard, agreed to terms Monday. “That’s the business side and his agent will take care of that for him. He’s done a good job in practice and getting ready.”
As for the Bulls’ opponent Tuesday, the Sacramento Kings, Thibodeau isn’t underestimating the young team. Despite a mediocre record last season and low expectations for this campaign, Thibodeau lauded their talent and depth.
“They’re dangerous. They can put a lot of points on the board and they have a lot of weapons. [DeMarcus] Cousins’ skill set is unique. Jason Thompson is very underrated. [Former Bull] James Johnson has gotten better every year in the league,” he said. “[Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke] Evans can hurt you off the dribble, in the post, catch and shoot, athletic, runs the floor. [Fellow Seattle native Nate Robinson’s protégé] Isaiah Thomas, big-time scorer, had a great year as a rookie last year and they added Aaron Brooks, who’s started a lot of games. Marcus Thornton is a big-time scorer off the bench. [Travis] Outlaw’s been a very good player in the league. Chuck Hayes is one of those guys I don’t think you can ever measure him statistically; he can guard all five positions, he’s a terrific passer, great rebounder. Thomas Robinson’s a good young player.
“This team, they’re very talented. They’re talented, they’re deep and they can score. We’re going to be challenged. We have to be ready.”
While Evans—who is in the same boat as Gibson, but is reportedly seeking a max-level contract and is unlikely to receive one—was viewed as the future of the Kings after he drew Oscar Robertson comparisons as a rookie, Cousins has taken over that role. The volatile big man, who played alongside Gibson in July with the USA Select Team in Las Vegas, has quietly developed into one of the league’s top young post players.
“There’s not much he can’t do. He can face you up and he can shoot, he can post, he can pass. You don’t realize how quick he is and athletic. On ball reversal, if you’re not careful, he’ll jump out in the passing lane. He can handle the ball. He’s a basketball player,” praised Thibodeau, using one of injured superstar Derrick Rose’s go-to phrases to describe a well-rounded player. “I’ve been very impressed with him.”
While Thibodeau was pleased with some of his team’s progress during the exhibition season, he still feels the team has a long way to go, regardless of its 5-2 preseason mark. The coach didn’t go as far as using the old axiom that the preseason doesn’t matter, but he’s been focused on the Bulls being consistent.
“Each game reveals something to you, but it doesn’t stop. We want to keep evolving as it goes along, so you’re going to learn more about how guys function together, what gives us our best chance,” he said. “That never ends and I think you’re constantly studying and evaluating the team, and the game tells you the things you’re doing well and the things you’re not doing well, and for us, I don’t want us to change what we’re doing. I want us to concentrate on improvement. I think we have an understanding of what we have to do to be successful and I want to make sure we’re moving in that direction every day.”
Tags: Tom Thibodeau
, Sacramento Kings
, Chicago Bulls
, Taj Gibson
, Kirk Hinrich