Bulls

Hamilton, Watson casualties of Bulls home opener

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Hamilton, Watson casualties of Bulls home opener

While the Bulls opened 2012 with a decisive victory over the Grizzlies in their home opener, they didnt start the new year in the best of health.

Starting shooting guard Rip Hamilton was held out of the lineup Sunday due to a groin injury, while backup point guard C.J. Watson sprained his left elbow while diving for a loose ball late in the rout.

They did an X-ray and its not showing anything, so well know more Monday, Thibodeau said about Watson, who didnt talk to reporters after the game, but had his left arm in a sling in the Bulls locker room. We want to see what the swellings like. Hell have it re-examined.

Watson will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury and his status will be determined afterwards.

Hamiltons situation was an entirely different scenario, as Thibodeau didnt inform the media about Hamiltons health status when he spoke to reporters during his regular pregame media availability Sunday, despite being asked about the teams overall injury situation.

He had a tweak, so it was a game-time decision, but we wanted to play it safe. We wanted to make sure hes good, so we decided at the last minute to sit him out, Thibodeau said of Hamilton, who apparently injured his groin during Fridays win over the Clippers in Los Angeles, but was still a partial participant in Sunday mornings walkthrough-style shootaround. Hamiltons status is day-to-day. I just asked him on the way out. He just said hes feeling better. With those type of injuries, Id rather be safe right now.

Reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer started in Hamiltons place and scored 17 points, tied with Carlos Boozer for the team-high, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.

I knew Rip was a little banged up this morning, but I thought that he was going to be able to go. It wasnt until right before we met and he didnt put on his jersey that I knew I was going to get the start, said Brewer, who began training camp with the Bulls first unit and started the teams preseason opener in Indianapolis. Hes a true professional and a lot of players play with pain, so everybody assumed that he was going to play tonight. But as people know, if guys get hurt or guys are not playing well, a lot of guys on this team can step in and do a good job.

When Watson went down, Thibodeau turned to third-string point guard John Lucas III, who, unlike Brewer, is a deep reserve and doesnt normally see any action. Lucas was very aggressive on offense in his 10 minutes of playing time, scoring eight quick points in the win.

When you have an injury, the next guys got to step in. thats why you have them, said Thibodeau, who coached Lucas in Houston and worked as an assistant coach under his father. John has filled that role before.

Ironically, Lucas was playing against one of his college teammates Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, a Chicago native, whom Lucas played with at Oklahoma State, which the duo led to a Final Four appearance in the contest.

Im very confident. My team has a lot of confidence in me. We all stick together. Were like a family, were like brothers, Lucas told CSNChicago.com. When C.J. went down, I was like, Lets get up, because thats my brother.

"I dont want anybody to get hurt. Its just the time when you have to be ready and Im going to make sure Im going to stay ready," Lucas continued. "I go to practice every day, I practice like its a game, so whenever something like this unfortunately happens, I can come in and not miss a beat, and pick up where C.J. left off.

While the Bulls as an organization wouldnt officially speculate as to how long Watson could be out, teammate Joakim Noah told reporters, Hes going to be out for a while.

Watson's late-game heroics almost sparked an improbable comeback against his former employer, Golden State, in the teams only loss of the season thus far. He also had a career-high nine assists in the Bulls win over Sacramento.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen stumps for Rudy Tomjanovich's Hall of Fame bid

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USA Today

Bulls coach Jim Boylen stumps for Rudy Tomjanovich's Hall of Fame bid

In case you forgot, Jim Boylen once worked for Rudy Tomjanovich. In fact, the former Rockets coach gave Boylen his NBA start, hiring him as an assistant coach and video coordinator way back in 1992.

Boylen saw first-hand the coaching chops and commitment Tomjanovich displayed as the Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles while Michael Jordan was playing baseball in the mid-1990s. So it's beyond loyalty when Boylen says he believes, like many others, that Tomjanovich belongs in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The organization named Tomjanovich a finalist over All-Star weekend in Chicago.

[RELATED: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett highlight Hall of Fame finalists]

"He's deserving," Boylen said. "I don't know why he's not in there yet. It doesn't make sense to me. Two championships, a gold medal."

That's a reference to Tomjanovich coaching USA Basketball's gold-medal winning team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Tomjanovich is an occasional visitor to the Advocate Center to watch Boylen.

"What he did with those Rockets teams and his playoff games — sixth seed in '95 — nobody's duplicated that. To win it from the sixth seed, play on the road like we did," Boylen said. "He has an unbelievable record in elimination games, which I think is a true test of your coaching and being able to communicate your message. I think he's getting in."

Does Boylen possess inside information?

"No," Boylen said, smiling. "He's due."

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Injury notes: Latest on Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn

Injury notes: Latest on Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn

Jim Boylen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. spent the majority of their time speaking to media after the team’s first post-All-Star break practice laying a trail of injury-related tea leaves.

Carter has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since Jan. 6, and Porter hasn’t played since spraining his foot on Nov. 6. Both took part in practice (which featured “some contact” according to Boylen) and are inching closer to respective returns, though nothing is official as of yet.

"Otto participated in practice and got his legs underneath him. Wendell, we kinda put him in for two possessions, then take him out for two and kinda getting him back comfortable," Boylen said.

“Just taking it one day at a time,” said Carter, who said on the Friday of All-Star weekend that he was shooting for a return this Thursday (Feb. 20) against the Hornets. “I practiced today and it felt okay, so I'm just taking it slow. Don't want to rush anything, and end up hurting again, so that's where I'm at right now.

“Depending on the coaching staff, depending on how I'm feeling come game time, of course I want to play Thursday, but I'm [going to] do what's best for the team and for myself."

Boylen declined to say officially whether Carter will be available Thursday, also taking a “we’ll see” approach. Carter is about six weeks into his initial four-to-six week recovery timeline.

Porter, who said he’s “close” to 100 percent, doesn’t yet know when he’ll be back and that “time will tell” how many practices he needs before sliding back into the Bulls’ lineup. He remains without a timetable, and said he is unsure if he’ll be eased back in on a minutes restriction when he is able to return.

“I was able to do everything. I feel good,” Porter said. “I’ll continue it a day at a time, making sure my pain is free."

When asked, Boylen said he doesn’t yet have a clear idea of when Lauri Markkanen (who has been out with a pelvis injury since Jan. 24) might return to practice. This Friday marks four weeks into Markkanen’s initial four-to-six week timeline

There was also no update on Kris Dunn on the two-week anniversary of his initial two-week re-examination timeline for a sprained right MCL suffered against the Nets on Jan. 31.

[RELATED: Bulls preparing for possibility of losing Kris Dunn for rest of season]

Still, things are moving in the right direction for the Bulls on the injury front. The team entered the All-Star break on a six-game losing streak that ties a season-high, but Boylen maintained playing competitive basketball down the stretch remains a goal. At 19-36, they will resume play five games behind the Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“I think doing both, I think that's what our challenge is this year,” Boylen said of the team’s dual objectives of winning and developing. “Part of development is you hope to play in some meaningful games, and we've had a couple of those situations this year compared to last year, and I'm hoping we can have more. I'm hoping.

"Health is part of that and just getting better. I got a good group of guys that play hard, and we gotta continue to do that, and hopefully improve as we go down the stretch here.”

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