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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

David Haugh, Jordan Cornette, Shae Peppler join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Mark Schanowski joins SportsTalk Live to discuss Kris Dunn’s sprained MCL, Fred Hoiberg’s tough luck and Zach LaVine postgame criticisms of the coaching. Plus they’ll discuss another 0-3 team- LeBron’s Lakers.

20:00 – The panel discusses Mitchell Trubisky’s performance vs. the Patriots. Jordan makes the case that the media is giving the former No. 2 pick a pass.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

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USA TODAY

Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

Through the opening week of the NBA season, Hornets' All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and former Bull Niko Mirotic share the league scoring lead, averaging 33 points per game.

Bulls' fans have seen these hot stretches from Niko before, and chances are he'll start moving down to the mid to high-teens before long. But Walker is a big-time scorer who's quietly emerged as one of the most consistently productive point guards in a league loaded with stars at that position. He's averaged over 20 points and 5 assists in each of the last three seasons, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team twice.

Last season, Walker lit up the Bulls for 47 points in an overtime loss at the United Center in November, making some of the most difficult shots you can imagine to keep his team in the game. He seems to be as this best when facing the Bulls and you can bet Fred Hoiberg and his staff will pull out all the stops to try to slow him down, especially with defensive ace Kris Dunn out 4-6 weeks after suffering a sprained left MCL in his season debut on Monday.

The Hornets made some personnel changes since last season. The one-year experiment with Dwight Howard at center is over. Howard put up solid numbers for Charlotte a year ago, but didn't make much difference in the win-loss column, so he's moved on to Washington in his NBA odyssey. Cody Zeller is now the starting center, backed up by Bismack Biyombo and former Benet Academy and University of Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.

Charlotte tried to improve the athleticism on their roster by selecting Malik Monk and Miles Bridges in the first rounds of the last two drafts. Monk is getting more playing time this season, averaging 13.5 points in the Hornets' first four games. Bridges is averaging just under 16 minutes a game as a backup to starting forwards Marvin Williams and Nic Batum. Just like he did at Michigan State, Bridges is providing those highlight reel putback dunks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll develop a consistent enough outside shot to be a quality starter in the NBA.

The well-traveled Jeremy Lamb is now starting in the backcourt with Walker, and the Hornets brought in long-time Spurs' point guard Tony Parker to add some much needed experience and veteran savvy off the bench. Given the current state of the Eastern Conference (post-LeBron), it's not out of the question for this group to contend for one of the final playoff spots.

Here's what the Bulls need to do for a shot at their first win of the season. This also applies to the rematch in Charlotte on Friday.

1. CORRAL KEMBA. For whatever reason, seeing that Bulls' logo turns Walker into an almost unstoppable scoring machine. Walker is adept at working off his big men, either in straight pick and rolls or cutting through the post on give-and-go plays. He's one of the league's most creative scorers, and doesn't require much room to get his shot off. The Bulls' bigs will have to provide help on Walker whenever he comes off screens to keep him from taking over the game.

2. PUT THE BALL IN ZACH'S HANDS. Whether he's playing shooting guard or point guard, Zach LaVine needs to be the primary facilitator with Dunn sidelined. LaVine scored 34 points against Dallas Monday night on just 15 shots, which led to him questioning some of the offensive sets that were run in the 2nd half. LaVine told reporters on Tuesday that he smoothed things over with his head coach, explaining his comments were the result of the frustration he was feeling after a third-straight loss to open the season. Still, LaVine is on a major hot streak, joining Bulls' all-time greats Michael Jordan and Bob Love as the only players to start the year with three straight games scoring at least 30 points. The Bulls will need to ride that hot hand for as far as LaVine can carry them.

3. DEFEND THE 3-POINT LINE. You knew I would eventually get to this, right? Dallas made 15 of 47 3-point attempts on Monday after the Pistons knocked down 18 of 40 in a two-point win last Saturday. The Hornets have all kinds of capable 3-point shooters in Walker, Lamb, Monk, Batum and Williams (they're shooting .397 as a team on 3's), so guarding the arc will be crucial for the Bulls to have a chance at their first win.

Don’t forget you can catch Wednesday's game on NBC Sports Chicago and the new MyTeams by NBC sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 pm when Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play-by-play call at 7 pm, then stay tuned after the final buzzer for Bulls Postgame Live and the always entertaining Bulls Outsiders.