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Rivers talks Bulls, Thibodeau, Robinson

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Rivers talks Bulls, Thibodeau, Robinson

With Kirk Hinrich sidelined for Mondays contest against the Celtics with a right hip strain, Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson will be thrust into a starting role.

Robinson has already started and played tremendously in Hinrichs place during a pair of preseason contests and overall, the diminutive energy player has been solid, at minimum, thus far during his stint in Chicago.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers isnt surprised at Robinsons success. Robinson played under Rivers for parts of two seasons, including the Celtics 2010 run to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers, but since leaving Boston, Rivers has been pleased with Robinsons progress from afar.

Well, I just think hes matured, honestly. Ive told Nate this: Its never been his basketball. Nate knows how to play. Hes grown up. Hes more of a professional. I think hes got better focus, Rivers said after the Celtics shootaround Monday morning at Moody Bible Institute. I thought he started doing it last year. I thought last year, you could see the difference in Nate and Im happy for him. I want him doing that. Its not like we dont want players to be good. Im a fan of Nates talent and this is good for Nate.

Added former teammate Rajon Rondo, who will match up with Robinson in Mondays affair: He was the starting point guard for part of the season in Golden State, so hes been there before."

Rivers acknowledged that the Bulls are in a tough situation without All-Star Derrick Rose, but believes that behind his good friend and former assistant Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls' head coach, the team will overcome the major setback.

Its like not having Rondo, but theyre better at it because theyve done it for a while. Injuries are bad obviously, but when you have a training camp without the guy, you can make a team. I think injuries are far tougher when you have them in the middle of the season and then youre working a guy out. Its like Sunday night in the Bears game. The starting quarterback goes out, its tough because they didnt have training camp doing that. Its a little different, but Chicagos playing well, the Maywood, Ill., native explained. They play great D, Nates come in and done a terrific job. Its not like the guys they have playing are bad players. Hinrich may or may not play tonight, but Im talking about their team as a whole, and Nate Robinson, theyre NBA players, so theyre pretty good.

I dont look at it, honestly, because Derricks not playing. I dont prepare that way. I just look at what they are now and obviously, having Derrick, youre a better basketball team because he creates their offense all on his own for the most part and they dont have that. They still run the same stuff, but the same thing with any great point guard. What great point guards do is run the offense better, but more important is at the end of a set or anything, they can create their own offense in transition or off the end of sets, and thats the difference, he continued. I hope every coachs team takes on their identity or somethings not right, unless the best players that good, where they take on that players identity. In this case, I think the team has clearly taken Thibs identity and Derricks, for the most part, but I think its Thibs leadership. I think he sets the tone and he didnt let them give in, and to me, thats the value of Thibs.

They also use the clock on offense. They shoot the ball with one second on the shot clock a lot. They have great ball control. Its not like they wont run they will but theyre going to exhaust the clock until they get the exact shot that they want and so, you can be a running team all you want, it cuts your possessions in half.

Chimed in Rondo: Theyre still a defensive-minded teamI think its worked so far. Different guys have to step up.

Rivers revealed that Thibodeau, despite signing a new contract prior to the start of training camp, is still very frugal, joking, Hes still cheap as hell. Ive been trying to get him to buy a place here, instead of renting. But he tips now. Thats the first step. One step at a time.

The coach was also very complimentary of Bulls starters Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

Deng likes playing against us, if you go by the numbers. Hes good against us. I love Luol. Hes just a good player. Solid, solid basketball player. Hes another one of those All-Stars thats a role player, but hes an All-Star. Hes just such a team-oriented guy. Hes a great guy to have on your team, he gushed. Noah is being more aggressive, hes taking people off the dribble a lot and his I.Q. is as good as there is in the league. Noah, Kevin Garnett. Theres only a handful of bigs that have great I.Q.s, as far as point-guard I.Q.s and Noahs one of them.

Rivers also opined about the Lakers hiring of Mike DAntoni as head coach to replace the fired Mike Brown and eventually, interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, a former Bulls assistant instead of former Bulls and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, an 11-time NBA champion.

Ive kind of heard about it through the media. Thats good. Hes a hell of a coach. Its a good fit, he said. I think its a terrific fit.

Not my team, so I could care less, as you know, but I dont know how anyone can scoff at Mike DAntoni being a head coach.

Boise State coach Leon Rice believes Chandler Hutchison, Bulls are a 'match made in heaven'

Boise State coach Leon Rice believes Chandler Hutchison, Bulls are a 'match made in heaven'

The Bulls ended long-standing speculation and drafted Boise State senior wing Chandler Hutchinson with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of Thursday's 2018 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-7 Hutchison has been linked to Chicago since opting out of the 2018 NBA Draft Combine in May as he gives the Bulls a versatile and experienced wing on the perimeter.

A late-bloomer both during high school career in Mission Viejo, California and during his four years at Boise State, Hutchison has always been willing to put in the work to reach the next levels of basketball. Hutchison elevated from a mid-major recruit into a top-100 national prospect by the end of high school. And similar to his prep career, Hutchison blossomed into a first-round pick after a slow start to his career at Boise State.

Broncos head coach Leon Rice offered strong praise for his former star player, as Hutchinson became the go-to player for the Broncos during his junior and senior seasons. Because Hutchison can play multiple spots, rebound, defend and push off the break, he's an intriguing piece for the Bulls' future rotation. Hutchison should be able to play on the wing alongside other rebuilding pieces like Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

"I think the Chicago Bulls got a steal," Rice said to NBC Sports Chicago. "You look at the last four years, he's gotten better every year."

"I think it's a great fit. You've got a terrific coach out there for Chandler and the style that he is. It's just the same way. I think it's a really good match."

It wasn't always easy for Hutchinson at Boise State. Rice and former Broncos assistant coach Jeff Linder were both convinced that Hutchison had the ability to develop into a star from the time they started recruiting him. But Hutchison needed time to develop his strength and skill level before he became a standout player.

"Our assistant coach Jeff Linder, who I really think is one of our best evaluators, he went and watched this kid. And he calls me, and it's five minutes into the game, and he's like, 'I've seen enough. He's what we need,'" Rice said. "He's got a feel for the game, he's long. I think people labeled him a little bit because he's from Orange County. In my estimation, he didn't fit that label. He just wasn't developed yet. He was young and he looked young. He just wasn't mature yet, that's the bottom line."

When he arrived on campus, Hutchinson was a touted top-100 prospect -- a rarity for the program and the Mountain West Conference. But the program already had talented and experienced players ahead of Hutchison in the rotation. Earning playing time, and a spot in the starting lineup, wasn't guaranteed to Hutchison.

Junior wing Anthony Drmic was one of the best, and most competitive, players in the league as Hutchison had to earn his stripes by battling a veteran in practice every day as an underclassman. Forward James Webb III was another all-conference piece that was already in place for Hutchison to learn from. 

"By the time he got to Boise, there were a lot of strong guys to compete with. I think that brought him something positive. Things that he didn't have," Rice said. "Anthony Drmic is one of the fiercest competitors I've ever coached. Chandler got to go against him day-in, day-out as a freshman. I don't know if across the country, who had a tougher practice. It shapes who he is today."

When Drmic and Webb departed Boise State, Hutchison was ready to step up into a consistent double-figure scorer and go-to player before his junior season. Already putting in the work to become a more well-rounded wing, Hutchison set out to improve an inconsistent three-pointer that was never above 28 percent during his first two seasons with the Broncos.

The arrival of assistant coach Phil Beckner to Boise State was another huge part of Hutchison's personal development. An experienced coach who spent time developing Damian Lillard as an assistant at Weber State, Beckner also had NBA G-League coaching experience and trained NBA players. Beckner's work with Hutchison took the junior's game, and his jumper, to a new level during his final two seasons in college.

"I think the last two years there was a great jump. He got to work with Phil Beckner, one of our assistants, who has worked with Dame Lillard and a number of players. I think he's one of the best at player development. It was a lot of hours and a lot of time doing it. A lot of dedication," Rice said.

Hutchison saw his three-point percentage jump to 37 percent as a junior as he put up 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, helping lead the Broncos to an NIT appearance. Senior year was even stronger for Hutchison. Elevating to 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, Hutchison was named first-team all-conference while being named a top-10 national finalist for the Jerry West Award. 

"He led us in just about every category. And we had a good ballclub, too." Rice said. "He was a do-it-all player and he could do it at every position. He rebounded. He guarded big guys and small guys. Led the break. He's a great decision-maker with his feel."

Rice is also impressed that his star player was always coachable and easy to deal with away from the court. Hutchison earned his degree from Boise State, and even attended graduation in the midst of his pre-draft workouts in Chicago. Hutchison even flew straight back from his graduation and didn't miss his next pre-draft workout.

"He finishes. He got his degree and there's only two or three guys in the first round that got degrees and got it done. I mean, that's impressive," Rice said. "These guys that are elite-level players have so much demands on them with media and with the team and the workouts and all of these extra workouts. To get a degree while dealing with all of that is very impressive."

Hutchison has taken some time to find his footing in every level of basketball. Rice thinks playing around other talented, high-IQ players will help Hutchison's all-around game shine in the NBA. Rice in convinced that Hutchison's work ethic and versatility make him a great fit for the Bulls.

"That's what I love about him. I think he can fill a lot of different positions and a lot of different needs. Depending on what you need, night-in, night-out he can adjust his game and bring those things," Rice said.

"A great organization like the Bulls, he couldn't be more excited. It's a match made in heaven."

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