Fresh ink: March 25, 2009

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Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “A week ago, simply eking into the playoff picture was a worthy goal. But with the 99-91 victory Tuesday over the Detroit Pistons in a nationally televised game, the Bulls are only one game behind seventh-place Detroit and four games behind sixth-place Philadelphia. Kirk Hinrich led the Bulls as he slid seamlessly into his old role as the starting point guard, replacing the injured Derrick Rose, who was out with a badly bruised right wrist. ‘We have a system, and Kirk knows it as well as anybody,’ Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”We did not run as many pick-and-rolls, but when we did, Kirk was aggressive.’ Hinrich had team highs in points (24) and assists (eight) while directing Del Negro’s 17th different starting five of the season. ‘I’ve been playing pretty well of late in somewhat limited minutes,’ Hinrich said. ‘I just want to go out there and keep that same mentality, coming in and playing hard, doing what I can to help the team.'”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “With Derrick Rose sitting on the bench in his uniform and sweats Tuesday night, many in the crowd of 20,502 might not have known injury forced the rookie guard to miss his first game of the season. But if the left-handed high-fives weren’t enough of a giveaway, surely the brace protecting his severely bruised right wrist was. Playoff races don’t allow much time for pain or sympathy, and the Bulls knew they had an able substitute in their 99-91 victory over the Pistons anyway. Kirk Hinrich — remember him? — stepped in and stepped up with 24 points, eight assists and three steals as the Bulls placed all five starters in double figures to close to within one game of the Pistons for seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The teams meet again in Detroit on April 13. ‘In no way is Kirk a backup point guard,’ John Salmons said.”

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: “The game was 43-43 at halftime, but the Bulls dominated in the second half behind Hinrich and Ben Gordon, who seemingly scored at will. Gordon finished with 19 points, and Tyrus Thomas had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Joakim Noah had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and John Salmons scored 16 points. Gordon’s and Hinrich’s effectiveness was particularly damaging since they outscored the starting backcourt of the Pistons, Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo, 43-16. ‘That second half they pretty much shot out on us,’ said Detroit backup point guard Will Bynum, who finished with 20 points and nine assists. ‘A couple of bad plays, a couple of bad turnovers put us behind the eight ball.'”

Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “Kirk Hinrich hadn’t played more than 36 minutes in any game this season. But with rookie Derrick Rose sidelined by a wrist injury, Hinrich returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 7. He responded by producing a team-high 24 points and 8 assists in nearly 46 minutes of action as the Bulls improved their playoff position by handling the short-handed Detroit Pistons 99-91 on Tuesday night. ‘It kind of sends your body into shock when you’re not used to playing that many minutes,’ Hinrich said in the locker room. Hinrich’s reward for the extended effort? Getting booed by some of the United Center fans during his postgame interview, which aired on the videoboard. His offense was missing a free throw with 17.9 seconds left that would have given the fans free Big Macs. He apologized on camera and wasn’t fazed by the negative reaction. ‘I have thicker skin than that,’ Hinrich said with a laugh. ‘Anytime you can get your fans involved like that, it’s extra incentive.'”

More K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Even Derrick Rose, who missed his first game of the season Tuesday night, seemed surprised by how badly his bruised right wrist deteriorated overnight Monday. Rose suffered the injury while missing a dunk over Washington’s Oleksiy Pecherov just before halftime, then played 20 minutes 22 seconds in the second half. ‘Trust me, I can take pain,’ Rose said. ‘But it really hurts. I can barely turn a doorknob. [Athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi] told me to sit two or three days and let it heal.’ That places Thursday’s home game against Miami in jeopardy as well, although X-rays were negative. ‘It’s tough,’ Rose said. ‘We’re looking to get further in the playoffs and have to worry about teams sneaking up from behind us.'”

Chris Colston of USA Today: “If the season ended today, the Chicago Bulls would make the postseason after a one-year hiatus. One of the busiest teams at the trading deadline, the Bulls turned over 40% of their roster — and hold the eighth and final playoff spot over the Charlotte Bobcats in the East. The moves by Bulls general manager John Paxson seem to be working. Chicago is 10-8 since Paxson sent four players to the Sacramento Kings for swingman John Salmons and center Brad Miller on Feb. 18. The Bulls have won five of their last six, including Tuesday’s 99-91 win vs. the Detroit Pistons. ‘We’re definitely making progress,’ says Salmons, who entered Tuesday with averages of 22.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 11 games as a Bulls starter. ‘We’re getting better every game.'”

From Reuters: “The National Basketball Association will stage pre-season games in Europe this October for a fourth straight year, including a game between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz at London’s O2 Arena. The Bulls’ London-born Ben Gordon and Britain’s basketball team captain Luol Deng will play together in their home country for the first time on October 6. An NBA spokesman said tickets for the NBA’s Europe Live 2009 game in London have gone on sale and more European games will be announced shortly.”

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