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Predictably, NBA's lockout set stage for unpredictable results, injuries

By By Teddy Greenstein/Chicago Tribune (MCT)
Jan. 8, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.


CHICAGO _ After what transpired Saturday night in Atlanta, the Bulls should have used their Sunday to go ice skating. Or mountain climbing. Anything to tire themselves out.

The Hawks went into the game having played 116 minutes of basketball _ including four tense overtime sessions _ in their previous 48 hours. One of the games was on the road. They were supposed to have "lockout legs."

Instead they made 9 of their first 10 shots from three-point range, assisted on 32 of 47 field goals and put the clamps on Derrick Rose with a swarming, trapping defense.

So what's the lesson here?

That the NBA's lockout will lead to unpredictable results. And injuries. According to (Fort Worth) Star-Telegram.com, 19 key players across the league already have lost time.

The Bulls' Richard Hamilton (groin) is one of them. He has missed four of the last five games and said after Saturday's game he's not sure when he will return: "I'm just taking it one day at a time."

Hamilton said injuries were to be expected: "Not having a long training camp, it's different than the norm. As you see in the league, there are a lot of injuries, kind of like there were in football (after the NFL lockout)."

Several players said they expect to see the quality of play affected later in the season, probably starting in February.

"It's going to be a grind," said Kirk Hinrich, the former Bulls guard who now plays for the Hawks. "It will come down to staying healthy and the teams that have the best bench."

The Bulls are in the midst of a rugged stretch _ five games in six days, seven in nine. They did not practice Sunday upon returning home from Atlanta but will have a shootaround Monday to prep for their game against the Pistons.

Kyle Korver said "it's still too early" to judge the effect of the lockout but added: "Once we get past 30 or 40 games, we'll see where everyone is. It's a lot of games. I looked at the schedule (Saturday) and I was like: Four in five days and then a day off and three more?"

Korver needs strong legs to make three-pointers, but that won't be the only part of the game that's affected.

"I think on both ends it will be a bit sloppy," he said. "A lot of scoring for us is getting out in transition and having legs to shoot the ball. When you're tired, those things are a bit harder to do.

"On defense, the rotations, the energy, how you're forcing the ball, it's easier for those things to slip up. The teams that are mentally tough will have a huge advantage this year."

Last year, according to ESPN the Magazine, teams played 3.38 games per week and had an average of 47.3 hours of rest between them. This year it's 3.73 per week with a 42.6-hour breather.

After the 1998-99 lockout, teams played 3.89 games per week but there were 50 of them, not 66.

"Even in a normal season," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, "you can't work on everything. You have to prioritize. It's imperative you use your shootarounds and film sessions to address things that need to be corrected. (But) you would prefer to have practice."

If the Bulls do slip in an area, guard Ronnie Brewer suspects it will be on the offensive end.

Don't forget who coaches the team.

"Thibs is going to push us to play at a high level regardless," Brewer said, "and if you see your teammates diving for loose balls and taking charges, rotating, you don't want to be that guy who is slacking. So you tend to take some rest on offense."

___

(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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