Knees? Check. Trash talk? Check. Bulls-Bucks ready for Game 1

SHARE Knees? Check. Trash talk? Check. Bulls-Bucks ready for Game 1

It’s not an interesting first-round series until shots are fired.

And they were fired.

Milwaukee Bucks primary owner Jamie Dinan is well aware of the hostile takeover headed for his arena next week when Bulls fans make their usual migration north and treat the Bradley Center as if it were located in a Chicago suburb.

So his message to Milwaukee reporters was this:

“I would say it’s going to be a very long, long, lonely drive home to west Chicago after the games here,’’ Dinan said about Bulls fans planning to make the drive up Interstate 94. “That’s my advice. Stay home because you’re going to be really lonely and sad on that long ride home.’’

If Dinan was hoping for retaliation from the Bulls at practice Friday, he picked the wrong team at the wrong time.

The last thing on Tom Thibodeau’s mind is a delusional owner talking about long rides home.

More important to Thibodeau is the condition of Derrick Rose, who has played in only five games since surgery on his right knee

Feb. 27 and pulled himself out of the regular-season finale Wednesday because of soreness in his left knee.

Rose practiced and had no setbacks. Game 1 on Saturday will mark his first playoff game since his knees started betraying him in the 2012 postseason.

“Obviously, we know that he’s been through a lot,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s good that he’s able to play, and obviously when he’s on the floor, it makes us a much different team. But he’s been through a lot, so we’re pleased that he’s able to play. Now we want him to play well.’’

But Rose, as well as Joakim Noah (left knee), could be under the watchful eyes of the training staff regarding their minutes.

“At this point of the season, it’s not as much about minutes,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s performing well while you’re out there. If you’re playing well and you feel good, you’ll play more. If you’re not, then you’ll play less. That’s basically the way we have to approach it.’’

But even if both are playing well, there might be limits.

“They’ll roughly be around where they were,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about minutes restrictions a second time. “At full strength, we have good depth. We’ll just see how it unfolds.’’

But there’s a bigger picture to the start of the playoffs. The feeling around the Advocate Center is the window could be closing on this Bulls team, possibly starting with the coach.

“I’m not getting any younger, but this isn’t the end for me by any means,’’ free-agent-to-be Mike Dunleavy said. “This is certainly a great opportunity [for a deep run], probably the first one I’ve had. Now we’ve got to take it game-by-game, series-by-series, but we’ve got to get this first one.

“[Having an urgency is] what I’m kind of getting at. Everybody’s dialed in mentally. Certainly physically there’s been some issues throughout the course of the year. You can’t control that stuff. Guys have battled back. But mentally, everyone seems dialed in right now, ready to go. Everybody’s got their house in order, so to speak. We’re anxious to see what we can do.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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