MIAMI – Taj Gibson was thrilled to know that both Joakim Noah [groin] and Kirk Hinrich [shoulder] were good to go for tonight’s regular-season opener against Miami.
Not just because of their experience, but the way Gibson sees it that means two more teammates to make sure that the Heat players get “popped in the mouth.’’
Yes, this is only Game 1 of 82. But it’s much more.
Ask the Heat, who went through a practice on Monday in which football hand guards were used to prepare them for Bulls basketball.
Video that Gibson and his teammates loved seeing.
“It gets us real excited, just knowing that they’re adjusting to you,’’ Gibson said. “We’re just a physical team. We practice like that in practice all the time. We really don’t adjust anything, we don’t change anything. Thibs [coach Tom Thibodeau] just gives us the plan and we’ve got to follow it.’’
But there are more layers to this than just the Bulls playing the defending champs.
Ever since Noah labeled Miami “Hollywood as hell’’ after the Heat dismissed the Bulls in the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Finals, this is the have-nots chasing the haves. This is blue-collar wanting to knock the glamour team off their pedestal.
“That’s fine, they can have that,’’ Gibson said. “We just want to do our job and kind of do the right things. That’s what we’ve been doing the last few years, building, building and building. Hopefully this year it will all pay off. They can have those attributes, but just know that when they play us they have to adjust to how we play.
“We’re blue-collar, but you know you’re going to get popped in the mouth, you know you’re going to get hit hard from us. We’re one of those teams that is just a grind-it-out team.’’
A “grind-it-out team’’ that has its own superstar, as all eyes will also be on the return of Derrick Rose.
A torn left anterior cruciate ligament cost Rose all of last season, and after a stellar preseason, Rose is back on the court for a game that counts. Back with five more inches on his vertical, as well as improved three-point range.
“Oh yeah, for sure I think I’m way better as a player,’’ Rose said before the Tuesday shootaround. “Just my IQ has gotten higher and the way that I play I think I’m a more efficient player. And my teammates allow me to play the way I normally play. That’s a blessing.’’