Tom Thibodeau looks forward to Knicks-Bulls ‘series’

Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks
Nov 21, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts after a play against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at United Center. The Chicago Bulls won 109-103. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks will be looking to stretch their winning streak in Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose’s old stomping grounds beginning Wednesday night.

The Knicks and the Bulls were the fiercest rivals in the 90s, and while that’s not lost on everybody, the present circumstances warrant a new intrigue in this matchup.

Thibodeau finally brought back the spirit of the Knicks’ 90’s defense by swapping old with new legs over their past four games. But Derrick Rose, who rose to become the youngest MVP in the league and is considered a hometown hero in Chicago, and his 34-year-old legs could spring back to action.

Chicago native Jalen Brunson’s homecoming game as a member of the Bulls’ fiercest rival might have to wait. The Stevenson High School product is questionable to play with a contused right foot. He sat out Tuesday’s practice and was seen on a walking boot the night after he left Sunday’s win against Sacramento with the injury.

If Brunson misses time, Rose could find himself back in the Knicks rotation after diving into the “unknown” and will undoubtedly be motivated to play in his hometown and show he still has plenty of juice left.

But for Thibodeau, he looks forward to this mini-series against the Bulls, who they play back-to-back in three nights in Chicago, because of the playoff-like atmosphere.

“I like it. It’s different. It’s playing the same team twice. I think it’s good for us. That’s the challenge of the schedule… The challenge is one game at a time, be ready to play; whatever they tell you that you have to do, you do. [At] The end of the day, it’s going to be 41 home games [and] 41 away games.”

Tom Thibodeau via NY Post

The mini-series between the old rivals is one of the 55 the NBA scheduled this season to reduce travel and improve the quality of play. Last season, the NBA had 23 of this format after the pandemic, due to logistics concerns, forced them to schedule 90 such “series.”

“It’s gonna be interesting. Who does that a lot, is it baseball that does that? Yeah, so it’ll be cool, going there for two games.”

RJ Barrett via NY Post

The MLB-style series would cut down NBA teams’ travel by at least 4,000 miles on average from five years ago.

A sweep of this series will cement the Knicks’ place inside the Eastern Conference’s top six teams. But they would need to continue playing with the league-leading defense they showed over their past four games.

The Knicks split their two trips to Chicago last season, losing the last game 109-103, with DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Lonzo Ball combining for 63 points that more than made up for Nikola Vucevic’s absence.

Ball will not play in this “series,” with no definite timeline for his return from knee surgery. Alex Caruso, who suffered a contused tailbone in Saturday’s win against the Dallas Mavericks, will return after missing one game. Ayo Dosunmo is questionable after sustaining an abdominal contusion during Sunday’s overtime loss to the Hawks.

Julius Randle, who was sorry for getting ejected in Sunday’s win over the Sacramento Kings, is expected to bounce back, especially if Brunson will be out.

Randle averaged 20.5 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists against the Bulls in four meetings last season.

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