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San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich: Handle Derrick Rose return to Bulls with care

Bulls guard Nate Robinsfloats shot over Spurs center Boris Diaw first quarter Chicago Bulls vs. San Antonio Spurs NBA tilt

Bulls guard Nate Robinson floats a shot over Spurs center Boris Diaw in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls vs. the San Antonio Spurs NBA tilt Monday February 11, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Gregg Popovich knows a few things about easing injured players back into the lineup after missing significant time, but even the San Antonio Spurs coach said Monday that when the Bulls’ Derrick Rose is ready to return from a knee injury, it’s a much more unique situation.

“For him as an individual, everyone knows about rhythm and confidence, blah, blah, blah, but for the team it’s a readjustment because everyone gets used to each other in a different way,’’ Popovich said. “You’re used to the way the spacing is and who is in different spaces, who comes in when, who you’re playing with, who that group is on the floor, and now it changes.’’

Popovich doesn’t believe Rose should keep his teammates happy and defer to them more than usual.

“If it’s a caliber of the player we’re talking about, he comes in and does his thing and everybody figures it out,’’ Popovich said. “He doesn’t need to defer to anybody. He’s got to set the tone and get ready for the playoffs.’’

Trading places

With the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaching, coach Tom Thibodeau refused to get caught up in the chatter surrounding his team, specifically Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer.

General manager Gar Forman told the Sun-Times in January that the organization was content with Hamilton. As for Boozer, Thibodeau downplayed any trade talk with his roster.

“I think it’s the time of the year where all that stuff happens, and most of it is generated by you guys,’’ Thibodeau said. “So we don’t overreact to that. It’s sort of the nature of the beast now. For every 100 trades that get talked about, one gets done. It’s not important. We just focus on what we have to do.’’

House of pain

Kirk Hinrich (infected right elbow) missed his sixth consecutive game Monday. Though he was expected to travel to Boston for the game Wednesday against the Celtics, the Bulls likely will hold him out through the upcoming All-Star Weekend.

Marco Belinelli (sore right foot) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in right foot) played against the Spurs after being limited in practice Sunday.

Point of interest

Belinelli continued getting point-guard duty when Nate Robinson needed a rest, with Thibodeau taking advantage of Belinelli’s play-making skills off the pick-and-roll. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon, either. Thibodeau has more confidence in Belinelli’s decision-making out of that set.



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