• Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich will not play again Monday because of his sore hamstring, missing his fourth straight game. Center Joakim Noah was ill Monday morning and will not play, although he did show up at the United Center. Taj Gibson will start in Noah’s place, producing the 18th different lineup for the Bulls in their 44th game of the season. The Bulls embark on a six-game road trip after Monday’s game and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Hinrich will travel with the team.
  • Two rookies came up in conversation before the game. Bulls swingman Tony Snell was the seventh man for the Bulls against Charlotte Saturday, playing 25 minutes and getting nine points. He has played in 38 of 43 games and started 10 of them. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation that he does not enjoy playing rookies, but  Snell has worked his way in on a team that probably needed him because of injuries. “His attitude and approach is what is necessary to be successful, ‘’ Thibodeau said. “He studies; he cares.” The other rookie is Minnesota forward Robbie Hummel, a local favorite in Chicago from his years playing at Valparaiso, Ind., in high school and then with nearby Purdue University. Hummel played his first year out of school in Europe. Hummel has appeared in 27 games with two starts with the Timberwolves and is averaging 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, but is now on the bench because the Timberwolves have gotten fully healthy. “He has been really sound,’’ said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “But we  have 15 guys and can only dress 13; somebody has to be inactive. But I would not have any hesitation to play him.”
  • This will be a game for fans to watch to see which team plays the way it wants. The Timberwolves rank second in the league in scoring with 106.8 points per game, and the Bulls rank second in points allowed with 92.9 points per game. “You have to be concerned about the fast break,” Thibodeau said. Watch also to see which team grabs the most rebounds, because the Timberwolves rank third in the league and the Bulls rank sixth.
  •  Perhaps in light of the unique way the National Football League split the teams for the Pro Bowl Sunday, with a draft of eligible players rather than teams set by the conferences, Thibodeau was asked if the NBA should consider a change. At issue was the relative strength of the Western Conference in comparison to the weaker Eastern Conference. “It is the thing that makes the most sense. Sometimes one conference may appear to be slightly better than the other but last I checked the defending champion is from the East,” he said.

Kent McDill

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