Chicago Bull's John Salmons, center, takes a loose ball from Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh, right.
John Salmons has been playing through a groin injury for more than two weeks, but the situation looked as bad as it ever has on Wednesday, when he hit 1-of-7 shots for 5 points during the Bulls' loss to Toronto.
He figured the eve of the playoffs was no time to back off. Following a team meeting, Salmons took the court at the Berto Center and shot baskets for more than 30 minutes. It wasn't standstill shooting, either. He drove, cut and faded away while working on most every shot in his arsenal.
Pressed to describe the extent of his pain, Salmons refused to use the muscle strain as an excuse.
"It's not going to heal until the season's over, until I get rest. But it's not a problem," he said. "That's why I'm out here working, just trying to get a feel back. I think I'm going to be all right."
When the Bulls beat Boston 127-121 on March 17, Salmons won an impressive shootout with Celtics forward Paul Pierce. Salmons hit 14-of-20 shots and scored 38 points that night, compared to 37 for Pierce.
The small forward matchup will obviously be a key to this first-round series, and the Bulls need Salmons as healthy as possible.
"He's a tough cover," Salmons said of Pierce. "He's got every move in the book. He's real herky-jerky. He's one of those guys where every jab step or pump fake he makes, you have to respect it because there's nothing he can't do on offense."
Vinny remembers Boston: It took Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro a few minutes Thursday to list all of his Boston connections. He grew up in Springfield, Mass., rooting for the Celtics, and he was at the Boston Garden for the legendary Game 5 of the 1976 Finals against Phoenix, widely considered the greatest NBA game ever played.
"Bill Russell drafted me in Sacramento," Del Negro said. "Dave Cowens coached me (in Golden State, 2000-01). I played with (Celtics coach) Doc Rivers, he's a good of mine. I played with (Boston GM) Danny Ainge, he's a good friend of mine. I played with Ray Allen late in my career (in Milwaukee). (Celtics defensive guru) Tom Thibodeau was my assistant coach in San Antonio years ago. I'm happy for their success last year, and looking forward to getting going."
One highlight of Del Negro's playing career was getting a chance to inspect the parquet floor for dead spots before his first game at the old Garden.
"I remember how smoky it was in there, the atmosphere, (radio announcer) Johnny Most," he said. "I grew up there, so I have a lot of fond memories. It's interesting now, my first year, going against the Celtics, defending world champs. I'm looking forward to it, I'm excited for our young guys and I'm excited to get it going."
Bulls depart early: The Bulls made an unusual practice decision. Instead of working out at the Berto Center on Friday before getting on the plane, they will fly to Boston early, then bus straight to a practice at Northeastern University.
"I just figured we'd get there, get situated, get a practice the same time as the game (11:30 a.m. Central time) and then we're there and guys can get their rest because we'll be up early for our meeting Saturday morning," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "It really wasn't a tough decision."
The Bulls will hold a shootaround on Monday morning before Game 2 at another local college while the Boston Marathon is under way. Watch out for closed roads.
Bull horns: Derrick Rose said he was planning to have lunch Thursday with his agent, former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong, for some instruction on dealing with the NBA playoffs. - The Bulls and Celtics haven't met in the playoffs since 1987, when Boston swept the Bulls in the first round. The Bulls have played 40 playoff series since then and faced every other Eastern Conference team except the Raptors and Bobcats.