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Thibs' Christmas wish: 'Just get a win'

Tom Thibodeau understands the significance of his team being picked to play on Christmas. Kyle Terada/US Presswire

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Even on Christmas, Tom Thibodeau has a singular mindset. When asked what was on his Christmas wish list after Monday afternoon's practice, Thibodeau responded the way Bulls fans would expect.

"Just get a win," he said.

That's the mindset he wants his team to have as well. The Bulls understand that only good teams are usually scheduled to play on Christmas day and it's an honor Thibodeau's bunch will have for the third consecutive year as they host the Houston Rockets.

"We're excited about it," Thibodeau said. "It is an honor and a privilege to be playing on this day with the league and everything. I think our players are excited about playing. It's a great day."

While his players would understandably like to stay at home with their families, they recognize the significance of playing on Dec. 25.

"It's exciting," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "I have my family in. I'm sure everyone will have their family in. We're on TV; a lot of family and friends get to watch you. It's an honor to get an opportunity to play on a day like that. It's a lot of guys in the league that have never been or never played on Christmas day that would love that opportunity so I'm glad that in the last few years we've done a good enough job to be on TV on Christmas day."

Bulls center Joakim Noah echoed those sentiments. After playing so poorly on Saturday night in Atlanta, Noah is looking forward to getting his team back on track.

"Just looking forward to going back and competing," Noah said. "We kind of laid an egg last game so being able to play on Christmas day is a big deal. A lot of people are going to be watching and it should be fun ... of course I'd rather have a little time off, but it's always exciting to play in a big game, there's going to be a lot of people there. It will be exciting."

As much as Thibodeau may want his team to focus on the game, even he accepts that Christmas is a family day. Instead of their customary morning shootaround at the Berto Center, the Bulls will hold an afternoon walk-through at the United Center before the game so that players can be with their families in the morning.

"It is a family day and we want to recognize that," Thibodeau said. "And then we also don't want to be distracted and prepared to play. I think if you're building the right habits all the way along you can handle things like this."

Injury update: Luol Deng (left shoulder strain) got the day off to rest on Monday. Taj Gibson (right ankle sprain) practiced. Both are expected to play Tuesday night. Rip Hamilton (torn plantar fascia) has started running again but will not play Tuesday.

"He's running," Thibodeau said. "Each day he's doing more, he's shooting, he's going through all the offense right now. He did a little bit of the defense today so he's feeling pretty good. We'll see how he feels (Tuesday) ... I want him to get through a few practices first where there's no discomfort the next day. But he did a lot more today than he has in the past."