Nazr Mohammed showed a good sense of humor about going from a rarely used benchwarmer to playoff starter during the course of the season.
"It was a master plan," Mohammed joked Friday at the Berto Center. "(Coach Tom Thibodeau) told me when I signed here they're going to save me all year and unleash me at the end of the season."
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That's one way to put it. Mohammed played double-figure minutes just nine times in the first 58 games. So far in April he has played 35 minutes or more four times, registered double-digit rebounding games four times and delivered his two highest-scoring games of the season -- 16 and 17 points.
Thibodeau wouldn't confirm the starting lineup for Saturday's Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets. But when Joakim Noah glumly told reporters about his ongoing plantar fasciitis problems, he mentioned Mohammed's status.
"Nazr's been working hard all year," Noah said. "He's been through a lot this year and not playing in the beginning, just staying ready. Now he's going to start the biggest game of the season on Saturday. I know he's excited being able to do that for your hometown. It's huge for him."
The Nets might actually be a decent matchup for Mohammed, since they have a true post-up center in Brook Lopez. Mohammed typically plays very little against small front lines.
"No one feels sorry for us," said Mohammed, a Chicago native. "No one cares if we're not full strength. People could care less if Jo's not healthy. He's a big part of our team, but I'm going to go out there, follow the game plan, play hard, leave it on the floor and be physical."
Butler set to start:
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau usually doesn't offer any advance information on his team, even when it comes to naming a starting lineup 90 minutes before tipoff.
He made an exception for Jimmy Butler, confirming the second-year swingman would remain a starter during the playoffs. Butler likely will match up against Brooklyn shooting guard Joe Johnson.
"It's a big honor," Butler said Friday. "I feel like I've come a long way. I've worked extremely hard, both the off-season and through this season.
"I'm just happy for it, to tell you the truth. But just it being a playoff game and a playoff setting, an away game at that, it's going to be tough. But that's what you live for, to have fun and play on the road."
One potential issue is how does Thibodeau get the most out of the two shooting guards who will come off the bench, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli.
"It's good to have flexibility," Thibodeau said. "The thing is, health has been the issue with both of those guys. We have to see how things unfold."
The Bulls lost a three-way coin flip with Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers, and therefore will choose 20th in the 2013 NBA draft. The Rockets got the 18th pick and the Lakers 19th. … Here's some potential bad news for the Bulls: The Nets will have one less distraction now that Brooklyn forward Kris Humphries' divorce from Kim Kardashian reportedly is about to become official. "I would never let something get in the way of basketball," said Humphries, according to the New York Post. "We've got the playoffs, that's what I'm focused on, and practice, playoffs."