CHICAGO -- Subplots abound as the Bulls get set to face off against the Celtics for the first time on Friday night, but there is one person who doesn't even want to get into the most obvious link between the two teams: Tom Thibodeau.
The former Celtics assistant and current Bulls head coach wanted no part of the media hype that is sure to greet his return to Boston.
"I'm not really thinking about Boston right now," Thibodeau said. "I'm focused more on New York, but we got two tough opponents coming up and that's all I'm concerned with right now."
While Thibodeau tried to downplay his return, it's clear when you talk to other coaches and players from both teams that this game definitely means a little bit more to them.
"That'll be great [to have Thibodeau back in town]," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. "We talk a lot; Hell, I think I talk to him more now then when he was with us, at least it feels like that at times. I'm just real happy for him. He's doing a sensational job. I don't know if anybody paid more dues than him. He's been around for a long time, trying to get a head coaching job. So it's real nice."
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose knows things will be a little strange for his coach when he faces his old team.
"Of course," he said before Thursday's game against the Knicks. "But we know we still got to go out there and play that game and play hard. It might be a little more yelling than usual [from Thibodeau] but we're basketball players, we've been yelled at our whole career, so I think we should be used to it."
Scal returns: Unlike Thibodeau, Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine couldn't hide the fact that he was looking forward to facing his old teammates.
"As much as I would love to downplay it, I am actually pretty excited about going back to Boston to play there," Scalabrine said. "More than just me, Tom [too] ... if we could go out there and get a win I'd be the happiest dude alive at the time."
Scalabrine knows that the game is important to Thibodeau, but doesn't think it will be that much different for the veteran coach.
"For him, I think it's just like he just wants to win the game," Scalabrine said. "I think afterwards, it would mean something to him, but he's probably a lot different than me in that sense. I'm going in there, I want to get a win. To beat those guys on their homecourt would be great."
Rose vs. Rondo: So, which team has the better point guard? Obviously, it depends on whom you ask, but there is no doubt that the Bulls clearly have a lot of respect for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.
"Mentally, he's probably the smartest player I've ever play against," Scalabrine said. "Some players play out of instincts and what they see they can go and attack. He plays out of concepts. He's like Doc, or a guy like Mark Jackson, they see stuff that could happen and a way that you could beat a team that most of the people, including players, don't see."
Rose was very complimentary as well; the pair played together for Team USA over the summer.
"You can't guard passes like that," Rose said of Rondo. "It's hard when somebody doesn't have to score and they can still control the game. So with him doing that and rebounding, it's very tough. You just got to make sure you pressure him and make sure he's got his back turned."
As for Rondo's departure from Team USA before the World Championships, Rose said he really didn't know much about the situation.
"I really didn't know what was going on," Rose said. "I was confused. It happened in the morning; we woke up, go in the meeting and he wasn't there, so we really didn't know what was going on. Coach K wasn't really saying too much about it and then we just kept it like that."
"Their motor's the same," Scalabrine said. "There's just little differences. Jo has better hands, bigger and better hands. KG is a better shooter. But, all those differences balance out to a really good player and another really good player. What's similar is their motor is the same ... and that's important in the league. It's an underrated skill that a lot of people don't talk about."
As for who the better trash talker is?
"Better as in more tactful?" Scalabrine responded. "Better as in talks more?"
"Who gets in your head more?" I said.
"Oh, Kevin, no question" he said. "Kevin gets in your head probably better than anybody."
ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg contributed to this report.