CLEVELAND -- Shaquille O'Neal may be coming back to the Cleveland Cavaliers lineup on Saturday afternoon, but the Chicago Bulls feel as if they have the antidote that will counteract the powers of Superman Sr.
They plan on running him into the ground.
"That's definitely the goal," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Run him as much as possible. And try to make it a track meet."
O'Neal has missed almost two months because of a thumb injury, but don't think the Bulls are taking him lightly.
"We're going to try and move him around, obviously," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "But Shaq causes a lot of problems for you, just with his size and ability to clog the lane and things. All those things will pretty much get answered as the game goes. Knowing Shaq, he'll be ready to go."
Noah knows he'll be in for a challenge, but it's a challenge he believes he is in shape and ready for.
"Shaq's one of the best to ever play the game," he said. "He has a lot of playoff experience. He understands what it takes to win. I'm sure he'll be just fine. I'm just going to go out there and give it everything I've got."
No rust: O'Neal has missed the most time lately, but LeBron James hasn't exactly been active much lately, either. James has taken the last four games off to rest before the playoffs start. While some people may think the Cavs will be rusty, the Bulls are preparing as if they will be as strong as ever. "You cant count on that," Bulls rookie Taj Gibson said. "No team's going to be rusty. Everybody's professional in this league. Shaq is a great player. I can't even say how many things he's done in his career. To have him out there and LeBron, it's going to be a tough matchup for us. But we just know our business and what we have to do. Players are not scared. We understand what we have to do."
Gibson's playoff debut: Gibson admitted that he may have a few butterflies on Saturday, but he has no doubt that they will go away soon after the game starts. He also knows that the playoffs are completely different than what he experienced during the regular season. "It's really physical," he said. "Don't expect any calls. Don't let your emotions take over and just play your game. That's what Brad [Miller] and Joakim have been telling me the whole time in practice [Friday]. I'm just looking forward to playing in my first series."
Gibson is looking forward to seeing the intensity inside Quicken Loans Arena. It made an impression on him the first time the Bulls played there early in the season. "It was amazing," he said. "I had never been to Cleveland; that was my first time, so I was kind of stoked. But it's LeBron's house, and they're a great team, and it's going to be a good atmosphere."
Who's guarding LeBron?: The short answer to that question is Luol Deng, but Del Negro knows it is going to be a group effort. "You have to mix up the coverages," Del Negro said. "There's not one guy that's going to be able to guard him. But you have to get into him a little bit. Try to take his easy scores away, which is very hard. You know he's going to attack the basket. He's going to shoot some threes." On the bright side for Del Negro, he said that Deng is starting to feel a little better. "The guys been fighting through his calf and knee [injuries]," he said. "He just needs to get some energy back like everybody."
The last word: Noah, on how much different the playoff stage is compared to the regular season: "You'll see," he said. "You'll see on Saturday. It's going to be nuts in there. But that's what it's all about. That's why you stay in the gym at night. That's why you get to the gym early. All those sprints, all that hard work in the beginning of the year. All that adversity it comes down to this. This is what you play for."