Bulls Get Good News: Deng and Tim Thomas X-rays Negative


Mar 1

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The Bulls got some good news Sunday when the x-rays for Luol Deng and Tim Thomas were negative. Both will be listed as day to day and uncertain about playing Tuesday in Charlotte. Deng and coach Vinny Del Negro had speculated after Saturday’s win over Houston that Deng could have a season ending stress fracture.

Though that also raises the question of who will play and when.

One of the big questions coming into Saturday’s game was the status of the starting lineup after the poor effort and big loss in Washington Friday, then the third loss in four games.

Del Negro said after that game he’d consider a starting lineup change, though decided against it. The decision was, in effect, made for him Saturday with Deng’s first half injury as John Salmons started the season half.

Though perhaps the team’s best sequence of the season, the closing 23-3 run to steal away the game from the Rockets, was accomplished with a lineup of Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Salmons, Joakim Noah and Brad Miller, leaving Deng out and Tyrus Thomas on the bench.

That group produced the team’s best defensive effort of the season, in particular the post defense on Miller, and on offense the aggressive play of Rose.

Del Negro, even after Rose’s 16-point fourth quarter, continued to defend his recent decisions to bench Rose late in games, saying Rose still was a rookie and made mistakes.

Still, no one has been able to bail out the team late like Rose, and he has to be in the game in such circumstances.

Though Gordon’s defense usually is an issue, he worked hard and had a good matchup in Shane Battier, who is not an offensive player and wasn’t able to attack Gordon off the dribble. The Bulls also were able to use Miller with Noah because of Yao, who looked even slower than usual and wasn’t even able to seal Miller and get in position for lobs or inside passes.

The Bulls probably won’t be able to go with such a lineup Tuesday against Charlotte, which plays smaller. And especially Wednesday against the Golden State Two Guards. And Gordon should be in decent shape Tuesday with the Bobcats using Raja Bell at shooting guard, and Bell doesn’t get much scoring attacking the basket.

That closing lineup Saturday probably was the team’s best against a big lineup, especially because Miller can pop out, keep the lane open for Rose and make a jumper to bring the opposing center out. The aggressive Salmons also did a good job forcing Ron Artest into some bad shots after Artest had been having his way earlier.

For now with likely a shortened lineup, the issues probably won’t come up.

But once Deng and Thomas are ready to play at full speed, assuming it isn’t Tuesday, the question again will be raised: Is it time to make some major changes in the starting lineup?

There had been some speculation that Deng and Tyrus Thomas could return to the bench, for at least awhile, though Del Negro had noted the recent wins against winning teams like Denver, Detroit, Orlando, and now Houston.

So the likelihood for now seems like this same starting group will finish the season.

This is what Del Negro said about it when questioned Saturday: “We had a couple of good home wins against Denver and Orlando. We’ve got to get some practice time in with the new guys. (Against Washington) our starters didn’t get us off to a good start. I didn’t like our intensity. I didn’t like our focus. I’d like to get to a consistent substitution pattern but right now, without practice, it’s more difficult. So I’m just trying to find ways to get guys out there that are going to play hard and compete at the defensive end. If we don’t do that, it doesn’t really matter what you do offensively. That’s why the substitutions have been what it is. If guys come out and play hard from the get go and get after it, they’ll work their minutes. If they don’t, we’ll get some subs in. They (starters) know they have to start the game better. Then the changes will be my decision.”

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