Bulls facing Thunder without Deng and Hinrich


Dec 19

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Noah? Present.

Deng? Absent.

Boozer? Present.

Hinrich? Absent.

Augustin? Anyone got a play book?

Just the right time for the Bulls Thursday to be on national TNT to play the league’s hottest team, the Oklahoma City Thunder who have won 15 of the last 16 games. And that’s with only four games against Eastern Conference teams.

Anyone for watching A Charlie Brown Christmas again?

No, Two and a Half Men is not the Bulls starting lineup.

But it almost seems like it in this collapsing season as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau pregame may have been trying to figure out if you can be arrested for assigning Mike Dunleavy or Tony Snell to guard Kevin Durant.

The Thunder is rolling with a 20-4 record with Durant leading the league in scoring again, and by more than two points over Carmelo Anthony. And Russell Westbrook is back from his meniscus injury and playing as well as ever. Over the last five games, Westbrook is averaging 20 points, 9.2 assists and 8.7 rebounds.

D.J., that’s your man.

Thibodeau, maintaining an appropriate posture pregame that these games are winnable and that the Bulls have been close in so many of the recent losses, said he still wasn’t certain whom he’d start for Deng. You’d assume it would be veteran Dunleavy, though Snell, frankly, would be a better choice early to defend the athletic Thunder players.

Noah likely would defend Serge Ibaka, who also is having a strong season, with Boozer against immobile Kendrick Perkins. Actually, Jimmy Butler probably should play Westbrook and allow Thabo Sefolosha try to post up Augustin.

See, planning for an NBA game even without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich can be fun.

Thibodeau said Deng aggravated his Achilles injury that cost him four games recently. Thibodeau said Deng didn’t say anything during the loss to Houston Wednesday, but complained of tightness Thursday after the team’s early morning arrival in Oklahoma City.

Achilles issues can be tricky and foreshadow something worse. Kobe Bryant, trying to return from his Achilles tear from last season, recently went out again with a knee fracture.

“I think he’ll be (fine),” said Thibodeau of Deng. “He just needs a little rest I guess. Just has some tightness.

“Achilles area, region, calf, I don’t know,” Thibodeau said when asked to elaborate.

“When you have injury it’s how quickly you can adapt to change,” said Thibodeau about the team responding. “Just keep grinding; got to be the same every day. Keep working. The difference between winning and losing is very small.”

Thibodeau didn’t sound so sanguine when asked about Hinrich, who has been experiencing back problems.

“He’s not much better today,” Thibodeau said somberly about Hinrich. “Tightness in his back.”

It seemed to suggest Hinrich could be out awhile as when players are close to a return Thibodeau appears to downplay their injuries somewhat more. He didn’t seem to be doing that as much with Hinrich.

Yes, as Bill Murray said so eloquently in Stripes, “And then depression set in.”

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