As if the Chicago Bulls' injury list couldn't get any longer, Luol Deng suffered a sprained left wrist in Saturday night's 95-89 home victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. The small forward -- who has played in all 18 games this season, averaging about 16 points and eight rebounds in 38 minutes per game -- brushed his injury aside as a non-issue, though, and coach Tom Thibodeau listed him day-to-day.
"I'm all right, I'm all right," Deng told Bulls.com after the game. "[I] just got hit on it a little bit, but I'm fine."
Obviously, the Bulls could ill afford to lose Deng, who taped his left wrist in the second half and iced it in the locker room afterward, for any extended period of time. The eight-year veteran is performing like an All-Star this year, giving the team a strong presence on both ends of the court on a nightly basis. He posted 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists while shooting 9-for-17 from the field and playing over 39 minutes against the Bobcats and had more more offensive sets called for him, largely because Derrick Rose (toe), Joakim Noah (ankle), Taj Gibson (ankle) and John Lucas III (groin) all missed the game.
Deng scored seven points during the Bulls' pivotal 14-4 run to end the first half, capped off by a put-back, two-handed dunk. He also finished with a plus-minus of plus-17, a game-high, as the Bulls improved to 7-0 at the United Center for the first time since 1996-97.
Dating back to the 2009-10 campaign, Deng has played in 108 consecutive regular-season games.
"That's the value of Lu," Thibodeau told the assembled media. "He really is the glue to our team. There's nothing that he doesn't do well. You can post him; he cuts; he moves without the ball; he can shoot; he slashes; plays great defense; guards multiple positions; he playmakes; and he plays to win. And he's smart, he knows how to read things. You can't say enough about what he does and what he brings to winning."
Meanwhile, Noah missed his first game of the season on Saturday night because of a sprained left ankle he suffered in the second quarter of Friday night's 114-75 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even public address man Tommy Edwards was caught off guard by Noah's absence, given that the 6-foot-11 center appeared OK after he rolled his ankle versus the Cavs and was listed in the starting lineup. For Noah, the decision to sit out against the Bobcats was made right at tip off, following a full day of treatment.
"He got his treatment today, was feeling better and then he tried to give it a go and he felt like he couldn't," Thibodeau said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."
Noah, like the other four injured Bulls, will be re-examined on Sunday, ahead of Monday night's home contest against the New Jersey Nets. He expects his injured ankle to make progress in the next day or two and is confident he will be able to return on Monday.
"It got bad this morning," he told reporters Saturday night. "Just real achy and I just had no push or nothing. But I think I'll be back soon. It'll come back quick."
In place of Noah, Omer Asik made the first start of his NBA career and grabbed 15 rebounds in 38 minutes.