Updated: 7:05 p.m. CT
After participating fully in the morning shootaround, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose returned from his four-game absence in Monday night's game against the New Jersey Nets. However, the team was without forwards Luol Deng, whom coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday night is "the glue to our team," and Taj Gibson.
In addition to Rose, Bulls center Joakim Noah and reserve point guard John Lucas III, nursing a sprained left ankle and strained left groin, respectively, were back in Thibodeau's lineup. Both players missed Saturday night's 95-89 home win over the Charlotte Bobcats as more of a precaution, and were adamant about coming back on Monday.
Among the hobbled up Bulls, Deng's left wrist injury sounds as if it's the worst, though. He suffered it against the Bobcats, but brushed it aside and insisted he's "fine." He underwent an MRI on Sunday and spent Monday morning at the doctor.
Thibodeau told reporters that "we’re disappointed that he’s injured for him because he’s put so much work into it," although the reigning Coach of the Year had a similar take before Saturday's game regarding Rose's injury. Obviously, the prospect of being without Deng for an extended period of time would be a major loss for the Bulls. The eight-year veteran is performing like an All-Star this year, averaging 15.9 points and 7.5 rebounds and 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.
Clearly, Deng's wrist is worse than he, the Bulls and fans had first believed. The 26-year-old is seeking more opinions on his next course of action, according to Thibodeau -- and that may involve surgery.
"I don't think so, would be my guess," Thibodeau told reporters before the game when asked about the possibility that Deng will have surgery on his wrist. "There's people he wants to talk to. He's gone down this road with an injured wrist before. My guess would be that it'll be day-to-day.
"The thing with Lu is: Lu is an old-school guy. He came in and goes, 'My wrist is injured, I think I'll be fine, I got a couple more doctors I want to talk to and we're going to go from there.' So I want to honor his request. He said he's able to move it and he was feeling better today. And he feels like it'll be day-to-day. I'm good with that."
Speaking to Bulls.com, general manager Gar Forman added: "If there's good news, that's good news, that it's not his shooting hand and the hand he uses to handle [the ball]. We're still seeking out a couple experts in the field and getting a feel exactly where he's at and how we'll attack this thing. So we're obviously hoping that it's not too serious and he won't miss too much time. At this point, we still really don't know where we're at and where we're going to head with it."
Facing the Nets, Thibodeau implemented a starting lineup of Rose, Rip Hamilton, Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer and Noah. Brian Scalabrine played over five minutes on Saturday and figures to be Boozer's primary backup. Rookie Jimmy Butler could get an extended look at small forward, as well, while Kyle Korver will most likely getting more minutes.
As expected, Rose, who revealed he is still in pain and will not be 100 percent for the rest of this season, tested out his sore left big toe before the game and, by all accounts, moved well. He told reporters that he will again wear a protective insole in his left shoe to keep his foot more comfortable.
Rose, who admittedly is frustrated and bored by sitting on the bench because of an injury he suffered Jan. 10 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, has wanted play through the injury and will get his wish against fellow All-Star point guard Deron Williams and the Nets (5-12). The 6-foot-3 star had also planned to play last Monday and Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively.
Still, there's no question that Rose, who is averaging 20.8 points and 8.7 assists this season, feels much better. He will be playing on eight days' worth of rest.
"I practiced today, felt decent and so hopefully I'll be playing," he told the assembled media. "I'm not 100 percent ... I've been getting treatment every day and lifting every day."
Meanwhile, Gibson suffered a "real sore, real painful" high left ankle sprain in the second quarter of Friday night's 114-75 road victory over the Cavs. He rolled his ankle on Antawn Jamison's foot, hobbled off the court, did not return to the game and sat out on Saturday night. Gibson hopes to be back later in the week, possibly on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
For the Nets, rookie shooting guard MarShon Brooks, who is averaging 15.4 points and 4.6 rebounds, will miss Monday night's contest.
Impressively, the Bulls have gone 4-1 minus Rose this year, receiving strong efforts from multiple sources on a nightly basis. In place of the reigning league MVP, point guards C.J. Watson and Mike James put up a combined 20 points and 19 rebounds on Saturday, while Omer Asik made the first start of his career at center and grabbed 15 rebounds.
"It's a blessing, man," Rose said of the Bulls' play despite a multitude of injuries. "It shows that we're really putting in the work. When guys are out, other guys are coming in, playing just as well as the people that start. So it shows a lot [about] the coaching staff, that they're doing their job, and the players are coming in and doing theirs."