Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng missed Wednesday evening’s 100-68 rout of the Charlotte Bobcats due to the bruised ribs he suffered in a 100-94 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, but he plans to return from a two-game absence Thursday night against the Miami Heat.
“I’m going to re-evaluate [Thursday] morning, but most likely I should be able to go,” Deng told reporters after Wednesday’s game. “But we’ll see how it feels [Thursday].
“I’m mostly just trying to get some motion, just moving it around, trying to get the muscles to loosen up,” Deng added when asked about his left wrist, on which he has a torn ligament. “Icing, steaming. I had some trouble with some motions and we’ve been doing that to try to get my motion right.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau usually prefers that an injured player goes through either the morning shootaround or a practice before returning to the court. Playing on the back end of a back-to-back set, the Bulls will conduct a walkthrough Thursday.
As for Deng’s teammate and fellow All-Star, Derrick Rose, the star point guard appears doubtful to face the Heat as he nurses the sore right foot – his fifth different injury this season, including a turf toe, lower back spasms, a strained groin and a right ankle sprain – he sustained Sunday. Rose, who has sat out two straight games, has missed 25 contests overall.
Earlier Wednesday, Rose spoke for the first time since injuring his foot and cited the pain as a result of general soreness, not anything major.
“It’s just soreness from playing,” he told the assembled media. “I don’t feel anything until after the game. I just remember walking back to the locker room, it was sore. Taking my shoe off, I felt throbbing and walking was messed up.
“It’s not the actual bone, it’s the tendons around my ankle that has fluid on them and the fluid causes pain. Right now, I’m waiting for the fluid to move around, try to get it out as soon as possible, and I should be all right.”
The Bulls have made it clear throughout the season that they will err on the side of caution with an injured player, especially Rose, who missed just six games in the first three years of his NBA career. As usual, Thibodeau offered an optimistic outlook when asked about Rose and Deng, but he rightfully stressed the importance of making a wise call on both.
“They’re making good progress,” Thibodeau said. “The first guy they’ve got to get by is [athletic trainer] Fred [Tedeschi]. Fred has to clear them. Then they have to show that they’re confident and comfortable on the floor. … We’ve just got to make the right decision.”
Still, the Bulls know it’s important to get both Rose and Deng back on the court as soon as they’re ready to play.
Chicago is 17-8 without Rose this season, but the team has struggled to keep the regular starting five of Rose, Rip Hamilton, Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah on the court for an extended stretch. The Bulls have four games remaining in the regular season.
Rose, for his part, believes he will be able to come back ahead of the postseason, which starts on April 28 – and that when the playoffs roll around, he will be a mainstay in the Bulls’ lineup.
“I think if you put things into the universe, they come true,” he said. “I’m just staying focused, staying happy, staying positive and keeping my spirits up. Hopefully, I’ll be healthy in the playoffs. I’ve rested almost the whole year with injuries. It’s definitely hurting me not being able to play right now, but my health is the concern right now.”
No. 1 seed watch: With Wednesday night’s win, the Bulls maintained their 2½-game lead – two in the loss column – over the Heat (44-17) atop the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams last met on April 12 when the Bulls pulled out a 96-86 overtime win, and Chicago will take a 2-1 edge in the season series entering Thursday’s nationally televised matchup.
“Every game, it’s a war, relatively speaking,” Boozer told the assembled media Wednesday when asked about facing the Heat. “It’s a battle, hard-fought. They all come down to one- or two-possession games, usually the last seconds of the game. So, it should be fun.”