The Chicago Bulls need to catch a break.
After yesterday's news that Richard Hamilton will be out for awhile with a shoulder injury and with C.J. Watson still in a walking boot, the Bulls might need to play some games without starting forward Luol Deng.
After tearing a ligament in his wrist in January, Deng opted to skip surgery and try to play through the pain. While he's been giving it his best shot, managing the injury has become tough. With the discomfort increasing every game, he spoke about his wrist after the Bulls' 99-94 loss to the Magic.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports:
After missing 8 of 9 shots, Deng, in more resigned than frustrated tones, admitted he might have to rest his injured wrist for a couple of games.
"I hate talking about my wrist, but I'm going to talk with the medical staff and Thibs," Deng said. "The past few games, it has escalated a little bit. We have to kind of bring it down again. I've been trying to avoid it and everything but it's a tough one."
Deng's extended minutes have long been a cause for concern. Factor in the wrist injury and the answer is pretty clear: whether or not he rests and misses a few games, if he is continuing to play through the injury, the Bulls will have to do a better job of controlling his minutes.
The question is, how?
Deng averages 38 minutes a game. The first-time All-Star averages this many minutes partially because he is one of their best players, averaging 15 points per game and usually guarding the other team's best player, regardless of position.
The other reason he's on the floor is that there isn't a lot of depth waiting on the bench if Hamilton isn't available, and Ronnie Brewer is starting in his place. Kyle Korver was brought to Chicago for one reason, and it wasn't his defense.
While Deng mentioned the possibility of needing to take a few games to rest, he reiterated that he will not be having surgery this season.
"I said it from the start. I'm not taking that route," he said. "Mostly it's going to be rest. It's definitely better than when I first did it and when I first came back. But there was a period of time when it felt great. The last few games, the pain is kind of high again. I have to control it and monitor it.
"I just have to find ways to adjust my game. I've proved I can play with it. Some days it's going to feel great. Some days it's going to feel terrible. We just have to bring it down."
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau took the blame for his team's loss against the Magic, saying it's on him when the team isn't ready to play.
Thibodeau has been brilliant since coming to Chicago last season. The only real knock on him has been his insistence to play his core guys too long.
Deng averaged 39 minutes last year. This isn't anything new. Figuring out ways to get the most from his team if Deng has to spend a few games on the sidelines is going to be Thibodeau's newest challenge, but it doesn't stop there. With Deng gutting it out and playing through pain, finding ways to limit his minutes will be a test for the rest of the season.
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