Trans. Dec 7 9:17 ET (Dec 7 9:17 ET ) All-Star small forward Luol Deng has earned a reputation as one of the league’s top ironmen, if not the premier workhorse in the NBA, so his absence Saturday night, in the Bulls’ 92-75 loss to the Pistons at the United Center, was conspicuous. Deng is suffering from a sore left Achilles’ tendon and although the Bulls’ morning shootaround is when knowledge of the injury first came to light—thanks to teammate Joakim Noah and later confirmed by Bulls head coach Thibodeau, albeit reluctantly—he’s actually been playing through the ailment since the team’s Nov. 27 win, coincidentally at Detroit. A lot of swelling and it’s still got a lot of swelling,” the Bulls’ leading scorer explained.
Joakim Noah may have summed it up best, if a tad inappropriately: “We sucked tonight and we’ll do better next game,” the All-Star center repeated, following the Bulls’ 92-75 loss to the Pistons at the United Center. But without three starters—All-Star small forward Luol Deng, suffering from a sore left Achilles’, joined sidelined shooting guard Jimmy Butler, still recovering from a turf-toe injury, and of course, Derrick Rose—Detroit won in Chicago for the first time since 2006, courtesy of the Bulls’ 33.3 percent shooting from the field, a nine-point third quarter, losing the battle of the boards and allowing 12-for-19 three-point shooting, a major reason Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings scored 33 points on the evening. You have a good win and the thing you’re concerned with is how quickly everything can change, so you lose a guy and you’re starting a different group, then your bench changes,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. Taj Gibson, filling in for Deng at a new position and perhaps the Bulls’ lone bright spot, scoring 21 points and 10 rebounds to notch another stellar outing in what’s been a career individual season thus far, was similarly defiant.
When discussing the Bulls' goal of keeping the momentum from their triumphant Thursday-night victory over Miami going, Joakim Noah unwittingly spilled the beans. After Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau addressed the media following the team’s morning shootaround Saturday at the United Center — and vaguely referencing, “We’ve got some guys who are nicked up” — the center slipped in a quick mention that he didn’t know if his teammate, fellow All-Star Luol Deng, would suit up for the evening’s home game against the Pistons.
In the second season of his second stint in Chicago, Kirk Hinrich once again has been asked to take on starting point guard duties. Derrick Rose's torn meniscus thrust Hinrich back into the starting role, where he averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 assists in 60 starts for the Bulls a year ago. Injuries aside, Hinrich has been a reliable asset for Tom Thibodeau, last year allowing Nate Robinson to remain with a second unit deprived of scoring and, in 2013, keeping sophomore Marquis Teague on the bench as he continues to develop in Year 2. His shooting numbers have been poor since arriving in Chicago -- a career 42.7 percent shooter before signing with the Bulls in 2012, Hinrich has shot just 37.7 percent in one-plus years -- but Hinrich has been an apt passer surrounded by scorers in Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
But Lenny Cooke, another player who was once in his position never even got a chance to sniff the same professional success. Bulls All-Star center Joakim Noah grew up admiring Cooke and called him his “hero,” as AAU teammates in New York. Noah was a lightly-regarded prospect himself before hitting a growth spurt, blossoming as a talent and ending up at Florida, where he won two NCAA national championships. He was my first teammate when I moved from France to New York and it just happened really fast.