By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — For many teams, losing an All-Star-caliber small forward whom the coach has called “the glue” would cast a somber pall.
Not these Bulls.
(PHOTO: Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) dunks on a breakaway against the New Jersey Nets during the first half of their game at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois on Monday, January 23, 2012.)
With Luol Deng seeking outside medical opinions in the hopes of avoiding surgery on his left wrist, the Bulls welcomed back Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah from injury and steamrolled the Nets 110-95 Monday night to improve to 8-0 at home.
Rose finished with 22 points and eight assists in his first action since missing four games with his sprained big left toe, which he said won’t be 100 percent the rest of this season.
Noah returned from his one-game absence with a sprained left ankle to post a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Richard Hamilton added 22 points and 10 assists as all five starters reached double figures.
“We’ve got more than enough to win with,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who refuses to make excuses or let players feel sorry for themselves.
According to two people familiar with Deng’s situation, the eighth-year forward’s plan is to rest his wrist in the short term and then try to play through the injury. A team source said an MRI revealed ligament damage and, tellingly, the Bulls officially moved from calling it a sprained wrist to merely an injured wrist.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit,” the source said.
Deng needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist that ended his rookie season before the first-round playoff series against the Wizards. He entered the United Center laughing and joking with a team executive with his left wrist and thumb in a splint and told teammates he doesn’t think he will miss significant time unless he opts for surgery.
“I don’t want to speak prematurely,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t think he’ll need surgery. But there are more doctors he has to talk to. The team is very much involved. It’s our doctors in conjunction with some experts he wants to talk to.”
A source said Dr. Susan Craig-Scott, who performed Deng’s surgery in 2005, could be consulted again. The New York-based hand surgeon’s son played high school basketball with Deng, and she’s married to a former Knicks team physician.
Deng missed his first game since March 30, 2010, after playing in all 82 last season.
“We’re disappointed that he’s injured because he’s put so much work into it,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t say enough about what he brings to the team in all areas. You start with his leadership and toughness. He’s our best defender. He guards multiple positions. He plays to win. He sets a great example in practice. He’s having an All-Star-type year.
“He said he was able to move it and he was feeling a lot better (Monday) than (Sunday). He feels like it will be day-to-day. I’m good with that. He’s mapping out the course he wants to take.”
Rose showed little effects from his lingering toe issue. He said his swelling is gone and that he wore special inserts to alleviate pain.
“It’s never going to be right this year,” he said. “But it’s just something I have to play through.”
Rose has never missed more than four straight games.
“I hate sitting out,” Rose said. “I know we were winning. I can’t complain. But it’s kind of boring not playing.
“(Our depth) is a blessing. It shows we really put in the work. When guys are out, other guys play just as well as the starters. It says a lot that the coaching staff is doing their job and the players are doing theirs.”
Brian Scalabrine proved the latest example of depth, posting five points, four assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes.
The Bulls took advantage of a Nets team playing its third game in three nights with another spirited offensive effort. They shot 57.3 percent and posted 33 assists, leading by as many as 21.
“It was a great team effort,” Noah said. “But we have to understand we can play better. We’re not satisfied.”