Deng another game-time decision

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Deng another game-time decision

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesnt have any plans to rush back Luol Deng from a nagging hamstring injury, even if it means the All-Star reserve misses his own bobblehead night.
I didnt realize that, Thibodeau said laughing when told of Dengs bobblehead. Yeah, thats why were bringing him back.
Thibodeau did, however, seem more optimistic about Dengs chances to play tonight at home against the Bobcats, calling him a true game-time decision. Deng, who was named an All-Star last Thursday, has missed the last five games and the Bulls have taken a cautious approach to his return.
Thibodeau said Deng participated a little bit more in this mornings team shoot-around that the Berto Center, and that hes gotten better every day since aggravating the injury Jan. 18 in Boston.
Swingman Jimmy Butler may have hinted at a potential return tonight for Deng.
I feel great. Glad to have Luol back. Were just gonna keep rolling, same role coming off the bench and just try to keep winning games, he said. I hope he does (play) because hes a big part of our team and we want him out there.
When Deng does make his eventual return to the lineup, Butler knows it will relegate him back to the bench. But the second-year forward said he will continue to have an effect on games, and that his recent stretch in the starting lineup has helped his confidence moving forward.
I feel like when an opportunity presents itself you have to take it, Butler said. (Starting) gave me a lot more confidence in knowing what I can do and having my teammates believe in me more on both ends of the floor. So I feel like it was a definite confidence boost.
Butler has put together the best stretch of his career in the last 10 days, averaging 14.2 points 8.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in more than 45 minutes the last five contests. The Bulls are 3-2 in that span, and Butlers emergence as a capable scorer and stout defender has helped the Bulls replace the league leader in minutes per game.
Like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli before him Robinson has started five games in place of Kirk Hinrich; Belinelli started 12 games in Rip Hamiltons absence the Chicago reserves are proving to Thibodeau they can step up when their name is called.
We always do whats best for the team. You guys make it sound like its a new revelation. Jimmys played well and its what we expect of our bench, Thibodeau said, and when you look at it deeper, when Marco stepped in he did a great job. So we feel very good about our bench and when someone is out we expect that next person to step up.

Bulls' Jimmy Butler voted All-Star Game starter

Bulls' Jimmy Butler voted All-Star Game starter

Jimmy Butler is heading to his third straight All-Star Game, and for the first time he'll be in the Eastern Conference's starting lineup.

CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that Butler was voted an All-Star starter.

Butler has been sensational this season, averaging a career-best 24.8 points (tied for the 10th-best mark in the league entering Thursday's games), 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest through 41 games. He's shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range.

Butler previously made Eastern Conference All-Star squads in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, though this is his first time in the starting five.

As the NBA evolves, Bulls' Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez experiment with 3-pointers

As the NBA evolves, Bulls' Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez experiment with 3-pointers

Taj Gibson began working on his 3-point shot as early as this past offseason. That work in the gym from beyond the arc continued into training camp, the preseason and eventually the regular season.

The eight-year veteran didn't attempt his first 3-pointer until the 21st game of the season, and that came in the final minute as the Bulls trailed by nine against the Pistons. Gibson's 27-foot heave from the left wing was off, and he proceeded to play the next 17 games without attempting another.

But recently Gibson had a conversation with head coach Fred Hoiberg, who knew the 31-year-old power forward had been putting in additional time to work on his corner 3-pointers. Hoiberg told Gibson he believed in his corner 3-pointer and that he'd allow the Bulls' forward to shoot them in games.

On Jan. 10, Gibson took a pass from Rajon Rondo midway through the first quarter and hoisted a 3-pointer from the left corner. He connected, marking just the second made 3-pointer of his career, and his first since the 2010-11 season.

Between triples Gibson, always a reliable midrange shooter, attempted and missed 22 3-pointers. But with the added practice time and confidence, and a blessing from his head coach, Gibson believes the 3-pointer can become an asset, going as far to say he’d like to shoot two triples per game.

There is, however, one aspect of the shot still standing in his way.

"When you get out there you never really realize how far it is until you're lined up and the crowd is like, 'Shoot it!'" Gibson said after Thursday's practice at the Advocate Center. "Your teammates are behind you, but it's fun. Hopefully (I) look forward to trying to make some in the future."

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Gibson attempted two more triples in Saturday's win over the Hornets and another in Sunday's win over the Grizzlies. All three were off-target, but just seeing Gibson step into the attempts and fire with confidence was a sight for sore eyes on a Bulls team lacking from outside.

Through the season's first half the Bulls rank last in both 3-point field goal percentage (31.7 percent) and 3-pointers made (6.4 per game). Their 276 total made 3-pointers as a team are less than two pairs of teammates (Houston’s Eric Gordon and James Harden, 301; Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, 283).

The Bulls' expected top 3-point shooters – Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine – have combined to go 114-for-350, or 32.5 percent. Starters Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade haven’t fared much better, albeit on fewer attempts, while Chicago's trio of point guards have made 29 percent of their 144 3-point attempts. Simply put, there's ample opportunity to see what Gibson can do from deep without messing up the team's current perimeter shooting.

"It's something that he worked on a lot in the offseason. So yeah if he's open in the corner we want those shots," Hoiberg said. "It’s obviously a huge part of today's game. The 3-point shot, to have multiple players that can stretch the floor out there, those teams are really hard to guard."

Gibson's not the only Bulls big man experimenting. Robin Lopez said he, too, has been working on his outside shot in practice. Gibson joked that Hoiberg hasn't yet given Lopez permission to fire away from deep, while Hoiberg cracked that Lopez might be jealous of the 5.2 3-pointers his twin brother, Brook, is attempting this season in Brooklyn.

Lopez, like Gibson, has always had a dependable midrange shot. Per NBA.com, his 44.4 field goal percentage on midrange shots is fifth among centers this season.

"That’s something I've been working on more this season. I don't know if it's game-ready yet. That's more of a confidence issue," said Lopez, who added he's been working with assistant coach Pete Myers on the shot. "I think the way the NBA is going, I don't see why not. If Brook can do it, I definitely can."

Lopez is 0-for-5 from distance in his nine-year career, including 0-for-1 with the Bulls this season. But the defensive-minded center knows the ever-changing NBA game now includes teams wanting to get as many perimeter shooters on the floor at once. If he and/or Gibson can eventually be part of that, he knows the difference it could make.

"I think it's wonderful for the game. I think there's a real premium on skill at all positions on the court. I think that's going to continue. You're going to have more skilled and more talented big men," he said. "There's always a new breed of big men right around the corner."