AUBURN HILLS, MICH.—Just when the Bulls took two steps forward—Marco Belinelli and Joakim Noah returned from injuries in Sunday night’s game against the Pistons—they took a step back.
Noah started the contest after missing eight games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, but his All-Star counterpart, Luol Deng was sidelined with a right-hip injury, which he initially suffered in last Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards.
“Really, it started in Washington. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but after the Washington game, I thought about sitting out in Brooklyn. But it was a big game, we had a lot of guys out, so I just played through it and then yesterday made the decision. Today we got some guys back and I just thought it was the right time to try to get it right, try to get healthy, instead of trying to play through it now and it gets worse,” Deng, who has been stretching on the sidelines during recent games, told CSNChicago.com.
“It almost feels like—I wouldn’t say bruised—it’s nothing serious, but it’s almost locked, kind of. I feel it on my right side, on my back and I’m doing all these stretches on the bench. It’s just been locking up on me in the games.”
However, Deng said that he didn’t think he would miss much time with the ailment.
“If this was a playoff game, I would play,” he said. “It’s just we don’t want to get it any worse and I’d be sitting out longer.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: “It’s more over a period of time, so somewhat precautionary. Just trying to clean things up this time of the year.”
As for Noah and Belinelli, Thibodeau said he’ll keep an eye on their playing time.
“A little bit,” he said. “First game back, we’ll monitor what they’re doing out there.”
Noah’s foot problems are an ongoing situation, but at this juncture of the season, rest is just about the only way to treat the issue with the playoffs quickly approaching, as the Bulls sorely need his energy, though Thibodeau downplayed what the center’s emotional leadership brings to the table.
“I don’t know if there’s a better [method of treatment]. That’s why we gave him the extended rest, to make sure it was cleared up as best we can at this particular time of the year. He’s gotten a lot of treatment, so we’ll where it goes from there,” Thibodeau explained. “I’m more concerned about what he does. The emotion, that’s not going to get you very far. It’s his defense, his rebounding, his playmaking, passing, effort on the boards, screening, multiple-effort guy. But he’s been out an extended amount of time, so the thing is to get him back in rhythm, try to get his timing going again. But obviously he’s a big part of the team and we want to get that moving forward.”
Additionally, starting point guard Kirk Hinrich was fighting an illness, but still managed to play.
“He wasn’t feeling well this morning, but he’s fine now,” Thibodeau said.
Regarding the team’s other walking wounded, the status of Derrick Rose, despite some impressive, explosive dunks in pregame warmups, hasn’t changed, while Taj Gibson and former Piston Rip Hamilton continue to make progress.
“[Hamilton] did a little bit more, but he’s got a ways to go,” Thibodeau said. “Taj, he’s actually doing pretty well, so that’s encouraging.”