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.
“I don’t know if Lu is playing tonight,” Noah said. “He’s got to get his Achilles right.”
That set off a chain reaction, leading to Thibodeau having to explain the situation.
“It’s a calf [injury]. He has tightness,” the coach grudgingly admitted. “It’s just some tightness or stiffness that he has, so he doesn’t know exactly when it happened.”
Deng will be a game-time decision Saturday and according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation — who described the injury as a “sore Achilles,” as Noah did — it’s unlikely that he plays.
“It’s [a game-time decision],” Thibodeau confirmed. “He’s got some stiffness, so [the Bulls’ training staff is] working on him.
“We’ll see where he is,” the coach added. “We’re also looking at where we are in the schedule, too.”
With the Bulls having a stretch of four games in five nights next week, it would make sense for Deng, their minutes-per-game leader, who also has led the league in that category the past two seasons, to sit out the Detroit game.
Thibodeau, who reluctantly acknowledged that Deng had “no activity” during shootaround, said that the small forward and team’s leading scorer was a participant in Friday afternoon’s practice at the Berto Center, though the Bulls didn’t do much as a whole.
“We we watched film, we walked through a couple things and we shot,” Thibodeau explained. “[Deng] did that part, but we didn’t do activity like it was a regular practice.”
In other injury-related news, both starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler and backup point guard Mike James continue to make progress from their ailments, a turf-toe injury and a sprained MCL, reluctantly.
“Jimmy is doing more and more each day so he’s getting closer,” Thibodeau said. “Mike is on the bike now so that’s a good sign.
“I think [Butler is] moving a lot better. So he’s actually pretty close. But I want to see a practice with some contact in it before he gets out in a game. But he’s moving in as close to a game speed as he can get,” he elaborated about Butler, noting that the third-year swingman might not be reinserted into the starting lineup immediately, replacing rookie understudy Tony Snell. “Yeah, I’m not sure [if Butler will start] yet. Eventually he will. But I want to see where he is with his conditioning, too.”