Rose, Noah expected to return vs. Nets

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Rose, Noah expected to return vs. Nets

Nothings a guarantee until it happens, but out of the five Bulls currently injured at least the ones who have disclosed their statuses; dont push the panic button, but in this hectic NBA season more than any other, the majority of every teams roster features several wounded warriors it appears three of them will be in action Monday night.

Derricks gametime, Johns gametime, Taj is out and Luol, most likely out. Joakim, I think, will go. Hell be gametime, though, too. Hes got to warm up, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the teams morning shootaround at the Berto Center.

To review: All-Star point guard Derrick Rose will likely return after missing four consecutive games because of turf toe in his left foot, starting center Joakim Noah should be in the lineup after sitting out Saturday due to a sprained left ankle suffered in Fridays victory at Cleveland and reserve John Lucas III will probably be available after missing the win against the Bobcats because of a strained left groin, also suffered against the Cavaliers. However, small forward Luol Deng, as he told CSNChicago.com late Sunday night via text message, is unlikely to play because of a sprained left wrist suffered in Saturdays win over Charlotte and backup power forward Taj Gibson, the only player whos status Thibodeau could confirm in certainty, wont play Monday, when the Bulls play host to New Jersey.

If that sounds overwhelming, dont tell that to Thibodeau

Actually, its not that difficult because of the depth of the team. our second unit plays a lot, so if theres an injury, the next guy steps up. Well go from there. We have 14 guys on the roster that can all play, he said. I expect them to play well. Theres a reason why theyre here. We feel that theyre all talented, very talented. We all feel that they have the right attitude and approach, so we know that when the opportunity comes, theyre going to be ready to play. So, when they do get that opportunity, I expect them to play well. I see what they do every day in practice.

Well, it doesnt change anything defensively. Then, you base it upon whos available and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You play to their strengths, but the core of the team is basically the same all the time, Thibodeau, who was asked a softball question about the team having four home games in a row with a day off in between, unlike the Bulls road-heavy schedule thus far this season before the squad embarks on a nine-game road trip, but didnt take the bait. It is the way it is. Thats what were faced with. I like every week.

Rose was more optimistic about the homestand saying, It feels good, just to be back home for a couple of days, sleeping in my bed for a couple of days, instead of just sleeping there one night and leaving the next night, so were happy to be here and hopefully well get some wins while were here.

The 23-year-old reigning league MVP looked healthy, especially compared to the gimpy version last seen on a court trying, unsuccessfully, to play in Memphis a week ago, as he got extra shots up at the conclusion of shootaround.

Its a little sore, but tonight, its a game-time decision. I practiced today. It felt decent, so hopefully Ill be playing tonight, he said. I ran on it today. I practiced. I did a whole walk-through. It really didnt bother me like that. They put things on my feet to make my feet more comfortable, so I really shouldnt have a problem.

Added Thibodeau: He did everything today. Each day, hes been feeling a lot better. All the swelling is out. Of course, hes got to warm up tonight to see if hes good, but hes coming along well.

Still, Rose couched his previous statement, also knowing that pregame warm-ups will determine whether he plays against the Nets.

I dont know yet. Thats why I said decent. Im not 100-percent sure if Im going to play or not. Ive got to see how it goes tonight, get treatment after this. Ive been getting treatment every day and lifting every day, Rose said. Its been very boring.

I definitely hate being injured, but I definitely have to take my time, he continued. Very frustrating. Hard, just sitting out. I know were winning. I cant complain about anything, but its kind of boring not playing, so hopefully Ill be playing tonight.

Rose acknowledged that his toe injury will likely linger throughout the remainder of the season, but is committed to gutting it out, though he knows his teammates are capable of picking up his slack if hes out of the lineup.

I know that its never going to be right this year, but its just something Ive just got to play through, he said. Its my decision. If I choose to go out there and play, its up to me.

Its been hard, man, especially knowing that I want to be out there playing. Were winning thats a good thing but just missing the action, its kind of tough, Rose continued. Its a blessing, man. It shows that we really put in the work. When guys are out, other guys are coming in, playing just as well as the people thats starting, so it shows a lot about the coaching staff, that theyre doing their job, and the players are coming in and doing theirs.

Thibodeau, who said Deng was at the doctor and didnt participate in shootaround, was undecided about which player would potentially replace the small forward in the starting lineup if he cant play Monday.

Undecided on that. Game-time decision, he said. Hes a complete player, brings a lot to the team. The versatility of our roster, we feel good. We feel like we have more than enough to win with. Were, of course, disappointed that hes injured, for him, because he puts so much work into it, but yet, we still know that the guys that are filling in are more than capable.

Chimed in Rose, who has lobbied for Deng to make his debut All-Star Game appearance this season: It will change a lot, especially how Lus been playing this year. Hes been great for us. Rebounding the ball, scoring the ball, just being consistent for us this year. It will definitely hurt us, but weve still got to go out there and play these games.

I think you see everything that he does. You can tell that he works on his game. I remember, just coming into the league, Lu wasnt a three-point shooter. Now, hes knocking down threes. Hes always been a rebounder and a scorer off one dribble, he added. He has a lot of things to his game. The post game, you can definitely tell that hes been working on that, so theres a lot of things that hes been doing to his game, to help his game for our team.

As for fellow starter Noah, Rose said, He looked good. He did the whole walk-through, so I know hes going to give us his all tonight.

Lucas told CSNChicago.com that whether he plays or not will be a game-time decision.

With all of the injury updates, its easy to forget that theres actual basketball to be played tonight, with the lowly Nets in town. However, Rose, who will be matched up with fellow All-Star point guard Deron Williams, isnt taking anything for granted.

Theyre a team, where if you give them confidence, they can definitely win the game, so were just going to have to go out there, play hard, just try to take their confidence very early and try to get a win, said Rose, who supplanted Williams as the top point guard, in the opinion of league general managers in an annual survey. Against every point guard now in this league, youve got to go out there and be prepared to play, and I know its going to be fun. Its definitely going to be fun.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.”