Thibodeau 'optimistic' about Rose, Deng playing vs. Heat?

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Thibodeau 'optimistic' about Rose, Deng playing vs. Heat?

CHARLOTTEThough Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau spouted his standard game-time decision line about the status of All-Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng for Thursdays showdown with the Heat in Miami, he also joked that hes taking a positive outlook about the likelihood of the duo suiting up. One of the pair, Deng, is apparently on the same page.

Its getting better. Still a little sore, but its getting better, he said after watching his team blow out the lowly Bobcats. Ive been off it and just getting treatment.

Just mostly trying to get some motion, just moving it around. Trying to get the muscles to loosen up and just ice, and stim. I had trouble with some motion and weve been doing that to try to get my motion back, Deng continued. Were going to re-evaluate in the morning, but most likely, I should be able to go. But well see how it feels tomorrow.

Deng has missed two consecutive games after taking a shot to the ribs from former teammate Ben Gordon in the Bulls overtime win Sunday at Detroit. Hes also dealt with the effects of torn ligaments in his left wrist for the majority of the second half of the season.

Rose, on the other hand, has been dealing with soreness in his right foot the past two contests after missing a game due to spraining his right ankle. Before that, he he was sidelined for 12 consecutive games with a groin injury and that isnt even counting 10 absences because of turf toe and lower back spasms.

Thatll be a game-time decision. As you guys all know, Im an optimist. I think itll be good, quipped Thibodeau. Theyre making good progress. The first guy theyve got to get by is Fred Tedeschi, the Bulls team trainer. Fred has to clear them. They have to show that theyre confident and comfortable on the floor. It hasnt been easy for them, but I think theyre handling everything well and weve just got to make the right decision. The most important thing is the team playing well and being healthy, so weve got to take care of those two things going forward. So, thats what were going to do.

Added teammate Carlos Boozer: Theyre warriors, man. If they can, they will. I think its up to them and see how their body feels tomorrow when we tip, but theyve played through so many different injuries throughout their careers. Just this season alone, its countless injuries theyve played through.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."