Bulls

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.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”