Im never going to admit it, man, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com after Sundays Bulls overtime win at Detroit. Weve got a lot of guys, weve got depth. I think were going to start using our depth now.After playing nearly 45 minutes -- and scoring only two points, though he limited Pistons counterpart Tayshaun Princes scoring, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists -- Deng looked exhausted, as usual. Additionally, he suffered an injury to his ribs after taking a shot from Pistons guard Ben Gordon, a former teammate, as first reported by the Chicago Tribune.However, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau argued that while Deng currently leads the league in minutes per game, the fact that hes missed time with a torn ligament in his left wrist -- a factor in his up-and-down shooting nights -- means he hasnt had as much wear and tear as one might expect.If you studied his total minutes, you would see that hes had plenty of rest this year. If you compare his total minutes for the season, dont forget hes missed nine games this season, so its not a guy thats piled up a ton of minutes, said a testy Thibodeau about the All-Star, who ranks 20th in the league in total minutes entering Monday. Its a valid question. I think for him, he knew this is what it would be like. Some days, its better than others. He still helps us a lot when hes not scoring. He does so many other things, whether hes rebounding the ball or he creates space. When hes on the floor, theyre not leaving him, so theres more space for Derrick to operate. I think that three-point shot is huge. Well see how it goes. Hes getting time off in practice. Maybe we should have him practice and give him the games off, I dont know.Deng is almost like a safety blanket to Thibodeau because of his versatility, so even on the nights on which he doesnt produce much scoring -- Im not just out there for my defense, Deng bristled -- his versatility and the mere threat of his varied offensive game helps the Bulls.Thibodeau explained: Thats the value of him. Hes on a primary scorer every night, so hes such a big part of our defense, I know theres going to be nights when hes not shooting well. Im good with that because of his rebounding, his defense and his ability to shoot the three. Even when hes not shooting well, theyre not leaving him, so his man is going to be out of the paint and thats what Derrick needs. Derrick needs space. Luol has shown hes more than capable of hitting that big three, even on nights hes not shooting well. You leave him open, hes a clutch shooter. Hes going to make those.
On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Jason Goff is joined by Chicago native and former NBA star Tim Hardaway
1:10 On how a Chicago kid went to play college basketball in Texas
6:15 On growing up a Bulls fan
9:20 What did Chicago basketball make Tim?
16:30 On starting his NBA career in Golden State
22:30 On the 90’s dynasty era Bulls and what he appreciated about them
25:25 Which players did he enjoy playing against the most
26:50 On today’s game and the point guard position
29:15 On the influence of analytics on today’s NBA
34:15 On balancing what a player’s skills are vs what the system wants
38:00 On Zach LaVine and his ceiling as a player
Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:
Bulls Talk Podcast
The Bulls get a shot at revenge against the lowly Warriors Friday night in Chicago. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:
Warriors’ last five (1-4)
Dec. 4 — L at Hornets: 106-91
Dec. 2 — L at Atlanta: 104-79
Dec. 1 — L at Magic: 100-96
Nov. 29 — L at Heat: 122-105
Nov. 27 — W vs. Bulls: 104-90
One storyline for each team
After defeating the Bulls 104-90 in San Francisco on Nov. 27, the Warriors embarked on a five-game road trip that has featured visits to Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, and now Chicago. Their first four stops ended in losses of varying severity to competition of varying quality (though mostly subpar). Tonight, they cap that swing with their fifth game in eight nights against the Bulls. D’Angelo Russell is back — he returned in their last game against the Hornets and dropped 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting — but that’s about all Golden State has going for them right now.
This goes without saying, but the Bulls need to pounce on this game — an eminently winnable one — especially with a road-and-home back-to-back against the Heat and Raptors looming early next week. In each of the two games of their current win streak (against the Kings and Grizzlies) they’ve gotten out to commanding first-half leads, then allowed their opponent to claw their way back late in the game. Their offensive execution down the stretch of the last two has been sublime (thanks, Zach LaVine), but substantive progress would mean a comfortable win, at home, tonight — especially having already lost to this Warriors team this season.
In the event that this game isn't comfortable (which feels more likely), look out for another Zach LaVine takeover. He's averaging an NBA-leading 10.3 points per game in fourth quarters since Nov. 23 (Charlotte game), shooting 54.3% from the field (5.8 attempts) and 68.8% from three (2.7 attempts). Him catching fire isn't something you want to miss.
Player to watch: D’Angelo Russell
Russell presents a challenge unlike any the Bulls faced when they played this team a little over a week ago. He's a crafty ball-handler, and can pull and drain from long-range from any spot, at any time and under any amount of durress. When he plays, the ball is in his hands a staggering amount — per Cleaning the Glass, his 34.8% usage rate is in the 98th percentile of ball-handlers in the league.
The Bulls have the personnel to hone in and give him fits, between Tomas Satoransky and Kris Dunn — if their length and activity can get Russell out of rhythm, the rest of the Warriors mistfit-laden roster will have to beat them. Granted, Golden State has done it before, and in convincing fashion for that matter. But the Bulls hope two straight encouraging performances in a row are an indication of things to come. This is also a great game to monitor how the Bulls defend Russell's pick-and-roll; he's currently averaging 3.3 turnovers per game.
Final point: Russell's misadventures on the defensive side of the ball are well-documented, so look for LaVine and Satoransky to attempt to feast on that end, as well. The Bulls mustered only 90 points against the Warriors 27th-rated defense on Nov. 27, but LaVine and Satoransky were lone bright spots, accounting for 45 combined points and seven threes.
Matchup to watch: The paint
One of the smudges on the Bulls' 106-99 win over the Grizzlies on Wendesday was the performance of Jonas Valanciunas, who totaled 32 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back from illness. He was absolutely bruising, and the Grizzlies racked up 52 points in the paint (compared to the Bulls' 32). That number is well above the Bulls' season average of 49.9 points allowed in the paint per game, which ranks 23rd in the NBA.
That figure might surprise some, given that the team anchors its defense with a versatile and heady center in Wendell Carter Jr. and a jumpy shot-blocking backup in Daniel Gafford. Jim Boylen has pointed to isolated blocks from Gafford and Carter, as well as 'our guys competed'-isms when asked about their struggles in that department. The Warriors have a roster stilted towards bigs and interior forwards, and notched 52 points in the paint in their last matchup with the Bulls, behind solid performances from Eric Paschall, Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss. Thad Young missing tonight's game with a personal issue won't help here.
Further, these aren't your mother's Warriors. They're not a prolific shooting team and don't have the same plethora of perimeter shot-creators they once did. They're going to try to out-muscle the Bulls tonight, as they did on Nov. 27, and it's worth monitoring how much resistance the hosts put up.
Bad news on the Otto Porter Jr. front today: The Bulls starting small forward and most solid wing defender suffered another setback, as a repeat MRI revealed a continued bone edema (i.e. swelling). He’ll be re-evaluated in another two weeks. Chandler Hutchison is still working out and running — and getting better each day, according to Boylen — but there’s still no precise timetable on his return.
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