After practicing Sunday at the Berto Center, the Bulls cancelled their morning shoot around at the Prudential Center in Newark on Monday prior to tonight's game against the New Jersey Nets. Tom Thibodeau is either feeling pretty good about his team at this point, or he's just being cautious about overworking a team that has played 26 games in the first 42 days of the season.
Either way, the return of Luol Deng to the lineup has given the Bulls a big lift on many levels. Deng scored 21 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night after missing seven games with a torn ligament in his left wrist. But he means much more than that to a team that lacks a vocal leader.
''Lu's just kind of a safety net. He kind of does everything,'' said guard Kyle Korver. ''He's a great on-ball defender. He gets rebounds. We don't run a ton of plays for him, but he always ends up with the ball.
''He makes good decisions. He just kind of covers everything. The way he's able to play that many minutes and still play at a high level is a real tribute to him. He's playing at an All-Star level for sure.''
Thibodeau reported that Deng's wrist was not a problem in practice Sunday. Both Deng and Thibodeau are treating the situation as if Deng were 100 percent.
''He's fine, now,'' Thibodeau said. ''But if he has a problem, we'll deal with it then. But he said he feels good.''
The Bulls still need Richard Hamilton back, but they are a much better team with Deng (16-3) than without him (4-3).
''Just because he brings so many different things to winning,'' Thibodeau said. ''All the intangibles that you look for. Defense. The hustle plays. Moving the ball. Moving without the ball. He can shoot the three. He can slash. he can post. There's not much he can't do and he does everything well. And he's got experience. He makes the team better in every aspect.''