Chicago Sun-Times

Battered Bulls down to nine players without Noah

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The Bulls had only nine players in uniform for Saturday night's game against the Jazz at the United Center after Luol Deng (wrist), C.J. Watson (ankle), Rip Hamilton (shoulder) and Joakim Noah (flu-like symptoms) were ruled out.

Noah was a late scratch because of illness. Omer Asik started in his his place.

"Every night it's someone different out of the lineup or injured," Derrick Rose said. "We just have to go out and continued to play like we know how to play, which is aggressive and hard every game."

Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist on Jan. 21 and opted against surgery. He returned to the team after missing seven games but acknowledged after Thursday night's loss to the Magic that the injury has become painful and may force him to miss some games.

Deng did not participate in the team's shootaround at the Berto Center earlier in the day while Watson shot and ran, according to Thibodeau. Watson twisted his ankle in a win over the Sixers on March 4 and could return as soon as Monday night's game against the Knicks.

"Since I've been here it's his leadership," Thibodeau said when asked what Deng brings to the team. "He plays tough, he's mentally strong and he helps us even when he's not shooting well. He guards basically four positions, you can count on him every night. He brings a lot of toughness, a lot of intangibles to our team that leads to winning. Even though he has good statistics I don't think you can measure him statistically. He's just a winning player."

Deng has also vastly improved his three-point range. A career .327 shooter from beyond the three-point arc, Deng is coverting .425 this season, which was 14th in the league before Saturday's games.

"That's a testament to how hard he's worked at it," Thibodeau said of Deng's improved shooting. "I don't think there's been any change defensively. He's played exactly the same. He's been invaluable to us."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on March 10, 2012 6:50 PM.

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