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Bulls Hope for Deng, Hinrich in Game 1
Posted By Joel Brigham On May 6, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
If the NBA playoffs were determined by talent alone, the Brooklyn Nets would have defeated the Chicago Bulls in the final game of their first round series, but that’s not the way it happened. The Bulls muscled out a win despite so many players on the roster either missing the game or playing through pain and/or illness.
Heading into a series with the defending champion Miami HEAT, however, the Bulls won’t have the same opportunity to simply will their way to another series win. They’re going to need some measure of talent on the floor, but with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich all still questionable for the start of the Miami series, it’s still anybody’s guess as to what kind of series this is going to be.
That said, here is an update on those three key players, including the latest news on whether or not they’ll be ready for Game 1 against the HEAT on Monday night:
The day of the Bulls’ Game 6 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Luol Deng was so sick that doctors thought he might have a case of viral meningitis. The only way to find out for sure was to perform a spinal tap, which essentially amounts to having a gigantic needle shoved right into the guy’s backbone. It’s typical to experience headaches after the procedure, and that combined with his really nasty illness kept him away from the team for that loss.
On Saturday, Deng was still in the hospital because of complications from the spinal tap. Reportedly, he was leaking spinal fluid and had to undergo a procedure to correct that. He was released in the afternoon before the start of Game 7 and was able to watch his teammates win from his home later that night.
Now that they’ve advanced, something he was obviously very happy to see happen, Deng had hoped to travel to Miami to be with his teammates, but CSN’s Aggrey Sam is reporting that Deng had to return to the hospital on Sunday morning and will not play in Game 1.
That Game 1 diagnosis also is coming from K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, who said that Deng’s headaches “have mostly subsided, but his back remains sore and he remains somewhat groggy.” According to Johnson, Deng still hopes to be in Miami in time for Monday’s game, but has no chance of actually playing in it.
That means the earliest we’ll see Deng back on the floor is Game 2. Marco Belinelli, who scored a career-playoff-high 24 points in the Game 7 win over Brooklyn, will likely start in Deng’s absence, but there’s no question that Thibodeau would rather have Deng guarding LeBron James.
Deng was the team’s leading scorer this year, too, so he’ll be an integral part of any success Chicago has during this series. They need him back on the court and healthy as soon as possible.
After playing 60 minutes in The Nate Robinson Game, a triple-overtime thriller that allowed the Bulls to steal Game 4 of the Brooklyn series, Kirk Hinrich’s calf was so badly bruised that he could hardly walk the following day. Monday’s Game 1 against the HEAT will have been nine days since that injury, however, which means it’s time to start looking toward Hinrich to make a return.
Hinrich missed Saturday’s Game 7 and reportedly had done nothing at practice other than shoot for the days leading up to that ultimate contest. He wasn’t even close to getting back on the court Saturday, which means he’s likely to be questionable for Monday, as well. He continues to improve, which means he’ll likely be back relatively early in the series, but don’t be surprised if he’s a game-time decision for Game 1.
There’s no doubt that Hinrich is an extremely important part of Chicago’s defensive game plan for Miami. Few defenders give Dwyane Wade headaches like Hinrich does, and the two have a very physical history that stretches back quite a few years. Seeing what Deron Williams did to Nate Robinson with Hinrich out, they’re likely very eager to get their top perimeter defender back on the floor.
We’ve hopefully all learned our lesson at this point not to make any guesses about whether Derrick Rose will make his way back at any point before the start of next season, but the fact that people keep asking the question apparently means that we have not.
The most connected and intelligent Bulls beat writers have no clue when Rose is coming back (though Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski sure thinks he does). His head coach has said multiple times that he doesn’t have any insight on a return date, and the front office is just as in the dark as Tom Thibodeau. Even Rose himself has said only God knows when he’ll be comfortable enough to play again, so no matter how badly fans want him on the court, or at least desire some sort of timetable for a return, there’s just no way to know whether he’ll sit out the whole season or decide to give it a go at some time during these playoffs.
Here’s what we do know: Rose has been practicing at full speed for around two months, and neither he nor the team has officially ruled him out for the postseason. If he was in bad enough shape where a playoff return was impossible, the team would have shut him down. They haven’t, which leaves the door open.
He keeps saying that he’s having to think too much about things he once did naturally and that’s where his discomfort lies, but if that’s all there is to it, then it would seem that all he needs to do is get out there and start playing again. He’s a hard-working guy with high character and a competitive spirit. He’s not enjoying watching his team play without him, and he’s certainly not scared of the Miami HEAT. There’s no reason to assume cowardice or laziness; he just wants to get himself right, and as soon as he feels like he’s there, he’ll suit up.
No one has any idea if that will be soon or in the fall. There’s no news on this, only speculation. But that’s the way it has been for months.
Otherwise, the rest of the team seems to have gotten over what ails them. The flu has passed through the systems of Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah is clearly getting more out of his bum foot since having the Brooklyn series to warm it back up after his extended absence to close out the regular season.
Getting Deng and Hinrich back as soon as possible will help Chicago bang up Miami as much as possible in what really does feel like a futile effort to beat the HEAT, but if Rose comes back things suddenly become infinitely more interesting.
No one’s counting on that, but everyone’s counting on a physical and entertaining Eastern Conference semifinal between the Chicago Bulls and Miami HEAT. As long as Chicago can get and stay reasonably healthy, LeBron James and Co. are going to be pretty unhappy.
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