Bulls GM: Luol Deng progressing

Updated: January 27, 2012, 12:44 PM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng is making "great progress" in his rehabilitation from a torn ligament in his left wrist, Bulls GM Gar Forman said Thursday night.

So much so that he may be back on the floor in time for Sunday's showdown against the Miami Heat.

Deng, who has been optimistic about his recovery time all week, is hopeful he'll be back much sooner than most expected. The veteran forward tore a ligament in his left wrist during Saturday night's win over the Charlotte Bobcats.

"When he's physically able to play is when he'll play," Forman said during a charity event at the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls on Thursday night. "He's obviously made great progress this week. He's been on the floor. He's doing some shooting. He's doing some handling. When he feels, and we feel, he's physically ready to step back on the floor, he'll be back on the floor for us."

When asked specifically about the possibility of Deng playing on Sunday, Forman didn't rule it out. Still, he cautioned that the decision about Deng's would be a collaborative effort between the player and the organization.

"With any injury, there's a process that we go through," Forman said. "That's part of the equation when the player feels that he's ready to go. And part of the equation is when the coaching staff, the management and our medical team feels that he's ready and it's safe for a player to be out there."

Bulls' guard John Lucas III believes there is a solid chance the forward may be back on Sunday.

"No," Lucas said. "It wouldn't surprise me at all [if Deng returned]."

The Bulls dropped their first home game of the season Wednesday night to the Indiana Pacers, clearly missing Deng's presence on the floor. Deng is averaging 16 points and 7.5 rebounds a game this season.

"He's obviously a big part of what we do on both ends of the floor and the versatility that he brings on both ends of the floor," Forman said. "Tom [Thibodeau] has said it a bunch of times and we all believe it, part of the beauty of our team is we do have depth. And guys have been ready to step in when we've had injuries in the past. And our feeling is we've got guys that will be able to step in and fill a role and help us continue to have success."

Lucas said that he and his teammates have spoken to Deng about his return in the past few days. They want him back on the floor more than anybody, but they want him to be healthy enough to play at the same All-Star caliber level that he was playing at before the injury, when he returns.

"I just want him to get healthy," Lucas said. "He's a big part of our team. Everybody on our team is a huge part of our team. But I just want him to get healthy. I know he's a hard worker. He doesn't like to sit out games. When he comes back I just want him to be healthy. We told him, 'We'll hold it down, like we've been doing all year.' Ronnie [Brewer] stepped up in a big way last night. Rip Hamilton stepped up in a huge way. Jimmy [Butler] came in and gave us good minutes [having] not played since preseason ... it shows [on] our team, one man goes down, the next man is going to step up and hold it down."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.