Tom Thibodeau cautious with Bulls
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng only played six minutes in the first quarter of Sunday night's All-Star Game due to falling on his injured left wrist. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, also the head coach for the Eastern Conference All-Stars, decided not to put Deng back into the game.
"We planned to play more minutes to begin with," Deng said, while trying to downplay the lack of playing time. "I knew I was going to play the last six minutes of the first quarter and I was going to play again in the second. There was a play at the end of the quarter as I was backpedaling and I kind of tripped up. Nothing that (was major). It didn't hurt or anything. He asked me about it and I said, 'You know what? If it's something that we can avoid and just get back to practice (Monday).' But I really enjoyed myself out there. The time, the experience I got to be out there."
Deng originally tore the ligament in his wrist on Jan. 21 in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats. He ended up missing two weeks of action, but decided not to have surgery which would have likely put him out for 3-4 months. Deng has been playing with tape on the wrist ever since as he continues to try and rehab the injury. He insisted that that Sunday's fall wasn't a big deal.
"I just fell on my wrist," he said. "It was nothing. I just fell."
While that may be the case, the absence of Deng in the second half definitely caught the eye of his teammate, and fellow All-Star, Derrick Rose. For the past two seasons, Deng has been a league-leader in minutes and Rose admitted that it was kind of strange to see him on the bench.
"Definitely weird," Rose said. "Did Lu play the second half? His wrist must have flared up or something. But I know he loved the experience."
Rose, who started the game, but only played 18 minutes, conceded that Thibodeau was being cautious with him as well because of an ongoing back injury which has kept him out of multiple games this season.
"I know that with my back injury or whatever it was, I didn't want to play as much as I wanted to," Rose, who finished with 14 points, said. "(Thibodeau) played me I think a decent amount of minutes. Of course at the end of the game I wanted to be in, but they were playing great."
When asked specifically about his back, Rose said he was fine.
"It felt good," he said. "I think Tom was just worried."
For his part, Thibodeau acknowledged that he was just trying to be cautious with his own players' minutes.
"Going in we had talked about not playing a lot of minutes," Thibodeau said. "We wanted to limit what Derrick was doing and also Luol, so we just wanted to play it safe. Some guys wanted to play less, so that's what we did and we tried to keep everyone's minutes down. And then at the end, the guys that were playing well, we stayed with those guys."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.