Luol Deng out with sore wrist

Updated: March 10, 2012, 10:40 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

DEERFIELD -- Luol Deng did not participate in the Chicago Bulls' Saturday morning shootaround and missed his team's 111-97 win against the Utah Jazz because of increased pain in his left wrist.

How long the Bulls' All-Star forward will remain on the bench, not surprisingly, is going to be a game-to-game decision, as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau dodged anything resembling a specific question about Deng's status.

"Guys have done it before, it's part of the NBA," Thibodeau said of Deng playing with an injury that requires surgery. "He's doing fine. Nothing is happening that wasn't expected. If he can go, he'll go. If he can't, he won't."

The Bulls were also without Rip Hamilton (shoulder) and C.J. Watson (left ankle) Saturday. Omer Asik started in place of Joakim Noah (flu).

The team enters a week with home games against New York Monday, Miami Wednesday, Portland Friday and Philadelphia Saturday, but Thibodeau repeated his philosophy that the opponent does not matter.

"To me, if a guy is injured, he's injured. It doesn't matter who it's against," Thibodeau said. "I know everybody says, 'This game is bigger than another.' They all count the same. They're all big games to us."

But Thibodeau opened another avenue of questions to avoid when he was asked if it all will come down to pain threshold in Deng's case.

"It's a lot of things," he said. "You look at it medically first. The one thing about Lu is he has a lot of toughness. He's going to play through pain. Medically, if it makes more sense for him not to play, he won't."

Does that mean something has changed in his condition? Thibodeau quickly answered in the negative and said Deng is still effective, though the injury has clearly affected his ballhandling and rebounding.

"He's slashing, cutting," Thibodeau said, though Deng has become more of a spot-up shooter since the injury. "He's managed it well. I think he's fine.

"The interesting thing is he's shooting as well as ever from range. That's a testament to how hard he has worked at it. The other part, I don't think there has been any change defensively. He has played the same. The rest, he has been invaluable to us. I really don't see a change."

As for Hamilton, who injured his shoulder March 5 against Indiana, Thibodeau said he was making "good, steady progress" but is not yet ready to participate in court drills.

"(We have) to get the swelling out first, then to restore range of motion," he said. "Then you have to do non-contact, then contact. So it's step by step."

If anything, the Bulls have become used to being without their regular starting lineup, as they have played only 10 games with Deng, Hamilton, Derrick Rose, Noah and Carlos Boozer on the floor together.

Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver were in the starting lineup in place of Deng and Hamilton.

"To me, people would expect us to slump and lose a lot of games because a lot of guys are banged up, but it's a true testament to other guys' hard work that they continue to get in there, step in and play well," Brewer said. "D-Rose is carrying us, other guys are just trying to play off him. ... I look forward to when everybody's healthy and we have good chemistry, how good we can be.

"As long as we can be healthy by the playoffs, that's all that matters. We want to continue to play well. Play well at home, win on the road and you're going to have home court (advantage). I think the regular season is very important, but having everybody healthy for the playoffs is the most important thing."

ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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