Luol Deng had been playing pretty well so far this season, and so had his Chicago Bulls. I mean, just look at the picture below if you don't believe me. They've won just about every game that the versatile and improving forward has played in this year, and currently sit in a pretty solid spot with an overall mark of 16-3. Deng will be sitting now too though, unfortunately, for both him, his Bulls team, and poster manufacturers worldwide.
In Saturday's game against the Bobcats, Deng suffered what was later discovered to be a torn ligament in his left wrist. He went to the locker room during that fourth quarter following the injury, the initial MRI was negative, and went back out and finished the game. He scored 22 points in that one, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 4 assists, and his averages through 18 games in those categories read 16, 8, and 3. After team doctors later discovered that ligaments were in fact torn in his non-shooting hand though, he has been since declared week-to-week by Head Coach Tom Thibodeau. Season ending surgery was discussed, but Deng says he doesn't want to do that. He's going to let the healing process work it's way out.
This according to The Chicago Sun-Times:
"I really feel like we have a very good chance of doing something special and I feel like without the surgery I'll be fine," [Deng] said. "I know what I can do with it and what I can't do. I really think I'm going to be really effective out there. There will be days when it's sore. We'll try to control how sore it gets. Everybody's body responds differently to it. But I'm very confident I'll be able to handle it."
Deng also went on to discuss this particular injury, as compared to a similar injury he had to his right wrist as a rookie back in 2005 that put him out for the remainder of that season.
"This time around I'm familiar with it," he said. "It's on my left which is not like having it on my right (or shooting hand). I know how it feels pain-wise and am just trying to get it down to a certain level where I can play again. I'm really confident in the fact that I'll be out there. Hopefully soon, but I'll be out there."
In the short-term, this injury shouldn't do too much to derail the Chicago Bulls regular season efforts. Maybe they finish with something as low as the three seed if Deng misses around three weeks or more, but probably they'll still finish at the one or two spot out East regardless. The Bulls are a pretty deep basketball team, who still looked pretty good without Derrick Rose in the line-up for a few games, so I imagine they'll be okay without Deng too. During the regular season. They will need Luol in the Playoffs though, and I'd even go so far as to say that they cannot or will not win the NBA Title without him.
Chicago will not only need Deng back by the time the Playoffs start, but they will also need him comfortable with whatever pain exists at that point in his wrist, back in playing shape, and performing at the level he had been prior to injury too. I'd say with a minimum of 20 games to go in the regular season, they're going to need him giving it a go. And at least according to Deng, that sounds reasonable right now.
As with any "challenge" comes "opportunity" though too as well. In their first game without Deng, Coach Thibbs went with a three guard line-up by inserting Ronnie Brewer into that starting role vacated by Deng's injury. Brewer responded with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 0 TO's playing alongside D-Rose and Rip Hamilton, and the Bulls beat the lowly Nets by 15. So if this group can get more familiar with each other, it could be a unit that Chicago may be able to more effectively use in the Playoffs to create some mis-match issues for opposing back-courts possibly.
In any event though, they will need Deng back, so hopefully he gets there.
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