Four Bulls out Tuesday vs. Raptors
DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP)
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Luol Deng will miss his second straight game because of a hip injury, while Taj Gibson (sprained left knee) will miss his fourth in a row. Derrick Rose (left knee) and Richard Hamilton (back) remain sidelined, but Marco Belinelli is expected to play. He returned against Detroit on Sunday after missing seven games with an abdominal strain.
Thibodeau said Gibson is ''a lot better.'' He also said Deng and Hamilton are improving, but Noah ''is the tricky one.''
He played Sunday against the Pistons after sitting out eight games, but Thibodeau said the foot stiffened afterward. Noah sat out practice Monday after it worsened and got a cortisone shot.
''You don't want him out there if he's injured,'' Thibodeau said. ''The time that he was out, he put a lot of time into his rehab. He's somewhat discouraged, but he can't be discouraged. He has to just keep doing what he's doing, and hopefully, he'll be ready to go before the end of the season.''
Noah's injury is a major concern for a team that's fighting for playoff positioning. The Bulls entered Tuesday's game fifth in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of Atlanta and two behind Brooklyn for the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
''We fought really hard all year and gone through a lot of adversity,'' Noah said. ''I just want to be out there for my teammates. Even though it's tough, I feel like I'll be back when it gets hot.''
As for Rose, his return this season from a torn anterior cruciate ligament remains up in the air. Thibodeau dismissed the idea that there's a rift between the Bulls and Rose's camp, saying chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was adamant right from the start that the star guard would not rush back.
''We've made it clear that we don't want him out there unless he's comfortable,'' Thibodeau said. ''So I think he understands that. He's done his part. We have to do what's right. I think we are.''