Banged-up Bulls have started a game at full strength only twice

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Once again, it was as much about who wasn’t on the court Sunday for the Bulls as who was.

Forward Taj Gibson (sprained left ankle) was sent back to Chicago to see team doctors. He has a chance to rejoin the Bulls on Friday in Boston.

Forward Pau Gasol (strained left calf) went through a full practice at the Portland Trail Blazers’ facility after missing the last three games. As long as he has no setbacks, he will play Monday against the Utah Jazz.

Guard Kirk Hinrich (bruised chest) was limited in practice and still looked to be in pain from the beating his body took Thursday against the Sacramento Kings.

Then there’s the curious case of guard Derrick Rose and his strained left hamstring. He has missed the Bulls’ last four games with the injury and has played in only five of their first 13 games. Of those five, Rose has finished only three.

Still, he practiced again and seems to be ready to go. Then again, he went through practices and shootarounds the last five days but hasn’t played when it counts.

‘‘You just have to take it as it comes,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said when he was asked about Rose returning. ‘‘Whatever the circumstances are, we’re going to make the best of those. We’ll see where Derrick is [Sunday] after he practices. And then hopefully he’ll get to a point where he can string some games together. And when that happens, the rust will come off.

‘‘From what we’ve seen thus far when he’s been out there, he has looked great. We just have to get him out there.’’

Getting the entire roster out there would be nice. Only twice this season have the Bulls started a game at full strength, and the results have been promising.

The fivesome of Gasol, Rose, guard Jimmy Butler, forward Mike Dunleavy and center Joakim Noah started Nov. 10 against the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls put up 60 points in the first half on their way to winning 102-91.

That same unit started Nov. 13 against the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls outscored the Raptors 35-14 in the third quarter and went on to win 100-93. But Rose injured his hamstring with 1:53 left in that game and hasn’t played since.

So the Bulls are 1-0 when they have been at full strength from start to finish.

‘‘Oh, yeah, nice, nice,’’ Gasol said. ‘‘So it’s promising. It’s looking good. Now we’ve just got to get it there, right? No, like I said, things happen. We’ve just got to play through it and stay positive.

‘‘I think injuries are part of the game. There are teams that have suffered through it a little more, but I think it comes and goes. I don’t think anybody is frustrated at this point, but we are facing adversity as far as guys not being able to go. It’s hard to get the full roster healthy at the same time. Once we get it, it will be great.’’

When that time comes, though, is anyone’s guess.


Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

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