The ability to win despite injuries to key players has become the story of the Bulls’ season, and that’s not likely to change now that versatile forward Luol Deng has revealed he has a torn ligament in his left wrist that may or may not require surgery.
The player coach Tom Thibodeau recently described as the “glue” that holds his team together will attempt to manage the pain while playing with the injury and is week-to-week.
“I know it’s a bad injury, and it sounds terrible, but I think it will be fine,” Deng said after practice Tuesday at the Berto Center. “We’ve got a good team, a lot of guys who can play. I know how it feels. Everybody will talk about it, but it will be fine.”
Deng suffered a similar injury to his right wrist as a rookie in 2005 and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs after undergoing surgery in March. After consulting with the doctor who treated him then, along with other medical professionals, he’s hoping his latest injury will heal on its own and he can return sooner rather than later.
Thibodeau said Deng dribbled with his left hand and shot at practice.
“This time around, I’m familiar with it,” Deng said. “It’s on my left wrist, 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.”
Deng said the pain has lessened since he suffered the injury in the fourth quarter Saturday night in the victory over the Bobcats. Although he’s not sure exactly how he was injured, he said he knew right away it was serious. He left the game to get an X-ray and to have the wrist taped only to return to the game.
X-rays were inconclusive, but an MRI later uncovered the ligament tear.
The front office will keep an eye on the market for available forwards, but there’s no urgency to make an immediate move with Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Brian Scalabrine, rookie Jimmy Butler and Rip Hamilton able to fill in.
“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 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.”
Several NBA players have played with similar injuries, most notably Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who tore a ligament in the wrist of his shooting hand before this season and still leads the league in scoring with 30.5 points per game.
“I’m sure it’s different ligaments or whatever,” Deng said when asked if he was comforted by Bryant’s success. “Whatever treatment he’s getting, Kobe is Kobe. Maybe he handles pain better than I do. Everybody is different. I’m really going by how I feel about it, and I feel like it’s going to be fine. I’m definitely going to miss a few games here. I don’t know how many. I’m very confident the guys will be fine. As soon as I can be out there, I’ll be out there.”
NOTE: Derrick Rose (toe), Joakim Noah (ankle) and John Lucas III (groin) all practiced Tuesday. Taj Gibson (ankle) did not but shot afterward and appears improved. Thibodeau said he’s day-to-day.