Carlos Boozer will miss his second straight game as the Bulls get set to begin the post-Luol Deng era when they take on the Phoenix Suns. Taj Gibson will get the start in Boozer's absence and Mike Dunleavy will be in place of Deng.
The Bulls have won five of their last seven, allowing just 87 points per game over that time. Already without Derrick Rose for the remainder of the year, Marquis Teague still in the D-League and Luol Deng being traded to Cleveland, the team will field just nine available bodies against the Suns, who are on an 11-3 stretch, where they’re scoring 107 points per night.
It’s another tall task for a team that has been stunned for the second time this season along with being shorthanded.
“We need everyone,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We played a number of games without Luol, so I think we have a good understanding. It does gives us a little bit of flexibility where we can play the two point guards together. We may get a look at Taj (Gibson) at the three, too.
“This hasn’t been a one year thing, it’s been a three year thing. My second year, we had a lot of injuries; Derrick missed half of that season. They responded to that challenge,” he continued on about the team fighting through adversity. “Last year, the same thing, a lot of guys down and guys stepped up and got the job done. I’m expecting the same thing now. Whether it’s a trade or an injury, what it does lead to is other people getting an opportunity. So when you’re called upon, get in there and the guys who are ready will take advantage.”
Thibodeau wasn’t sure when the team would begin to call in some players on 10-day contracts, but it’s clear that the Bulls will need more bodies going forward, only fielding 12 players and the most important of those being out for the season, which helped lead to a quicker re-tooling effort by the organization.
The coach spoke with his players before this morning’s practiced about the departed Deng and while it’s another blow to the prideful bunch, he reminded them of the task at hand; to be professional.
“We just talked about what (Deng) did, but then how important it is to meet the challenge tonight,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously, Luol was a big part of the team. This is the nature of our league. Everyone has to move on. Everyone has a job to do. We have to get out there and get it done.
“If you’re competitive, you have to look at every situation and view it as a challenge. That’s the way that I want our coaching staff, players, our organization…. We can accept our circumstances as they are or we can do all we can to change them and turn it into something positive. That’s one of the things that I admire about or team; they’ve responded to every challenge.”