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Bulls’ Luol Deng might be ready to go vs. Bobcats

The Chicago Bulls Luol Deng drives forward during second quarter United Center Chicago Ill. Saturday January 12 2013. | Andrew

The Chicago Bulls Luol Deng drives forward during the second quarter at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., on Saturday, January 12, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 28, 2013 9:33PM



Luol Deng’s strained right hamstring continued to improve, as the Bulls small forward participated in the Monday morning shootaround by “doing a little bit more today,’’ according to head coach Tom Thibodeau.

The plan was to run the All-Star through warm-ups tonight, and then make a final decision. If Deng can’t go, it’s once again up to reserve Jimmy Butler to start in his place for the sixth consecutive game.

Thibodeau made it seem like business as usual, whether it’s Butler or Deng.

“We always do what’s best for the team,’’ Thibodeau said. “This is not … you guys make it sound like it’s a new revelation. Jimmy has played well, and it’s what we expect from our bench. When you look at our bench, when Marco [Belinelli] stepped in [for an injured Rip Hamilton] he did a great job. When someone is out, we expect the next guy to step up. But you also can’t overlook what Luol has done for our team, so anytime you say, ‘Well, are you going to add this guy?’ Well anytime you add someone you’ve got to take someone out, so who are you taking out? You do what’s best for the team.’’

Three keys for avenging a Dec. 31 loss to Charlotte at the United Center:

1. Backcourt problems – In the 10-point loss to the Bobcats last month, it was all about guard play, and the Bulls not stopping Charlotte’s. The speed of Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon was too much for the undermanned Bulls backcourt to deal with, as Kirk Hinrich was sidelined. Hinrich is alive and well now, so that should be a huge change, not only because of Hinrich’s on-the-ball defense, but also his ability to add a more physical presence to the court.

2. Deng’s return? – Deng said over the weekend that he thought Monday would be the game in which he returns, and the Bulls need him. Even if it’s in a reduced role minutes-wise, his versatility against a team like Charlotte cannot be overlooked.

3. Glass cleaners – Charlotte out-rebounded the Bulls 52-49 in the December game, while Joakim Noah was battling with the flu. The All-Star had a terrible showing, scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds, with Thibodeau admitting he should not have played him. Well, that won’t be debated against the Bobcats, as Noah looks to continue his recent hot streak.



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