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Derrick Rose injury, trade rumors have Bulls acting edgy

Updated: December 30, 2013 12:12PM



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The losing stopped Wednesday for the Bulls.

The trade rumors have just started.

Thanks to 27 points and six rebounds from Luol Deng in a 99-79 victory over the Detroit Pistons, there finally was something to feel good about on what has been a nightmarish circus trip.

The win ended a four-game losing streak and was the best the Bulls’ offense has looked since Derrick Rose was lost for the season last week with a torn right meniscus.

That didn’t slow the rumor mill, which already was churning out interest in Deng from the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said Deng is a veteran who can handle the rumors without distraction.

‘‘Occasionally, you may see it from a younger guy,’’ Thibodeau said when asked if trade rumors could wear on a player. ‘‘But I think the guys who have been around, they know, ‘OK. Every year at the trade deadline, most guys will be talked about.’ If I brought in all the clips the week before the trade deadline, there’d be a million clips about who is being traded. And then after the trade deadline, usually in the entire league two guys get traded. It’s all part of it. You can use it if you want. Or you can get ready to play.’’

The Bulls (7-7) chose the latter.

Deng had a strong night, as did rookie Tony Snell, making his second consecutive start. The 20th overall pick from June scored 13 points, including shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point line.

Deng’s stepping up doesn’t mean he wasn’t emotional over what has happened to his team the last week. That was evident earlier Wednesday when a reporter asked the free agent-to-be whether he wanted to stay with the Bulls after the hit to their title hopes.

‘‘I don’t even have to answer that,’’ Deng said. ‘‘If you think I want to leave, you think I want to leave. If you think I want to stay, I don’t really need to answer that. I think people know where my heart is.’’

Forman feels the team can remain competitive with a core that still includes Deng.

‘‘We’ve got two guys that were All-Stars a year ago in Joakim [Noah] and Luol,’’ Forman said. ‘‘Carlos [Boozer] has been an All-Star and played at a high level, been a double-double guy. Jimmy [Butler], who continues to improve, Taj [Gibson], who has gotten off to a great start, Mike [Dunleavy], a proven NBA player, Kirk [Hinrich], a proven NBA player. We’ve got talent on this team.’’

That talent has to start showing itself without Rose.

‘‘In some ways it’s similar to where you have the summer to prepare for Derrick not being there,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Now we can start our preparations knowing, OK, he’s not back for the rest of the season. That’s fine.

‘‘We know you don’t replace someone like Derrick. There’s no one can step in and say you’re going to do what Derrick does. It doesn’t work like that. So for us, the way we did it in the past, we had to do it collectively.’’

And on the fly. That’s something Thibodeau can control. What he can’t control are the daily distractions, especially as trade rumors heat up.

‘‘It’s definitely — I don’t know if you’d call it a distraction — it’s disturbing,’’ Deng said. ‘‘It’s going to create a tension, right reason, wrong reason, whatever it is.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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