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Bulls finally show up in win over Pistons; is Deng on way out?

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Updated: November 27, 2013 9:16PM



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The losing finally stopped on Wednesday for the Bulls.

The trade rumors have just started.

Thanks to 27 points and six rebounds from Luol Deng in the 99-79 win over the Pistons, there was finally something to feel good about on what had been a nightmarish Circus Trip.

Not only did it end a four-game losing streak, but it was the best the Bulls offense had looked since Derrick Rose was lost for the season last week with a torn right meniscus.

That didn’t slow the rumor mill, however, which was already churning out interest in Deng, from the Cleveland Cavaliers inquiring about the small forward to the Philadelphia 76ers.

As far as coach Tom Thibodeau was concerned, Deng was a veteran player who could 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) were the latter. Finally.

Not only did Deng show up, but so did rookie Tony Snell, making his second-consecutive start, the 20th overall pick scored 13 points, including shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point line.

And while Deng did step up, that doesn’t mean he still wasn’t emotional over what has happened to his team the last week.

That was evident on Wednesday when the free agent-to-be was asked by a reporter about still wanting to stay with the Bulls in the aftermath of what had taken place to their title hopes the last week.

“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.’’

Whether they do or don’t. Deng was still in a Bulls uniform against Detroit, and according to general manager Gar Forman the goals that were set at the start of the season are still in place until further notice.

That includes Deng, and the rest of the core.

“We’ve got two guys that were All-Stars a year ago in Joakim [Noah] and Luol,’’ Forman said, when explaining why he still felt the team could remain competitive. “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.’’

Now that talent has to start showing itself, and doing so 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 do it on the fly.

That’s something Thibodeau can control. What he can’t control is the distractions his players are going through on a daily basis, 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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