Cleveland Cavaliers forward Luol Deng, left, of Sudan, pulls in a loose ball as Denver Nuggets guard Randy Foye covers in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' 117-109 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Updated: January 22, 2014 11:28AM
CLEVELAND – Mike James was back in a Bulls uniform for the Wednesday shootaround, and Kirk Hinrich (right hamstring) and Carlos Boozer (left calf) won’t be tonight, against Cleveland.
But it’s all eyes on the player now wearing a Cavaliers jersey, as the Bulls will face Luol Deng for the first time since trading him earlier this month.
“He’s a competitive guy,’’ Joakim Noah said of facing his close friend. “I think he’ll definitely be ready to go. I’m just focused on trying to win a basketball game. It’s always awkward and weird playing against people you consider family. But at the end of the day, I know he wants to win. And I want to win. So it will be competitive.’’
Taj Gibson knows it will also be a chore.
“He’s such a tough cover, people don’t really know,’’ Gibson said. “If his shot is on it’s going to be a long night. If he’s feeling strong going to the basket it’s going to be even harder. If his mid-range is going, it’s just tough because you can’t cut off his screen-and-rolls. You got to chase him over the top, and if you try and chase him over the top, he’s a big guard. He’s a post-up machine, he loves posting up smaller guys and his fade-away is good, so the dynamic of things … you just have to push yourself and make him play hard.’’
As far as how coach Tom Thibodeau will plan to slow down Deng, he has his ideas, but talked more in philosophy than details.
“I think each year Lu has been in the league, I think he’s gotten better, and I think he’s always added to his game,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s who he is. He’s smart, he’s driven. I think he’s seen a lot of defenses. And because of the way he can score the ball, he can score so many different ways. He can score without the ball, he can score with the ball, he can score screening, you can put him in pick-and-rolls, you can isolate him. So you have to be prepared for every aspect of the game and you can’t lose sight of him.
“We know what a fierce competitor he is and we know what he’s going to try and do, and we want to do the same things to him. We want to go after him, and then after the game we’ll exchange pleasantries.’’
NOTES: Tornike Shengelia, who was acquired in the Marquis Teague deal, was in uniform for the shootaround, and James, who signed a 10-day contract, will be the only back-up point guard to D.J. Augustin, with Hinrich likely sidelined for a week. … Derrick Rose did take some set shots at the end of the shootaround. The injured point guard will miss the remainder of the season recovering from surgery on his torn right meniscus.