Bulls rookie Derrick Rose scoops up a loose ball in front of Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin.
DENVER - According to Nuggets boss George Karl, who coached Vinny Del Negro for two years in Milwaukee, Del Negro is one of the NBA's all-time greats - at throwing inbounds passes. Who knew?
"He was the best inbounds passer I have ever coached," Karl said before playing the Bulls on Monday. "He won some game for us in Milwaukee making some great plays from the sideline out of bounds."
Asked if he thought Del Negro had coaching potential back then, Karl gave an answer typical of those who have known the first-year Bulls coach for some time. Del Negro worked as a broadcaster and scout before taking the Bulls' job.
"Yeah, I think you could say he was more of a clever guy than an athletic guy," Karl said. "I was surprised he didn't go into it right out of playing. But sometimes it takes you time to find your passion.
"What was funny was I talked to Vinny two or three weeks before he got the call (from the Bulls) about being an assistant coach here, because I had two spots open. Vinny was on the list. We were going to meet and talk about it. I think he actually called me knowing the position. Then he got interviewed by Chicago."
Deng still waiting: Forward Luol Deng missed his third straight game due to a sore left hamstring, but hopes to play tonight against Utah. Derrick Rose shook off the bruised hip suffered late in Friday's victory at Golden State and was in the lineup against the Nuggets.
Since Denver uses a more conventional lineup than Golden State, Joakim Noah was back as a starter Sunday. Against the smaller Warriors, Noah and Aaron Gray didn't play at all, while Thabo Sefolosha started at power forward.
Karl finds a friend: Before Sunday's game, Denver coach George Karl had a long conversation in the hallway with Bulls assistant Del Harris. The two have never worked together - at least, not for the same team at the same time.
"Every time I get in trouble, he gets a phone call - that's working together," Karl said with a smile.
Karl says when he needs an answer, he turns to longtime North Carolina coach Dean Smith - and Del Harris.
"I think Del is one of those great ambassadors of the game," Karl said. "We lost another one this week in Pete Newell."
Illini great still hurting: Way back on Oct. 18 in a preseason game at the United Center, Utah point guard Deron Williams suffered a badly sprained ankle when he launched a 3-point shot and came down on Derrick Rose's foot.
The injury still hasn't healed. Williams came back Nov. 11 and played in two games, then went back to the sideline and has skipped Utah's last six contests. He's listed as doubtful for the Bulls tonight, but may return Wednesday when the Jazz face Memphis.
Thin air, deep bench: With a nod to Denver's higher altitude, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro sent 10 of the 11 players in uniform into the game during the first quarter.
"I played a long time here against the Nuggets and it kind of hits you quick," Del Negro said of the thin air. "You've got to get that second wind, but once you do, you're fine."