Before returning to the lineup Monday, forward Luol Deng had some words of wisdom for the Bulls' porous defense.
Specifically, he thinks it's time to speak up and not shut up.
"The best defensive teams are those that talk," Deng said. "Example: the Celtics, they talk the whole time. We've got to do that. We don't really talk much on defense.
"It's easy saying it right now and probably you guys are wondering, 'Why don't you guys talk?' I really don't have an answer for it. We've just got to figure it out somehow. I think if guys start doing it, others will follow."
Actually, it's easy to understand why the Bulls don't talk much on the court. So many of their key players - Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose - are reserved by nature. The Bulls' locker room can be quiet as a library before games.
"I guess everyone's different," Deng said. "I don't go out there and scream at everybody, especially when the TV's on so everybody sees me. I kind of try to grab guys on the side and talk to them. Sometimes you can be a leader that way, you don't necessarily have to yell."
The Bulls could be heard talking on defense a few times in the first half Monday. Basic defensive communication, like picking up the right men and knowing when to switch, can go a long way.
"Our defense, it's no secret, the help side is really not there," Deng said. "I think we've got to eliminate layups and let teams beat us with outside shots and contest those. Compared to what our defense used to be, it's definitely not close."
Hinrich heals quickly: Guard Kirk Hinrich was supposed to be out until mid-February after he had surgery Nov. 11 to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. He not only beat the original projection by a month, he also returned sooner than his own two-weeks-away estimate on Dec. 30, which seemed wildly optimistic at the time.
Hinrich thought surviving Sunday's full-contact practice gave him all the confidence he needed to suit up in a game.
"The hand specialist and Dr. (Brian) Cole gave it the OK," Hinrich said before the loss to Portland. "I figured if I could give us something tonight and Wednesday (at Toronto), there was no reason to put it off."
Miles' money looming: Portland could land in hot water for reportedly sending an e-mail warning other teams not to sign ex-Blazers forward Darius Miles.
The Blazers were counting on an injury retirement from Miles and released him last year. But Miles didn't retire, and if he plays in two more games, he'll go back on Portland's payroll for $9 million this season and next, the amount still left on his contract. That would increase the Blazers' luxury-tax bill this year and cut into the salary-cap room they expected to have next summer.
The warning didn't work, anyway. Miles was released by Memphis last week, but then re-signed to a 10-day contract.
Bull horns: Not surprisingly, guard Larry Hughes played just seven minutes Monday with Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng back on the floor. ... Center Aaron Gray returned to the court for a brief six-minute run after sitting out the previous two games.