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Could injured Deng be lost for the season?
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/1/2009 12:02 AM

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When Bulls forward Luol Deng didn't start the third quarter on Saturday, the team called the problem a tibia bone contusion.

Following the game, a more serious possibility was raised. X-rays showed that Deng might have a stress fracture in his lower leg and could be lost for the season. He'll have an MRI exam Monday to further assess the damage.

"It's been bothering me maybe three or four weeks," Deng said. "I thought it was just a sprain. I had a play in the first half where I jumped up and I felt it. I'm not in pain. When I'm walking, when I get on my toes or I'm jumping, I feel it in there a little bit. But I thought it was just a bruise, but it stayed there."

Coach Vinny Del Negro was pessimistic when he mentioned the injury following the game.

"We've got to wait and get results, but it doesn't sound very good and that's a huge blow to us," he said. "Hopefully it's not and hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible."

Forward Tim Thomas also left the game in the first half with what was originally termed a hyperextended left knee. After the game, Del Negro called the injury a quad tendon strain. Thomas is listed as day to day, but a quad tendon strain is the same injury that has kept Utah forward Carlos Boozer out for most of the season.

Presidential pardon: Bulls general manager John Paxson was thankful for the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama at the White House, but wishes he would have gotten a chance to apologize for Friday's 23-point loss to Washington - which Obama watched from the front row.

"No, he left too early," Paxson said with a laugh. "If he would have been closer, I would have."

Asked his thoughts on the Bulls' disappointing performance in losses to the Nets and Wizards, Paxson stayed in control.

"I'm not going to sit here and bash everybody," he said. "They were two games where we had chances and we didn't take advantage of them. If our guys want to make the playoffs, they're going to have to find a way to do it on the floor."

Paxson added these thoughts on losing Bulls legends Johnny "Red" Kerr and Norm Van Lier on the same day.

"A part of Bulls history is gone," Paxson said. "One of the ways that some for our history was kept alive was through those two guys. Norm was always talking about the Bulls of the '70s and reminding people how tough they were and that was a good thing. Johnny had such a unique perspective on this organization from Day One."

And on some of the Bulls vowing to play hard to honor the memory of Kerr and Van Lier: "It's great to hear, but it's better to see. I hope that they mean it. Norm did play hard, and even though Johnny was never a Bulls player, he was an Ironman."

Lineup doesn't change: Despite a couple of ugly road losses and an early 12-2 deficit at Washington on Friday, coach Vinny Del Negro chose not to alter the starting lineup against Houston.

"They know they have to start games better, then the changes will be my decision," Del Negro said before the game. "Hopefully tonight we'll come out with some grit and some toughness and get after it. If that's not the case, then it will be a lot easier to make changes."

The Bulls weren't great at the start of Saturday's contest, but they stayed within 31-26 at the end of the first quarter. Del Negro did admit some of the Bulls have been struggling.

"Whether it's because of the trades, it doesn't matter," he said. "You're still getting paid to do a job and it's a great job, so you should respect it and go out and do it."