After Wednesday's Luol Deng lovefest in Cleveland, the Bulls will reach the season midpoint on pace for 40 or 42 victories.
That's a far cry from the championship aspirations that colored the preseason. But it's also a vast improvement from the 3-13 death march the Bulls endured in the wake of Derrick Rose's second straight season-ending knee injury.
"It's a lot of pride," Taj Gibson said. "I know a lot of people talk about us and wanting us to tank and all that. We have too much pride in this locker room.
"We have guys who came from being a No. 1 seed, who went deep into the playoffs despite numerous things going against us. We have guys with high character. (Coach Tom Thibodeau) always says it's all about what's in the locker room, and we believe that. We believe we can beat anybody."
The Bulls will have to do without Kirk Hinrich indefinitely, possibly until the All-Star break, one source said. Hinrich didn't travel to Cleveland on Tuesday after injuring his right hamstring and sitting out the final 20 minutes, 45 seconds of Monday's overtime victory over the Lakers.
The injury is enough of a concern that the Bulls re-signed veteran Mike James to a 10-day contract Tuesday, according to a league source. With Marquis Teague's trade to the Nets becoming official Tuesday, D.J. Augustin was the only point guard on the roster. James, whom the Bulls waived Dec. 16, knows the system.
"We might have some new guys in new roles," Thibodeau said late Monday. "The one advantage that we do have is we can run the offense through different people. We have the option to go big, and we may do that. We have the option to add somebody."
Either way, Augustin will play a lot. He's averaging 12.3 points and 6.1 assists in 29.4 minutes over 20 games with the Bulls.
"He has gotten very comfortable," Thibodeau said. "His minutes have gone up. Obviously, we like to close games with him and Kirk together. But D.J. is a very good pick-and-roll player."
Toko time: The Teague trade saves the Bulls $285,848 this season and adds roughly $600,000 of salary-cap space this summer. It also netted 6-foot-9 forward Toko Shengalia, who will wear No. 7.
The Republic of Georgia native is considered a power player whom the Bulls will evaluate in practice.
Layups: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Joakim Noah is the only Bull since 1990 to post at least 15 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a game, which he did for the second time Monday. "You can't say enough about what he's doing for our team," Thibodeau said. ... Gibson, on his late reaction to his game-winner: "Joakim celebrates for everything. So I waited until officials watched it on the replay."
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