In the Bulls 127-121 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night John Salmons scored a career-high 38 points to lead the team to its seventh straight victory at the United Center. Seeing Salmons light up the scoreboard is starting to become a regular occurrence during Bulls games, as he's really taken advantage of his spot in the starting lineup ever since Luol Deng has been sidelined with a stress fracture.
In the eight games Salmons has started he's averaged 22.0 points per game while playing 40 minutes, and he's giving the Bulls another scoring option aside from Ben Gordon that they really need, and one who can create his own shot at that. So has Salmons usurped Deng's place in the starting lineup when Lu is able to play again? Vinny Del Negro isn't saying just yet, but he's giving some hints.
"He'll fit in whenever," Del Negro said. "He knows the system and what we expect. Whenever you can get a talented body back with Lu's versatility, you want that in your lineup.
"We'll be smart about it. Since he hasn't played in a while, he's not going to be in the best game condition. Hopefully, that's something we have to deal with in a few weeks."
See, what Del Negro did there was make sure he gave Deng some compliments about how talented and versatile he is, before he quickly followed that up with a statement that leads you to believe Lu will be coming off the bench when he returns. It's called damage control.
Del Negro has taken a lot of heat from the media and fans in his first year as the Bulls head coach, the majority of which involves his coaching acumen, but at least it sounds like Del Negro realizes that his team is better off with Salmons on the court as much as possible.
When Deng returns, Salmons should stay at the three with Deng coming off the bench, and then Del Negro can move him to the two-guard when Deng comes in if the team wants to go bigger or when either Ben Gordon or Derrick Rose need a breather.
The Bulls are just a better team with Salmons on the court.
Along with writing for NBCCHICAGO.com, Tom Fornelli can also be found contributing at FanHouse, SPORTSbyBROOKS, and his own Chicago sports blog Foul Balls.