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Hughes hurt, out 6-8 weeks for Bulls
All those organizational discussions about whether Kirk Hinrich might adjust to a reserve role more professionally than Larry Hughes are moot for now.
Team sources said Hughes would miss six to eight weeks after dislocating his right shoulder late in the third quarter of the Bulls' 85-75 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night at Target Center.
Sources said it's likely surgery would be avoided, although more tests will be conducted Thursday or Friday.
Hughes had scored a game-high 21 points with three steals before colliding with Timberwolves swingman Mike Miller with 3 minutes 27 seconds remaining in the third. At a timeout 11 seconds later, trainer Fred Tedeschi raced to attend to Hughes, who later had his shoulder popped back into place.
If Hughes misses six weeks, he would return Dec. 3 at Milwaukee and miss 18 games. If it's eight weeks, he would miss 24 games — more than 25 percent of the season.
Hughes grimaced and wore a sling as he tried to dress one-handed afterward.
"It's definitely tough because I was getting my touch back," Hughes said. "I've had different injuries before, so I'll figure what I need to do with rehab to get 100 percent healthy. I'm confident I can do that."
Hughes' injury paves the way for Hinrich to compose the starting backcourt with Derrick Rose on the same night Hinrich spent 20 minutes before the game talking to assistant Del Harris and came off the bench for the first time during the preseason.
Hinrich has struggled playing off the ball and adjusting to the new Bulls reality that is taking shape slowly: It's Rose's world, and everybody else is just filling fast-break lanes in it.
Obviously, that's an exaggeration, but Hinrich's struggles are not. He's shooting 39 percent and averaging 3.7 assists.
"It's definitely an adjustment," Hinrich said. "I've played off the ball some before. The way the system is, I'm trying to figure out how I can be effective and apply my game at the offensive end. Everybody's trying to figure it out."
Rose is doing so more assuredly with each game, exhibition or not. He finished with 17 points, six assists and five turnovers against the Timberwolves.
His is a delicate balance to strike: a rookie who is trying to learn the NBA game with the added pressure of being the top overall draft pick, while also commanding the ball as a floor leader.
"I'm handling it pretty well because I'm not letting my draft pick or being who I am take over me," Rose said. "I'm still a rookie and I really don't know the NBA game. So I'm listening to my vets and the coaches and watching film. Everybody is helping me out."
Nobody can aid Rose's speed and strength, distinctive qualities that again allowed Rose to penetrate the lane and finish with either hand. The Bulls also got in transition more often, particularly early in seizing a 29-9 first-quarter lead.
That was by design, not accident.
"Derrick has the ability to take over some games," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "It doesn't matter if he's a rookie or not. When that will be, how consistent that will be, time will tell. We'll put him in positions he's comfortable to run the team."
Now it's up to others to get comfortable with Rose and without Hughes.
"It's a tough blow for us," Del Negro said. "Put the M*A*S*H unit back together and see who rolls out there for practice. It makes it harder, though, no question."