Getting injured is lousy. No one knows this better than me. Had it not been for that cold I got in 8th grade that made me blow my nose a lot for several days in a row, I’m positive I’d have been a far greater basketball player than Kobe Bryant.

But seriously, it’s hard to win in the NBA without several of your top stars, and that’s what the Chicago Bulls (16 wins, 21 losses) have been trying to do.

The Chicago Sun-Times (Brian Hanley) reports:

The Bulls have been without their captains — Drew Gooden, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich — for sustained stretches. Deng has missed the last eight games with a sprained ankle and might be back tonight, when the Bulls host Portland. Hinrich (thumb surgery) has targeted Thursday against Cleveland as a possible return date. Gooden, who has posted double-doubles in all three games since an eight-game absence because of a sprained ankle, said there was no need for a players-only vent session. ”It’s no time right now to press a panic button where we need to have a mandatory meeting and stuff like that,” he said. ”Guys know what they need to do. Any time a meeting needs to be called, it will be called.” Coach Vinny Del Negro said the players need to take more ownership of the team.

Just one game out of the 8th Eastern conference playoff spot, there’s plenty of time left in the NBA season for Chicago to improve themselves. It’ll mostly have to come from the big guys, as solid but unspectacular Drew Gooden (13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds per game, not much else) has been the lone consistent contributor.

–InsideHoops.com editor Jeff Lenchiner