The only people who need the All-Star break more than the Chicago Bulls might be their fans.
Over the last several weeks, the Bulls have continued to add injury to insult, as core player after core player was sidelined with bumps and bruises. Otto Porter has missed the Bulls last 46 games with a foot injury, Wendell Carter Jr. has been out since January 8th with an ankle injury, Lauri Markkanen has missed the Bulls last nine games with a pelvis injury, and Kris Dunn is the most recent victim to suffer a more substantial injury with yet another MCL sprain. Meanwhile, the Bulls are also waiting for Daniel Gafford to be back at full health (we think?) and Denzel Valentine to shake off a hamstring injury.
That’s … uh … a heaping pile of “unfortunate” right there. However, as I always feel obligated to remind, this is NOT an excuse for another failed season. The underlying issues stretch down much further than that.
In any case, previously, each player has been given or has offered a vague timeline to return, but NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson gave Bulls fans a better idea of what the organization’s plan for these players is following the All-Star break.
Here’s what he had to say on 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh on Wednesday:
If things go without any setbacks it sounds like it’s going to be Carter and Porter first. Now, they will not be playing in that first game after the break, but the hope is to get them up and practicing in the return-to-play protocol. Markkanen would follow at some point, probably a week to 10 days later.
Johnson said the team plans to start-up practice again on Tuesday, and with a game on Thursday night against the Charlotte Hornets, it’s not too shocking to hear Porter and Carter Jr. wouldn’t be available for the first game back. Two days of practice after sitting several weeks (or in Porter’s case … months) probably isn’t enough time to get game-ready. However, the Bulls then play back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday that upcoming weekend, so maybe we could see both players return on a minutes restriction in either one of those contests. As for Markkanen, it sounds like he will not make his return until the beginning of March.
What about defensive anchor Kris Dunn? Well, that update, by contrast, wasn’t very encouraging …
And then Dunn, the dude’s still on crutches, I mean nobody is going to be surprised if he is out for the season, even though they’re not saying that. I’m not saying that he is for sure. But he missed 23 games with this same injury last time.
Since January 31st, when Dunn left the Brooklyn Nets game 13 seconds in with his knee injury, the Bulls have held the worst defensive rating in the NBA (123.2). Before he went down, the team held the 9th-best defensive rating in the NBA. Of course, other injuries and difficulty of opponent play a factor … but I think it’s safe to say the Bulls NEED Dunn on the court to stay even remotely competitive on both ends.
Regardless, even if Dunn doesn’t find his way back, the Bulls should have their original starting lineup back for somewhere around 18-22 games. Remember, according to Paxson, this team still doesn’t quite know what they have, so thank goodness for these final games to evaluate!
In all seriousness, it should be at least semi-refreshing to see everyone healthy and back on the court. While the season is pretty much a lost cause, it’s beneficial for these young players to finally see more time on the court together. Hopefully, Boylen can just keep his nose out of things and simply let these players some fun together. I doubt that’ll happen, but fingers crossed.