Make it two games.
Zach LaVine told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he will sit Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a left quad injury. The absence will mark only his second of the season, the first of which came last night when the Bulls pulled off a surprising victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
According to LaVine, however, he doesn’t expect the injury to be anything serious and self-estimated that he’ll be back on the court in “probably a week.”
— Tony Gill (@thetonygill) March 3, 2020
Even a week ago, a game without LaVine felt flat-out unwinnable, but with the recent play of Coby White (who was just named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month (more on that in a minute)) and the return of Otto Porter (as well as Denzel Valentine), I have little doubt the Bulls can compete against a problematic Timberwolves team.
Not to mention, Lauri Markkanen could very well make his return tomorrow night.
Lauri Markkanen said he’s “hopeful” he can play tomorrow. Jim Boylen said he’ll be evaluated tomorrow and depending on how he’s feeling could play vs. Minn
— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) March 3, 2020
Lauri Markkanen doing stuff pic.twitter.com/uNTalFSEd6
— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) March 3, 2020
Markkanen’s status could come down to the wire, but if he does find his way back into the lineup, the Bulls could be running with four of their five traditional starters: Tomas Satoransky, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. To that end, head coach Jim Boylen said he expects both Carter Jr. and Porter to receive a bump in minutes Wednesday night (Porter came off the bench in last night’s game but managed to score 18 points in only 17 minutes of action). With little signs of rust, I think it’s safe to assume he’ll find himself back in the starting lineup.
As a unit, those four players have only clocked 132 minutes alongside each other this season – which is the 4th fewest out of any four-man combination on the team, per Basketball-Reference. Of course, we all know it’s not an excuse for how this season panned out, but it’s truly frustrating to see just how little the Bulls best players have shared the court. And now, right when the Bulls are finally on the verge of full health for their starting unit, the team’s No. 1 scorer has to miss his first action of the season.
“I’m excited,” LaVine told reporters. “I was upset that everyone is coming back and the I’m exiting stage left, so it’s a little weird. I think it’s just the way our season has been going though. Take it with a grain of salt. I know mine isn’t a length injury like they had, so I’ll be back out there soon.”
Fair warning – if the Bulls do win tomorrow, hold back any urge to push the “Bulls are better without LaVine” narrative forward. I know to some that idea sounds absurd, but with how much fuss has been out there about LaVine’s struggles to be a winning player, any time the Bulls win without him those thoughts creep up. Just remember, Karl-Anthony Towns is currently out with a wrist injury and Chicago beat them once already this season.
Finally, the Bulls also officially announced Dunn will be out for the remainder of the season, which is something many of us already expected. Dunn will be a restricted free agent this offseason.