Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. stayed put in Chicago during the All-Star break to continue working out and rehabilitating their respective injuries at the Advocate Center.
After both participated in the team's first practice after the break Wednesday evening, the vibe around the question of their return for the second-half opener against the Philadelphia 76ers was cautiously optimistic.
"We'll see," Porter said of his status.
"I’m planning to play," Markkanen said, before quickly adding: "That’s up to coach (Billy Donovan).”
It also, according to Donovan, depends on how each responds physically during the day Thursday. Markkanen has missed 13 straight games spanning back to Feb. 6 with a shoulder contusion. Porter has missed 15 straight spanning back to Feb. 3 with what he termed "lower back pain."
"I feel good about what they did today. Both guys went through everything," Donovan said. "Both guys went through contact. Both guys played. I think the biggest thing for me is when you come out of a late, unnormal practice time where you are finishing up at 7 [p.m. CT] the guys have to go in right now and meet with the medical staff, go through rehab. We'll see how they are feeling. Certainly they are moving closer and closer to playing.”
Markkanen repeated five times that he feels "good to go." No minutes restriction has been discussed in his case, though he was sporting a padded (on the right shoulder) undershirt while speaking to reporters.
"I’ve tried this on now a couple times. At least it hasn’t affected my shot yet," he cracked. "I feel comfortable in it. I’m not sure if I’m going to play with it or not. It’s something we just tried out."
As for Porter, he said the back ailment is something he's never experienced before, a "weird pain" that affected his mobility, and he felt reaggravate doing activities as simple as bending over to tie his shoes.
"I figured the problem out and we really strengthened up my core, my legs and stuff, to get back to being able to run and jump," Porter said. "My body is feeling really well right now, responded really well to conditioning, to heavy loads."
Both downplayed the added significance of both potentially returning in time for strong finishes in contract seasons, centering the focus on the team. The hope for the Bulls, who surged to an 8-5 finish to the first half, is that Markkanen and Porter can build on strong early-season production and augment their progress.
"The team is playing really well. I’m excited to be back with them," Markkanen said. "Hopefully I can help them, help us be even better."