As if the Chicago Bulls’ offense isn’t sputtering enough these days, DeMar DeRozan will miss at least Wednesday’s road game at Indiana after an MRI exam confirmed the team’s leading scorer has a Grade 1 thigh strain.
“I don’t think it’s significant. But we’ll see how he progresses and how he feels,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He knows his body well. He’s always very conscientious about taking care of it. We hope with treatment and how diligent he is, he’ll progress. But there’s enough discomfort there for him where he’s having a hard time moving and cutting and jumping.”
DeRozan revealed after Monday night’s home loss to the Orlando Magic, the Bulls’ season-high-tying fourth straight, that he’s quietly been dealing with discomfort for “a month and a half.” DeRozan missed three games with a right quad strain in mid-January and sat out the Feb. 7 road loss in Memphis with right hip soreness.
Donovan didn’t rule out DeRozan playing on Thursday night when the Bulls finish a back-to-back set of games at home against the Milwaukee Bucks before entering the All-Star break. DeRozan said late Monday that he planned to attend All-Star weekend.
“The thing they clearly want to do is see him getting extra treatment (Tuesday) and (Wednesday),” Donovan said about the decision for DeRozan not to travel. “Then, how does he feel for the Milwaukee game?”
The Bulls, already without Lonzo Ball and Javonte Green, also will be without Derrick Jones Jr., who left Monday’s loss early with a strained groin. Donovan said Alex Caruso, who missed Monday’s game with left foot soreness, is progressing and will be a gametime decision versus the Pacers.
All these injuries could again force Donovan to play seldom-used rookie Dalen Terry at power forward. The first-round pick delivered his most impactful minutes of the season against the Magic, particularly with his energy defensively.
“There was certainly a size differential. But he fought and battled,” Donovan said. “We have to help too. It can’t just be on him. But the way he fought on post position, trying to front, and was up in pick-and-roll and trying to be aggressive to shut down drives is what he has to continue to do.”
Especially because defense, not offense, is what is currently keeping the Bulls even the least bit competitive. Over their last 10 games, they are 4-6 with an offensive rating of 106.6 that is ranked 29th in the league and a defensive rating of 106.4 that is ranked second.
In the current four-game losing streak, the Bulls have failed to break 91 points three times. For a team built around DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, this is almost mind-boggling.
Along those lines, Donovan said the Bulls worked on spacing and decision-making at Tuesday’s practice at the Advocate Center.
“There are times clearly we got in there too deep and charged over people by trying to take it to the rim. Those are ones we probably could’ve sprayed out. There are ones we sprayed out that we could’ve driven,” Donovan said of some offensive woes. “Those are the decision-making things we have to continually get better at.”
Overall, the Bulls rank 24th in offensive rating and seventh in defensive rating.
The other main offensive culprit is well-documented. The Bulls missed their first 16 3-point attempts against the Magic and finished 3-for-21. That ran their five-game total to an ugly 26-for-125, 20.8 percent.
The Bulls rank last in the NBA in both 3-point makes and attempts.
“We came in and worked to try to get better,” Donovan said of the team’s current mindset. “Their spirit has always been like that, to try to come back. I think the group has character from that standpoint. We’ve got to certainly play better, compete better. I don’t want to make it sound like, ‘Everything is great. Everything is rosy.’ But there’s still a spirit of wanting to get better and wanting to improve.”
Along the lines of improvement, the Bulls are in the mix to add a player via the buyout market, currently targeting veteran point guards. Russell Westbrook currently is planning to take some time to decide whether he’ll stay with the Utah Jazz or enter the buyout market, which is keeping the Bulls and other teams in a holding pattern.
If the Bulls don’t add Westbrook, John Wall and Patrick Beverley are names to keep in mind. The Bulls will need to waive a player to create a roster spot, and their current focus calls into question the future of Goran Dragić.