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As injuries mount, Bulls' rotation gymnastics will continue against Suns

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USA TODAY

As injuries mount, Bulls' rotation gymnastics will continue against Suns

As the Bulls work back a litany of battered bodies, expect lineup and rotation gymnastics to continue. 

In the team’s first game back from the All-Star break against the Charlotte Hornets, Ryan Arcidiacono made his first start of the campaign (and logged a season-high 28 minutes) for an injured Chandler Hutchison. Head coach Jim Boylen confirmed Arcidiacono as a starter for Saturday’s bout with the Phoenix Suns and laid out his rationale.

“[Arcidiacono]’s an additional ball-handler, he creates spacing on the floor, he's a good shooter," Boylen said. "We can have him handle and Zach (LaVine) and (Tomas) Sato(ransky) can play off the ball, which I think is important for them, especially with a team that is down numbers, maybe they get a possession where they can rest or play off the ball." 

Arcidiacono started 32 games for the Bulls in 2018-19 — another injury-ravaged season — which he said has made this adjustment a familiar one.

Boylen also elaborated on how that decision is impacting the team’s development plan for rookie Coby White. The hope is White’s spark-plug scoring and creation (he’s averaging 28.5 minutes, 11.5 points and 4.7 assists in his last six games) can be a boon for a Bulls bench drained by injury, while he also grows as a decision-maker and leader.

“[Arcidiacono starting] keeps Coby in that backup role, where he's finding his voice and he's learning to play that (lead guard) position,” Boylen said. “And I think that's important too. Coby has more of a voice with that second group, and we're asking him to run that group as efficiently as he can and learn.”

The Bulls deployed a nine-man rotation for Thursday’s game against Charlotte, and Boylen said that will again be the case tonight. The one tweak: Luke Kornet, who sprained his ankle at Friday afternoon practice, will be inactive, and Adam Mokoka is back from the G League. Boylen said he expects Mokoka to play tonight.

Daniel Gafford will start in Kornet’s place, with Cristiano Felicio the primary big off the bench. Tonight will mark Gafford’s fifth career start and first since Jan. 15, when he gruesomely dislocated his right thumb a minute-and-a-half into a game the Bulls eventually won over the Wizards. Kornet started 14 games at center in his stead. Gafford has been gradually working his way back from a sprained ankle he sustained against the Raptors Feb. 2 (his first game back from the thumb). 

“I love his energy. He tries, I think he's grown as a young, developing player. I like having him out there. I know Daniel is gonna embrace his role, he's gonna compete on every possession,” Boylen said of Gafford, who will have his hands full with Suns center Deandre Ayton tonight. “We're still trying to get [Gafford’s] wind up, get his legs back. It's hard, our [centers] in our system do a lot. We have an active defense and they're involved in a lot of our offense, so the conditioning piece for all of them is really important.”

Gafford’s re-introduction to heavy minutes should help a reeling Bulls defense. His 1.2 blocks per game and 42 total blocks are both second among rookies, and, per Cleaning the Glass, Bulls opponents shoot 1.6% less frequently and 8.1% less accurately (96th percentile) when Gafford is on the floor. The Bulls have allowed 70.2% shooting in the restricted area (dead last in the NBA) since Wendell Carter Jr. went down on Jan. 6. 

As for others on the mend: Hutchison suffered a setback in his nicked up right shoulder just before the All-Star break, and said on Friday that he received a cortisone shot in it — a strategy he says has worked for him in the past. Hutchison is listed as doubtful, but with Boylen revealing the team will use a nine-man rotation, it’s safe to assume he won’t play.

The same is true for Carter, who did some sprinting with Otto Porter Jr. (already ruled out) after shootaround. 

“Target dates are floating,” Boylen said of when he expects those with ambiguous recovery timelines to return. “We discuss them after every ramp up — a little bit more this day, a little bit more the next day. There’s a conversation that happens: ‘How you feeling? How’s it going? What do you think, a little sore today? Ok we’ll back it off a little.’ That might change when a guy’s coming back or I feel pretty good and you know what I’m going to ramp it up again today. That’s just the process.

“I do feel some guys are close, I feel they’re closer than they were two days ago. I feel they’re closer than they were after we got back from the All-Star break. I don’t spend a whole bunch of time worrying over when they’re going to be back, how’s it going to happen, I have to coach the guys I have now in the moment and prepare them to have success.”

That optimism has been consistent from Boylen through adversity — injury-related and otherwise — all season. Now, entrenched in a season-long seven-game losing streak, the team needs something positive more than ever.

“Jim's a positive guy, and he always wants guys to be ready for the next situation at hand,” Arcidiacono said. “I think that with all the injuries that are happening it's next-man-up and he still expects us to win and go out there and compete every single day.”

“I don’t wake up saying, boy, this is a tough moment, this is a tough day, or we’ve got eight of our 17 not playing. I don’t do that. It is what it is,” Boylen said. “My job is to teach and coach this team. I think my staff’s doing a great job of getting us ready and staying positive and organized, and I just don’t go there. I’m not going there. I’m not going there for the team, I’m not going there for my staff, I’m not going there for the organization.

“Our guys have been great. Our guys have been very resilient, our staff’s been very resilient. Front office has been very supportive. It’s a difficult moment, that’s the way it is.”

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Zach LaVine, Bulls donate meals to 2,000 Chicago healthcare workers

Zach LaVine, Bulls donate meals to 2,000 Chicago healthcare workers

Every day this week, the Bulls will deliver meals to 2,000 healthcare workers at various Advocate Health Care and Rush Medical Center locations around Chicago, the team announced in a statement Tuesday morning.

In the release, Zach LaVine, specifically, was thanked for a generous donation towards the gesture. Beatrix, Coca-Cola, Dunkin', Giordano's, Portillo's and Taffy Apple will also provide resources and assistance delivering meals.

Advocate and Rush are each hospital partners of the Bulls.

In March, LaVine pledged 12,500 meals to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in his hometown Seattle (details linked to below). LaVine traversed back West to be closer to family after the league's suspension.

Add this to the growing list of ways the Bulls organization and its players are stepping up in a time of great need. Find a bulleted summary of other ways the Bulls and their players are aiding their respective communities below:

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Douglas Caridine, brother in law to ex-Bull Randy Brown, loses battle with COVID-19

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The Caridine/Brown family

Douglas Caridine, brother in law to ex-Bull Randy Brown, loses battle with COVID-19

Fighting emotion, Randy Brown struggled to find the right words.

But then the former Bulls guard, assistant coach and Chicago native settled on a theme close to Douglas Caridine’s heart.

“I have a big family. I have five brothers, blood brothers. And he was my sixth brother,” Brown said of his brother-in-law. “When you saw my brothers at the United Center, he blended right in. It wasn’t fake. It was real.”

What Brown, his wife, Tamara, and the rest of Caridine’s family is experiencing right now is as real as life gets.

On March 30, Caridine, 38, lost his quick battle with the COVID-19 virus. The graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School and Lewis University, who worked in the financial aid office at DePaul University, leaves behind a wife and two young children. 

“We were expecting him to come home from the hospital. And then it didn’t happen. We’re in total shock for our family,” Brown said. “You sit around and take this stuff for granted. But it can hit home. He’s going to be forever missed.”

Through tears and laughter over a phone conversation, Randy and Tamara Brown talked about Caridine’s high school football career, his avid Bulls fandom and his love for baseball, which included him umpiring youth games. They talked about his beautiful wedding in the Dominican Republic and how he sported a “Mother’s boy” tattoo to represent his love for family.

But above all, they spoke haltingly with emotion, and forcefully with purpose, to honor Caridine’s life with words that they hope can be of public service.

“I still think that people are not taking this as seriously as they should. They don’t understand the severity of it because it hasn’t hit them yet. I want to put out there that it’s not just happening to older people,” Tamara Brown said. “He was a young man. He did have diabetes. We didn’t even originally think about that as a serious underlying condition. 

“For those who think, ‘Oh, that’s not a big deal.’ Diabetes is a big deal. So I just want people to know that this virus is happening to younger people. And people need to listen to what the professionals are saying and do their social distancing and everything else that comes with that.”

Tamara Brown said her younger brother first showed cold-like symptoms of a runny nose and cough on March 23. Since he didn’t have a fever, Tamara Brown said a nurse remotely offered Caridine treatment advice. But three days later, his breathing had worsened to the point that his wife took Caridine to the hospital. 

“When they listened to his chest, they could tell something was wrong. Immediately, he was diagnosed with double pneumonia and tested (for COVID-19),” Tamara Brown said. “They admitted him and sent him to ICU. They said they were going to sedate him because his body was really struggling. They put him on a ventilator.” 

Two days later, according to Tamara, the test results confirmed he had COVID-19. 

“I talked to him on (March 26) when he went in the hospital. He said he was scared. We joked around a little bit. I was like, ‘Dude, I’ll see you in a couple days. You’ll be fine,’” Randy Brown said. “Four days later, this kid was gone.” 

On March 30, Brown waited in the parking lot of the hospital out of respect for the hospital workers and visitors who needed to wear personal protective equipment, as well as to follow social distancing guidelines. Caridine’s direct family donned the protective gear. 

Tamara Brown said her younger brother died shortly after his family, including his beloved mother, arrived. 

“And the toughest part is we aren’t allowed to mourn with family,” Randy Brown said. “We aren’t allowed to grieve. Everyone wanted to come and visit, and we obviously said we can’t because this (virus) is so serious.”

Caridine was born on Christmas. Tamara Brown also talked about the difficulty of not being able to physically be with her and her late brother’s mother at this time, and the sadness of not being able to plan a funeral.

But like Christmas morning, Tamara Brown sounded like her brother’s life was a gift when she pondered a question about how she’d like him to be remembered. 

“He was 100 percent about family,” she said without hesitation.

For more information regarding COVID-19 resources the city of Chicago is providing and recommended best practices, follow this link to chicago.gov.

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