Jim Boylen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. spent the majority of their time speaking to media after the team’s first post-All-Star break practice laying a trail of injury-related tea leaves.
Carter has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since Jan. 6, and Porter hasn’t played since spraining his foot on Nov. 6. Both took part in practice (which featured “some contact” according to Boylen) and are inching closer to respective returns, though nothing is official as of yet.
"Otto participated in practice and got his legs underneath him. Wendell, we kinda put him in for two possessions, then take him out for two and kinda getting him back comfortable," Boylen said.
“Just taking it one day at a time,” said Carter, who said on the Friday of All-Star weekend that he was shooting for a return this Thursday (Feb. 20) against the Hornets. “I practiced today and it felt okay, so I'm just taking it slow. Don't want to rush anything, and end up hurting again, so that's where I'm at right now.
“Depending on the coaching staff, depending on how I'm feeling come game time, of course I want to play Thursday, but I'm [going to] do what's best for the team and for myself."
Boylen declined to say officially whether Carter will be available Thursday, also taking a “we’ll see” approach. Carter is about six weeks into his initial four-to-six week recovery timeline.
Porter, who said he’s “close” to 100 percent, doesn’t yet know when he’ll be back and that “time will tell” how many practices he needs before sliding back into the Bulls’ lineup. He remains without a timetable, and said he is unsure if he’ll be eased back in on a minutes restriction when he is able to return.
“I was able to do everything. I feel good,” Porter said. “I’ll continue it a day at a time, making sure my pain is free."
When asked, Boylen said he doesn’t yet have a clear idea of when Lauri Markkanen (who has been out with a pelvis injury since Jan. 24) might return to practice. This Friday marks four weeks into Markkanen’s initial four-to-six week timeline.
There was also no update on Kris Dunn on the two-week anniversary of his initial two-week re-examination timeline for a sprained right MCL suffered against the Nets on Jan. 31.
Still, things are moving in the right direction for the Bulls on the injury front. The team entered the All-Star break on a six-game losing streak that ties a season-high, but Boylen maintained playing competitive basketball down the stretch remains a goal. At 19-36, they will resume play five games behind the Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I think doing both, I think that's what our challenge is this year,” Boylen said of the team’s dual objectives of winning and developing. “Part of development is you hope to play in some meaningful games, and we've had a couple of those situations this year compared to last year, and I'm hoping we can have more. I'm hoping.
"Health is part of that and just getting better. I got a good group of guys that play hard, and we gotta continue to do that, and hopefully improve as we go down the stretch here.”