Following Friday’s practice at the Advocate Center, coach Jim Boylen couldn’t say how many available players he would have for Saturday’s home game against the Suns.
Luke Kornet, who is only starting because Wendell Carter Jr. is injured, sprained his left ankle in Friday’s practice and is listed as doubtful.
Carter, Otto Porter Jr., and Denzel Valentine played 3-on-3 with contact, but Porter and Valentine are listed as out while Carter is listed as doubtful. And of course, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn remain out.
Boylen didn’t even commit to two-way player Adam Mokoka suiting up, though he said “there’s a good chance.”
Such is the way of life these days for the banged-up Bulls, losers of seven straight. They had nine available players for Thursday’s home loss to the Hornets.
Still, Boylen spouted positivity.
“What I try to do is look at some of the facts. I want to look at what progress we have made. We have definitely made progress defensively with our system and in what we do this season. That has been hijacked a little bit by injuries, but we're still a good, hard-playing defensive team,” Boylen said. “We've improved our running game. I think in the month of February so far, we're first in fast-break points. Even though we're on a losing streak, we're still playing hard, aggressive basketball.
“I think we're sixth in February in points in the paint. So I try to look at the facts of things we are doing. After the 50-game mark, we were plus-seven wins from last year at the 50-game mark. Then we had some guys start to go down. We were on our way to being plus whatever it would be from that point on. So I'm not going to let the injury bug or the negativity stop understanding what we're building and who we are and how we're playing. There's a lot of positive things that we've done.”
The Bulls actually are fifth in points in the paint and 13th in fast-break points this month. The losses of Carter and Kris Dunn have facilitated their defense dropping out of the top-10 to a tie for 12th.
One player who definitely won’t be available Saturday is Chandler Hutchison, who revealed he took his second cortisone shot of the season in his injured right shoulder. Hutchison addressed reporters for the first time since the All-Star break, which he entered after playing 29 minutes in Washington.
“It’s just something that I’ve been battling. The last three or four games leading into break, it was kind of like, ‘Push through. We’ll have this All-Star break to rest. Maybe see somebody to see what I can do to help kind of push through it.’ But the Wizards game I got banged up quite a bit chasing (Davis) Bertans around screens. I was getting clipped left and right. I had a pretty big block with my right arm that kind of jammed everything up. I wasn’t even able to finish the game the last 4 or 5 minutes,” Hutchison said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s something lingering. For me, a big part of me going forward is I don’t want to have any nagging things lingering.”
Hutchison said the previous cortisone shot helped calm down issues with his shoulder, which already had sidelined him for six weeks. He sounded confident of a return, though he had no target date and said it would be based on daily improvement.
Asked if offseason surgery would be needed, Hutchison didn’t rule it out.
“It’s something as a last resort kind of deal. With what’s going on with my shoulder, it could be used to clean it out. Or it could be something that heals on its own,” he said. “Right now, I’m hoping that with rest it’s something I can get to a point where it heals on its own. And then those talks will kind of advance if it gets to that point.”
Hutchison averaged 11.8 points and 6 rebounds in close to 30 minutes over four games this month, so the timing of this recurrence couldn’t be worse.
“It’s been tough. This past two years is something I’ve never experienced in my life. having to deal with injuries that are freak deals,” he said. “I fall down in the last 14 seconds of a game, jam my foot and I’m out 30 games. I get hit by a screen that happens every game and I’m out six weeks for that. Just things that are freak incidents you can never foresee.”
But Hutchison downplayed a question on whether he’s injury-prone.
“Nah, I don’t think so. It’s just one of those things,” he said. “It’s not, ‘Oh, I had to get a reconstruction here or something that’s going to be lingering here.’ It’s bad luck. I’m hoping it’s all kind of bunched up right now and it’s really a small sample size of my career that’s going to be here awhile.”