Bulls

Without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine's job will only get more difficult

Without Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine's job will only get more difficult

It’s been the most pressing on-court issue facing the Bulls all season — in a season full of them:

Outside of Zach LaVine, where do the points come from?

The glare of that question is only set to amplify with Lauri Markkanen now set to miss four to six weeks with a pelvic injury. Take Friday's 98-81 defeat at the hands of the Kings as an example. LaVine tallied 21 — his 13th consecutive game with 20 or more. Thad Young chipped in 10; Kris Dunn did, too. But the rest of the team mustered 40, and the Bulls finished with 81 points against the Kings’ 18th-rated defense.

For a stretch — a 109-second one, to start the second half — it appeared LaVine might single-handedly save the day, as he has before. He opened the third quarter with 10 quick points to shave a 10-point halftime deficit to two after tallying eight in the first two periods combined.

But the Kings clamped up. The rest of the way, LaVine scored only thrice and was ever on the run from one, two or three Sacramento defenders at a time, depending on the possession. The Bulls’ dearth of scoring around him made the gameplan a simple one: Cut the head off the snake. LaVine finished just 8-for-21 from the field, and the Bulls scored 12 fourth quarter points.

“I think they did a good job of that,” Jim Boylen said of the Kings’ throwing waves of bodies LaVine’s way. “Zach's a primary guy and they treated him like a primary guy. He got up 21 shots. You know, six rebounds. I thought he tried.”

This storyline isn’t going away. Three of the Bulls’ top five scorers (Marrkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr.) are sidelined and weeks (at least) away from return. Young, steady as he is, isn’t going to transform into a consistent 20-point scorer overnight. Tomas Satoransky and Coby White represent the Bulls’ best chance of secondary explosions on a night-to-night basis — but against Sacramento, they combined for 16 points on 4-for-16 shooting.

“I mean, [opponents have] been doing that,” LaVine said of the double and triple-teams he received Friday. “We gotta get somebody to step up, and I think we'll find it. It's the first game without Lau [Lauri Markkanen]. We'll figure out what we gotta do in Cleveland.”

Easier said than done. Down another primary 3-point threat in Markkanen, the Bulls shot 8-for-37 from deep tonight, the fifth time in seven games they’ve made less than 10 3-pointers. They’re now 2-13 on the season when they make less than 10 3s.

“Will we have to adjust some things and maybe play a little differently? Maybe,” Jim Boylen said of the team’s shooting. “I'll evaluate with the shots we got and what else we had. But I'm not gonna reinvent the wheel in January, I'm not gonna do that.”

The Bulls — spearheaded by Boylen and LaVine — insist they’re going to keep plugging. Still, an offense already third-to-last in the league in offensive rating just lost another cog, and the impact was apparent. LaVine already carried as great an offensive load as anyone in the league. Now, if he didn’t already, he’ll receive as much attention as anyone, too.

“That's up to coach. I'm prepared for everything. I think my conditioning's [good], so we'll see, maybe I gotta do that,” LaVine said of potentially taking on more minutes.

And of the injuries: “Nobody's gonna feel bad for you. They're just gonna try to take advantage of it.”

The Kings did that successfully tonight. The Bulls hope it doesn't prove a foreshadowing.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls injury notes: Coby White news, an update on Wendell Carter Jr. and more

Bulls injury notes: Coby White news, an update on Wendell Carter Jr. and more

Another February practice, another laundry list of injury updates from your Chicago Bulls.

The most alarming nugget came just before media availability when the team announced Coby White had tweaked his back ahead of practice. White didn't practice and his status hasn’t been updated for this Saturday's bout with the Knicks.

"He was doing his practice routine that he does every day, every practice day. His pre-practice routine. So, just one of those things," Boylen said when asked about the injury. "We feel he can work his way through this and we'll see how he feels tonight, and he'll do his treatment all day, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

On a brighter note, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and Denzel Valentine all participated in practice after some contact work with the Windy City Bulls on Wednesday. Carter put his chances of playing Saturday at about "80 to 90 percent " and said he'll definitely be on a minutes restriction whenever he returns.

"It’s been pretty frustrating because I’ve been wanting to get back out there right after All-Star break but I knew it was going to be a process. So, just getting my wind back," Carter said of the slow-moving nature of the recovery process. "They told me [the ankle is] not going to be 100 percent perfect when I come back. Just moreso getting my strength back in my ankle because I haven’t been playing for over a month now. It’s going to be a little bit weak but continuing to play, continuing to put more stress on it is going to make it stronger."

Boylen said he's "hopeful" that Carter and Valentine will play against the Knicks, but ruled Porter out. According to Boylen, there hasn't been a setback in Porter's progress — he's been cleared for contact and is participating in practice regularly — but there is still no exact target date for his return.

Here's a name you haven't heard in a while: Lauri Markkanen was on the floor shooting and working through some drills near the end of practice. Markkanen is five weeks into his initial four-to-six-week recovery timeline from an early stress reaction in his pelvis.

"He just had his workout in. He didn't have any contact today. He got his conditioning in, his lift in, his shooting in, his skillwork in. We call it a batting practice day," Boylen said of Markkanen, adding that he thinks Markkanen is close to being cleared for contact.

"Lauri's a worker," Boylen continued. "When he gets his chance to do his work, he does his work. When he can get into that mode and he gets his clearance, he gets after it. When we can have contact with him, we will and we'll evaluate that as we go."

Luke Kornet is ruled out for the next six to eight weeks (likely ending his season) with a severely sprained ankle and fracture of his fifth metatarsal on Thursday morning. Chandler Hutchison remains out with shoulder soreness and has no timeline to return.

RELATED: Why the Bulls' loss to OKC was a statistical anomaly

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls' Luke Kornet ruled out for six to eight weeks with severe ankle sprain

kornet.jpg
USA Today

Bulls' Luke Kornet ruled out for six to eight weeks with severe ankle sprain

The Bulls announced Thursday that further testing on Luke Kornet's injured ankle has revealed a "severe sprain and fracture of his fifth metatarsal." He's expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.

With just six-and-a-half weeks (and 23 games) remaining in the Bulls' season, this timeline could mark the end of his campaign. Kornet sprained his ankle at a practice on Feb. 21 and has sported a walking boot and crutches ever since. 

If Kornet doesn't return before April 15, it's a somber end to what was an up-and-down season. After signing a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls last offseason, Kornet struggled with a sinus affliction that ultimately required sinus obstruction surgery back in November. He missed five games following the operation and fell out of the rotation in lieu of Daniel Gafford shortly thereafter.

But he resurfaced in January in light of injuries to Wendell Carter Jr. and Gafford. In 17 games between Jan. 11 and Feb. 20, Kornet made 14 starts, averaging 9.8 points and 3.5 rebounds on 47.4% field goal shooting in 23.2 minutes per game.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.