Bulls battling injuries as road trip comes to an end

Bulls battling injuries as road trip comes to an end

MINNEAPOLIS— The Bulls’ puzzling loss to the Phoenix Suns cost them more than just another game they couldn’t afford to lose as Dwyane Wade sustained a wrist injury that will cause him to miss Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves along with Jimmy Butler’s right heel not quite being ready for game action.

The Bulls started Michael Catrer-Williams, Jerian Grant, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez against the Timberwolves as Nikola Mirotic was also out with back spasms and Paul Zipser was at the team hotel with an illness.

Wade was initially deemed questionable on the injury report and Fred Hoiberg didn’t know Wade’s status during his media availability, but it changed nearly moments are Hoiberg finished up.

Wade didn’t need to go through warm-ups, as he fell on both wrists in the loss to the Suns in an awkward play. Considering he broke his wrist once before in his career, he was a little concerned it could be something serious.

“I went up for the ball, and I think I actually got the foul, but I hit my body and I came down on both hands,” Wade said. “I’ve done that before and I actually broke my wrist before falling that way, so I was kind of nervous. Had a flashback.”

He continued to play but it was clear his right wrist took the brunt of the force and it looked swollen Sunday afternoon.

“It’s funny because the left one was hurting and then after the game the right one was the one that took over,” Wade said. “Yeah, I didn’t even do that (shoot around). You can look at it. It ain’t right. I can’t bend it either way, so I’m just going to get X-rays on it for now, see what the X-rays show, and then if I feel like I need an MRI when we get back to the city, then I’ll do that. It’s moreso the hand than the wrist, I think.”

Wade doesn’t think he’ll have to be shut down before the All-Star break, with the Bulls having games Tuesday and Thursday night before taking a week off. One wonders if it’ll be the best course of action for the 35-year old, as the Bulls could still be trying for a playoff berth when play reconvenes.

[MORE: Dwyane Wade sends out support for Charles Oakley]

As for Butler, the Bulls are taking it day to day, but Hoiberg wouldn’t concede or entertain the possibility of him coming back too soon. Butler was clearly sore after the game Friday night and with a couple games left before the break, how the Bulls handle this could be critical.

Butler practiced in Oakland a day before the Suns game and at times looked pretty healthy but admitted it was hard to push off his right foot during the game and had his foot wrapped up in the locker room.

“It was a little worse after the game,” Hoiberg said. “After the practice, as expected, he had a little bit of soreness in there. We warmed him up before the Phoenix game and he said he was ready to go.

“We talked to the medical guys. They were comfortable with him playing. And then obviously after the first game action since he has had the heel pain, he woke up with pretty significant soreness. With the afternoon game today, give him two days rest and then we’ll make the determination about Toronto.”

Bulls' defense is trending upward, leads NBA in forcing turnovers, steals

USA Today

Bulls' defense is trending upward, leads NBA in forcing turnovers, steals

Just over midway through the third quarter Wednesday night, Kris Dunn cleanly picked Derrick Rose’s pocket for a steal.

“I love getting steals. That’s been my game since high school. That’s what I do. I take pride in that,” Dunn said following Thursday’s practice at Advocate Center. “I think my teammates know, the coaches know, the other teams know defense is what I do. And I try to inspire that in others.”

With 17 Pistons’ turnovers, the Bulls have now forced 15 or more turnovers in all 15 games this season.

The last time they did this---in 1980---nobody on the current roster was born. Jim Boylen was in high school in Grand Rapids, Mich. No NBA team has opened a season in similar fashion since the 76ers did in 2004, per Elias Sports Bureau.

The Bulls lead the NBA in overall steals and rank second behind Friday’s opponent, the Heat, in steals per game. Dunn ranks third behind league leader Jimmy Butler, in town Friday, and Ben Simmons with 2.13 steals per game.

The Bulls also lead the NBA in forced turnovers per game at 18.8 and points off turnovers.

“I think our defense is built to force turnovers, the system that we run,” Dunn said. “We’re blitzing guys, trying to get the ball out of their hands. You have to make them make a read. Our defense is built so that after we blitz, we have a triangle (of defenders) behind. If they make a mistake in the read, it often leads to a turnover. We have a lot of good defenders on this team who can create turnovers.”

Shaq Harrison’s emergency starter status now that both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are on the shelf aids in this department. He led the NBA in steals-per-minute last season and posted three versus the Pistons. Hutchison is doubtful for Friday’s game against the Heat.

“I’ve been doing that my whole life,” Harrison said of getting steals. “Every coach I’ve played for has been a defensive-minded coach and wants me to get into people. It’s been embedded into my mind to get steals and deflections and pick guys up to play hard 100 percent of the time.

“I think defense and that mentality is 90 percent toughness and heart and then 10 percent skill. Anybody can do it at this level if you truly put your mind to it.”

Despite their penchant for steals and forcing turnovers, the Bulls rank 14th in defensive rating. That’s middle-of-the-pack stuff, although it’s trending upward over the last five games. And it’s reflective of their poor defensive rebounding, occasionally poor defensive transition and inability to limit dribble penetration.

In detailing his defensive philosophy, coach Jim Boylen cited those three areas as need for improvement. That’s borne out in the Bulls allowing too many shots at the rim. What’s wild is they lead the league in offensive attempts within 5 feet but also allow the second-most in the league.

“We do not teach to steal the ball. I’m not a big out-of-position-to-steal-the-ball guy,” Boylen said. “What we have coached hard---and I guess well at times---is hand position, body position and doing your work early. I think that has put us in position sometimes to knock some balls loose or pick a couple off. But I’m not big on getting out of position to try to get a steal. It’s not who I am. It’s not who we want to be.”

Dunn said he sees “no downside” to the Bulls’ defensive’ scheme as long as it’s played with energy and communication. The Bulls have had trouble making quick and proper rotations if they don’t force a turnover, although that area too has improved over the last eight games.

The Bulls rank ninth in defensive rating over their last eight games.

“I give our guys credit,” Boylen said. “They’ve really bought into what our defense looks like now. Early, we struggled to get to the corner, to adjust and shift. I think there’s a familiarity now. There’s a learning curve in every defensive situation. I also think there’s defensive chemistry. And I think we can still grow.

“My assistant coaches have done a great job of sticking to what we believe in. We’ve coached basically the same thing since Day One. I feel we have a foundation. We need to be more consistent and play better. But we’re coaching to a system.”

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Luol Deng is honored in win over Pistons


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Luol Deng is honored in win over Pistons

On this edition of Bulls Outsiders, Matt Peck, John Sabine and David Watson react to the Bulls 109-89 win over the Pistons.

1:00 - Reaction to the win over Detroit

3:25 - Viewer comment on Bulls still having hope in the Eastern Conference

4:30 - Did Lauri Markkanen finally break out of his slump?

6:30 - Viewer comment on Zach LaVine and if he still fits

8:15 - Shaq Harrison balls out starting at SF

9:30 - Big Dave does Shaq highlites

11:50 - Viewer comment on James Harden or Luka Doncic?

13:30 - Viewer question on who has bigger hands- Will Perdue or Kendall Gill?

15:15 - Bulls honor Luol Deng and 2009 Bulls team

18:05 - Viewer comment on greater Bull- Joakim Noah or Deng?

21:00 - Viewer comment on Otto Porter Jr.’s return

23:30 - Reacting to Derrick Rose’s comments about load management

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

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