Bulls: Gibson, Dunleavy give different outlooks on injury front


Bulls: Gibson, Dunleavy give different outlooks on injury front

It wouldn't truly have been a Bulls media day without injury updates, rehabilitation schedules and timetables for returns making up a significant portion of the conversation.

But as the Bulls enter the Fred Hoiberg era tomorrow with the commencement of training camp, the team's two biggest injury concerns appear headed in different directions.

The good news is Taj Gibson is recovering well from ankle surgery he underwent in June. Gibson, who revealed two weeks ago at his youth basketball camp that he played through a ligament tear in the playoffs, is ahead of schedule and still is aiming to be available on Oct. 27 when the Bulls begin their regular season against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Gibson has dealt with multiple ankle sprains during his career - they cost him 20 games last season - and admitted at media day he'll be more cautious in his return this time around.

"It’s about getting back into game shape. I haven’t really been able to run for three months, so these last couple weeks have been really tough," Gibson said. "But it’s been a learning process, and I’m taking it slow."

Still, general manager Gar Forman said Gibson is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitaiton, which in mid-June was projected at four months. While he may not participate fully in two-a-day training camp sessions, Gibson has already been working out with teammates in Chicago and Forman expects him to be "very close or at 100 percent once the first game gets here."

"He's got a spring to his step," Forman said. "He looks live, he looks active, and we're really happy with where he's at.

[MEDIA DAY: Rose proclaims his innocence in strongest statements to date]

The same necessarily can't be said for Mike Dunleavy, who underwent a lower-back microdiscectomy on Friday. Forman said Dunleavy began having "back issues" in the summer, and the team attempted to alleviate the pain with epidurals and physical therapy. When those failed to fully correct the issue a few weeks ago, the Bulls made the decision to have the 35-year-old small forward undergo surgery.

The team announced in a press release that he was expected to miss 8-to-10 weeks following the surgery. But the 35-year-old didn't sound as confident in keeping with that timeframe. He walked gingerly to the press conference table on Monday and admitted he's unsure of when he'll return.

"I think they released to (the media) eight to 10 weeks. I really don’t have a timeframe on it," he said. "I’m coming back when I feel good enough, the doctors have cleared me. I have no idea. Hopefully that will be this season. I’m not looking at it week-by-week. It’s going to be a process, I can’t skip the steps. Going to have to listen to what these guys say, follow through with all that. I’ll be back when I get back.

"I don’t have a set amount of time in my head that I want to get back. I haven’t broken out the schedule and said, 'OK, eight weeks from this Friday is this game, I want to be back for this game.' Just can’t do it that way."

Dunleavy said recurrence is a possibility if he rushes his rehabilitation, which initially will consist of zero basketball activity "for a while."

"It’s just all about being safe about it, taking the proper steps and hopefully being back sooner than later," he said. "To put an absolute date on it or if I’m not back in eight to 10 weeks is not going to be the end of the world."

[MEDIA DAY: Rose admits looking ahead to free agency in 2017]

Dunleavy missed 19 games with an ankle injury last season after starting all 82 games in his first year with the Bulls. His absence will be significant, Hoiberg said, because of what Dunleavy provides from a team standpoint. Though he averaged just 9.4 points per game last year, the lowest mark since his rookie season, the Bulls were significantly better offensively with Dunleavy on the floor, and their defense also saw an uptick compared with him on the bench.

"We need Mike Dunleavy healthy at the end of the season, but when you look from an analytics standpoint, when Mike Dunleavy was on the floor good things happened," Hoiberg said. "And you look at the offensive efficiency, defense efficiency, those numbers, Mike was as good as anybody on our roster."

Hoiberg admitted Monday replacing Dunleavy will be done "by committee," naming reserves Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic as players needing to step up and run with an extended opportunity for at least the first two months of the season. Hoiberg also added that reserve guards E'Twaun Moore and Kirk Hinrich may see increased roles, presumably with Jimmy Butler shifting to small forward.

"We’ll miss Mike a lot, but at the same time we’re going to be careful with it. And anytime something like this happens it’s a great opportunity for somebody else to step in and show what they can do," Hoiberg said. "So again, training camp’s going to be very competitive. When we step on that floor tomorrow for the first time I know those guys are going to be going at it and going after each other."

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.