Bulls

Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo battling injuries as Bulls hit the road

Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo battling injuries as Bulls hit the road

The Bulls begin a critical stretch of basketball in which they'll play five of seven on the road, beginning tomorrow night in Detroit.

And they may be shorthanded in the backcourt as they begin that journey.

Both Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo sat out Sunday's practice at the Advocate Center. Head coach Fred Hoiberg said Wade suffered a thigh injury in the 101-91 loss, while Rondo skipped practice after rolling his ankle after stepping on Doc Rivers' foot late in the third quarter. Both players are gametime decisions.

The time off may be good for Wade, who struggled Saturday night with 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting in 33 minutes against the Clippers. His points have decreased in each of the five games since the All-Star break.

Rondo hasn't started since December but has played the best among the Bulls five point guards, registering 9.0 points on 48 percent shooting, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 24 minutes over his last 10 games. Hoiberg said the Bulls have given some consideration to starting Rondo again over Jerian Grant, but for now "we'll go the way that we have been going tomorrow and just continue to evaluate it."

Should Rondo miss Monday's game it would give the Bulls an extended look at both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne. The second-year point guards struggled Saturday against the Clippers, each managing just two points on a combined 2-for-8 shooting in 21 minutes.

If Wade can't suit up against the Pistons, who sit in the No. 8 seed and one game back of the Bulls in the East, sixth man Paul Zipser would see more time. The German rookie has been a revelation for the Bulls, especially considering the struggles first-round pick Denzel Valentine has had.

After missing the previous seven games Zipser has averaged 9.5 points on 8-for-11 shooting in his last two games. His stingy defense and late 3-pointer helped the Bulls close out the Warriors on Thursday, and that closing role is something the 23-year-old is embracing in his first season.

"Everybody wants to be on the court when it counts. It's big. I can't deny that," he said after practice. "I really enojy it and I appreciate it. I try to help the team. That's all I can do."

The Bulls are comfortably in the No. 7 spot in the East, with basketball-reference giving them a 79.9 percent chance of making the postseason.

But they have seven games against teams with winning records, plus Detroit twice and a surging Bucks team that sits just 1.5 games out of the No. 8 seed.

They'll need all the help they can get, and Zipser and the young point guards may be called upon when the Bulls take the floor in the Motor City on Monday.

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.