Bulls

Injured Watson tagging along for Bulls' road trip

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Injured Watson tagging along for Bulls' road trip

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. Despite suffering a painful elbow injury in the Bulls 40-point home-opening win over the Grizzlies on Sunday, backup point guard C.J. Watson is with the team on its current road trip.

Id rather be here with my teammates. Id rather be here cheering them on, be with the team, just being around the players, said Watson, who will do cardiovascular work and ride an exercise bike while his left arm is in a sling to maintain a semblance of fitness. Theres not a better feeling than being around your teammates and being around the game you love.

Before the Bulls' game against the Pistons Wednesday, head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Watson's devotion to the team.

"You saw the injury. He is tough. He's anxious to get back," said Thibodeau. "He's such a big part of the team. I like having him around. I think it's important for him mentally to be on top of what we're doing."

The injury was certainly a setback for the Bulls, who will turn to third-string point guard John Lucas III in his absence and will also lean on swingman Ronnie Brewer for additional ballhandling duties, but will most likely increase starter Derrick Roses minutes in close-game situations. But Watson had been playing well early in the season, dishing out nine assists in the Bulls win at Sacramento and sparking an eventually-failed comeback against his former team, Golden State.

Its a sprain and a tear in my ligament, and just day-to-day. Maybe a week, week-and-a-half, two weeks, I dont know yet. It just depends on how I feel and how fast it heals, said Watson prior to Wednesdays game against the Pistons. Im going to come back when Im ready and able to play, and actually help the team. Im not going to try to rush it back or anything like that, so just going to take it day by day and see how it feels.

I watched it a couple of times and it hurt me just looking at it, and it happened to me, so it was pretty bad, he elaborated. I didnt know what it was. I just know that it hurt real bad and I know that I would miss some time, and thank God its not a knee thing or anything, so just try to heal fast and get back on the court with my teammates.

As gruesome as the injury was, Watson was prepared for the results, after suffering a similar injury to his back in the 2009, when he was with the Warriors.

I actually did the same thing to my right elbow. Thats why I wear the arm sleeve. I know how it feels and how its going to heal. I didnt miss that much time, so hopefully I wont miss much time now, said Watson, who is right-handed. Actually, I dove over the chairs of the bench. I fell on the concrete and hit my elbow, so that one probably hurt a little worse.

I just wore a brace and went out there and played, and it just started to heal on its own, he continued. It affected me a little bit. I couldnt really shoot long distance, passing was off, dribbling was off, everything was different, so its going to take some time to get back to normal.

Watson joked that he wouldnt make the same mistake again.

Especially when were up by 40. Im going to start chilling. Im going to have them be mad at me from now. Its too much of a risk out there.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Kris Dunn's knee injury and where Bulls go from here

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Kris Dunn's knee injury and where Bulls go from here

Kelly Crull, Mark Strotman and Will Perdue react to the news that Kris Dunn will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: 

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

The hits keep coming for the Bulls, and after the latest one it might be time to fire up the 2019 mock drafts.

Fred Hoiberg revealed Tuesday before practice that point guard Kris Dunn suffered a moderate sprain of his left MCL in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks.

“To have him out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s extremely difficult,” Hoiberg said. “When you have a guy who is out there and really made strides over the course of last season and the summer he had and the way he played during training camp, it’s difficult to miss him.”

It’s yet another freak injury for Dunn, who suffered the injury midway through the second quarter while landing after a layup over DeAndre Jordan. Last year Dunn suffered a dislocated finger in the preseason and then suffered a concussion that cost him 11 games. A toe injury then ended his season as the tanking Bulls shut him down for the final 14 games.

But Dunn was expected to play a significant role in Year 2 of the Bulls’ rebuild. As well as leading the team in assists and being the most sure-handed closer, Dunn’s defensive prowess was going to help a Bulls team that finished 29th in efficiency and lost David Nwaba, perhaps their second best defender, in the offseason.

Even prior to Dunn’s injury the Bulls had been addressing the position behind him, claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers on Oct. 14 and signing Shaq Harrison on Sunday. They opted to keep Ryan Arcidiacono on the final roster and will now rely on some combination of those three behind Cam Payne, who tied a career high with 17 points on Saturday against the Pistons.

That’s why Dunn’s injury could affect the team more than Lauri Markkanen’s or Denzel Valentine’s. The Bulls were able to cover up Markkanen’s absence with Bobby Portis and free agent acquisition Jabari Parker, while they invested a first-round pick in wing Chandler Hutchison and guaranteed Antonio Blakeney’s contract over the summer.

There’s quantity on the Bulls’ depth chart behind Dunn, but quality is another story.

“Cam had his best game of maybe his career a couple games ago against Detroit,” Hoiberg said. “He has some things he can build on. The biggest thing at that position is you have to get us organized at both ends of the floor. That’s where Kris had taken a big step in the right direction with that. Arcidiacono is one of the better communicators and hardest-playing guys on our team. We’ve got guys who have some starting experience. It’s big shoes to fill. But I’m confident our guys will give great effort.”

It could mean more ball-handling responsibilities for Zach LaVine, who has been a terror in pick-and-roll sets three games into the season. Though he’s only averaged 2.7 assists, the Bulls offense has been humming, with his 32.3 points per game leading the way. Using LaVine as a primary ball handler could allow Hoiberg to run a point guard-less offense and mix and match the other backcourt position.

They’ll have to do it on the fly. The group of point guards the Bulls will face in the next 11 days include Kemba Walker (Charlotte) twice, Trae Young (Atlanta), Steph Curry (Golden State), Jamal Murray (Denver), Darren Collison (Indiana) and James Harden (Houston). It could get a lot worse for the Bulls before it gets any better, and with Markkanen, Valentine and now Dunn on the mend. 

For those looking into such things three games into the season, the Bulls are currently tied with the Thunder, Cavaliers and Lakers for the worst record in the league. The NBA changed its Lottery rules for this upcoming season, with the three worst teams in the league all sharing the same odds at receiving the top pick in the draft.