The Bulls have been the brunt of a couple bad breaks, of late — well, sprains and dislocations to be more specific. Against the Wizards Wednesday night, Daniel Gafford (dislocated right thumb) and Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) became the latest afflicted.
Gafford, we already know, will be sidelined two-to-four weeks. Hutchison's fate is a tad murkier, but he participated in the team's getaway shootaround session Thursday afternoon before jetting to Philadelphia. The second-year forward fell hard on his right shoulder — the same shoulder that caused him to miss 17 games between November and January — following a dunk attempt against Washington and exited immediately.
"When it happened I felt kind of like a pop," Hutchison said after shootaround. "It’s something you don’t want to hear. It locked up a little bit and I had trouble lifting it above my shoulders, above my head. I just wanted to get it checked out and go from there.
"It was similar to the scan I had when it initially happened, so you take that for what it was. As for structural damage everything was good, so I’m going to try and go."
Is it discouraging at all, though, given his injury history? Hutchison missed most of the second half of last season with a right foot fracture and the first seven of this one with a hamstring ailment, as well.
“Nah, I’m kind of used to this whole thing right now, you know. You just hope that it’s something that’s not long-term," Hutchison said. "This time dodged a bullet for sure, I thought so. Hopefully if I’m feeling good then I’m going to go tomorrow.’’
All things considered, that's an encouraging update, albeit an unofficial one. In 12 minutes against the Wizards, Hutchison notched 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting and swiped two steals — inarguably his best performance since returning on Jan. 6.
"We’ve got to keep him healthy, get him healthy and keep him going in the right direction," Jim Boylen said. "I told him, I feel like every game he’s improved a little bit, got a little more comfortable, a little more plays. So we’ll keep pushing him to do that as long as he can play through some pain."
Provided he can, Hutchison's confidence, at least, certainly doesn't lack.
"Yeah, 100 percent," he said when asked if he thinks he can be a true defensive stopper. "Just from the time I’ve been out there I’ve had flashes of that. Now, whether that’s a role I’m going to be given or not, whatever it’s going to be, I never take defensive possessions off. That’s not me."
Boylen didn't want to directly compare Hutchison to anyone, but perked up at the opportunity to laud his potential and defense-first mentality. Given the Bulls' rapidly melting wing and frontcourt rotations, Hutchison has a chance to be a key player in a pivotal stretch of the season.
"He has shown flashes that he can lock a guy down. We need more of those moments," Boylen said. "It's very dangerous to compare player to player. What I've experienced in this league is coaching Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. They came in and established themselves at the defensive end of the floor. A little different all of them, but they established themselves, they bought in that, 'To get on the floor, I've got to guard.'
"So those dirty work, those toughness parts of the game, they locked into, which gave them a chance to be on the floor. Now, they get minutes on the floor and now offensively they get more comfortable and they realize maybe what they don't do well offensively and they work on that, and they keep that foundation of defensive intensity and skill level and competitiveness. That's what that comparison is about and I think he understands what I want. I try to be real clear with that. So we'll see if he can keep moving forward."
Hutchison credits that identity to his defensive instincts, saying that side of the ball "comes naturally for him." With the season in the balance, and a date with the supremely physical 76ers (26-16) ahead, the Bulls hope he can continue to bring that and more.
"You just try and pick what you can on what we did well," Hutchison said on carrying momentum forward. "Obviously against a team like Philly it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be on the road, so another challenge. We just try and stay with it and carry over things we did well, try to work on things we didn’t. Hopefully it travels.’’
A win against Philadelphia would be the Bulls' second against an above-.500 squad at time of contest this season. Hopefully, indeed.
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