Chandler Hutchison offers encouraging update ahead of 76ers matchup

Chandler Hutchison offers encouraging update ahead of 76ers matchup

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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Tomas Satoransky remembers Wizards fondly, relishes every chance to face them

Tomas Satoransky remembers Wizards fondly, relishes every chance to face them

When asked about the nature of Tomas Satoransky's departure from the Wizards last offseason, Washington head coach Scott Brooks was frank, yet gracious.

"He got a great contract," Brooks said before the Bulls bounced the Wizards 115-106 Wednesday evening. "He came [to Washington D.C.] and we knew his long-term goal was to be a starting point guard in the league. We don't have John [Wall] yet this year — or maybe not at all this year — but John's our point guard, so he was never going to be able to fulfill that part of his goal.

"But Tomas, he was great. He's tough, he's competitive, he plays hard, he's not about the stat sheet, he's about making the right plays."

Funny, because every time the Bulls face the Wizards, Satoransky's row of the box score winds up awfully full. In Washington on Dec. 18, Satoransky tallied 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists on 7-for-11 shooting (2-for-3 from 3). In Chicago on Jan. 15: 18 points, five assists, 5-for-9 and seven trips to the charity stripe without a miss. Both ended in Bulls' wins.

Brooks is right: Stat-sheet stuffing isn't in Satoransky's character. Still, it's hard to think those two outings were purely coincidental. Satoransky spent the first three years of his NBA career with the Wizards before signing on with the Bulls on a three year, $30 million pact last summer, and he is open about his appreciation for D.C. and the connections he made there. No one would fault him for these games mattering a little more.

"It's like extra energy, you know, seeing them [the Wizards] out there," Satoransky said. "Obviously, playing in D.C. it's even more, it just brings the memories, and I see a lot of people that I met over there. But it's something to spice it up a little bit, a little extra motivation."

Anyone who's watched a game of Bulls basketball this season knows the boost an energized Satoransky can give this team. In this one, that was deepest felt in the second half, when the Bulls turned seven Wizards turnovers into 16 points and pulled away to pick up a much-needed victory.

"Today I felt a little bit of extra energy, especially in that second half. I know everybody was a little down cause the schedule is kinda brutal, but I actually felt pretty fresh," Satoransky said. "We locked in defensively. That's when our easiest points come in.

"And I think we executed pretty well, especially in that fourth quarter. Something that we have to work on during the whole season and we've been having problems there but I think we were well organized today and we were in our spots. We were able to make the right plays in the right moments."

The Bulls won the second half by a margin of 60-46, outshooting the Wizards 48.8% to 40.5% and hitting 10 3-pointers to the visitors' five. Satoransky had 12 of his 18 points in the final two periods. The win moves the Bulls to 2-6 in the month of January — a necessary pickup, especially with the dog days fully setting in.

And though Satoransky is nothing but laudatory about D.C. and the Wizards organization, he brought the nasty to them midway through the second, before the rout was even on:

"I saw the lane, and I saw my guy coming, Ian Mahimni, saw the chance to dunk on him," Satoransky said with a smile after the game. 

The Bulls face the Wizards twice more this season, once on Feb. 11, then again on Feb. 23. Satoransky undoubtedly has his calendar marked.

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Miami Heat's crowded rotation should interest Bulls

Miami Heat's crowded rotation should interest Bulls

Similar to the Bulls, but amid much different circumstances, the Miami Heat are dealing with a bit of a roster crunch. Their rotation has been excellently managed by NBA Championship winning coach Erik Spoelstra but they still possess veterans who are hoping to see an uptick in playing time, just like Thaddeus Young in Chicago.

In a report from South Florida Sun-Sentinel writer Ira Winderman, Miami frontcourt players Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson have recently discussed how they have dealt with not being extremely involved in what has been a great Heat season thus far. Possible first-time All-Star Bam Abedayo (15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists per game) and Meyers Leonard have held down the Heat frontcourt for most of the year, both playing in all 40 games to this point in the season. Olynyk is at 19.8 minutes per game for the season but has only played in one of the Heat's last five games. 

Heat forward James Johnson has only played in 10 games on the season but has seen a slight uptick in playing time, averaging 17.3 minutes per game over four games in January but that numbers figure to come way down, possibly all the way to zero, when Justise Winslow returns to full health. And of course once Winslow—returns

For all of the reasons listed above, the Bulls should be interested in the Heat's roster right now. While they are likely looking to preserve 2021 salary cap space,  recent history indicates that Miami is always in 'championship hunt mode' and will always look for ways to improve their current roster while worrying about cap-space saving moves later. On that note, per Basketball-Reference.com, Johnson, Leonard, and newly signed rookie Chris Silva are the only players currently on the roster playing more than 60% of their minutes at power forward. 

The Heat, again one of the best teams in the league, aren't desperate for forward depth but could possibly use a defensive-minded forward to close over Leonard for certain matchups in the postseason. 

Enter Thaddeus Young. 

It is hard not to see how a closing lineup of Butler-Kendrick Nunn-Duncan Robinson-Young-Adebayo would be smothering defensively. And while Young is not the elite floor spacer that Leonard is, he shot 35.4% on corner 3-point shots last season with the Pacers. It is not inconceivable that he could return to that type of accuracy in a slightly different role with a Heat team with a bit more on the roster in terms of threats on offense. 

Young has played a whopping 97% of his minutes at power forward for Chicago and while the Bulls have made attempts to get him more playing time, the situation lingers as an awkward one. Young is definitely a talented enough player to deserve more than the 22.2 minutes per game he is currently receiving with the Bulls but as he has said himself, "we have different things that we're trying to do. Like I said, we're trying to develop guys and we're trying to win at the same time."

Miami is a team that—while filled with young talent—is firmly in "win-now" mode. While the Heat likely wouldn't be able to give Young the 30 minutes he is used to, they would be able to supply him a chance to fight for a title with the best homecourt team (18-1) in the league. There are no reports of mutual trade interest between the Heat and Bulls right now but with the February 6  NBA trade deadline fast approaching, the Heat are a team that the Bulls should definitely have their eye on. 

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