Chandler Hutchison

Bulls rule Chandler Hutchison, Wendell Carter Jr. out for the rest of the season, Otto Porter Jr., Zach LaVine could be next

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USA TODAY

Bulls rule Chandler Hutchison, Wendell Carter Jr. out for the rest of the season, Otto Porter Jr., Zach LaVine could be next

The injuries are mounting for the Bulls as the end of the season nears and that means some players won’t play again this season.

John Paxson spoke to reporters before Saturday’s 114-83 loss to the Jazz and gave injury updates on four players. For starters, Chandler Hutchison and Wendell Carter Jr. both have been ruled out for the season.

Carter showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, averaging 10.3 points and 7 rebounds per game, but has been out since Jan. 15 with a thumb injury.

Hutchison has been out since Jan. 25 with a toe injury. He played in 44 games, making 14 starts, in his rookie season while averaging 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

“He had another scan and he continues to progress really well, but we’re officially ruling him out,” Paxson said of Hutchison. “We’ve kind of run out of time to say to ourselves it makes any sense to bring him back to try to play at the end of the year.”

Those aren't major surprises at this point. More recent injuries to Porter and LaVine will affect the Bulls down the stretch. LaVine missed his second straight game with a thigh injury while Porter missed his third straight with what Paxson described as “a lot of little nagging injuries.”

Paxson said they are monitoring both daily, but it sounds more likely that Porter won’t play again this season.

“Otto has so many little things going on where we won’t push him,” Paxson said. “We may run out of time with him, too.

“We’re not ruling him out completely yet, but it’s kind of trending that way.”

LaVine was limited to 24 games last season after coming off knee surgery and was later shut down for the final 14 games of the season. So far this season, he has missed 11 games with eight left for the Bulls.

“I think it’s important for him to try to fight through some of these little things because last year we shut him down toward the end,” Paxson said. “If his patellar tendinitis doesn’t get appreciably better in the next week, let’s say, then again, you start looking at the reality of it and it doesn’t make sense. But we’re not there yet.”

All these absences do give some role players a chance to prove their worth to the Bulls. Shaq Harrison has been in the starting lineup recently and impressed on the defensive end. Antonio Blakeney also got the start and logged 27 minutes, the most for him since November. Similarly, Brandon Sampson got called up from the G-League and logged a season-high 17 minutes.

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Four observations from Bulls practice: Kris Dunn, Chandler Hutchison still not practicing

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Four observations from Bulls practice: Kris Dunn, Chandler Hutchison still not practicing

After losing to the Bucks on Monday, the Bulls returned to the Advocate Center for practice on Tuesday. Here are four observations from Tuesday's session:

Kris Dunn In The Building: After missing Monday’s game against the Bucks because of a migraine, Kris Dunn was at the Advocate Center and according to Jim Boylen he had improved. Despite not practicing the Bulls guard will travel on the two-game road trip starting in Memphis. He and Otto Porter Jr. (leg strain) are both listed as questionable against the Grizzles. Porter Jr. went through some court work, “batting practice is what we call it” said Boylen and they’ll see how he responds to that.

The Flushing Finnisher: After working with Doug Collins and a couple Bulls assistants on his mid-range game, Lauri Markkanen wrapped up his workout with an impressive display of dunks. The sound of Zach LaVine throwing down turned heads as reporters were all listening to Robin Lopez speak after practice. LaVine and Markkanen were going back and forth, adding and upping the creativity of each dunk. It was quite entertaining. First and foremost the two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion definitely still has it and second, the slam Markkanen is working on with LaVine’s expertise is going to be something else if he perfects it. Nonetheless, the duo is having fun, they’re laughing, enjoying each other’s company and most important, clicking during games.    

Grumpy Bulls Big Man: The typically fun-loving, intriguing Robin Lopez was not real rosy chatting with media members Tuesday afternoon. Not that he was rude, just a little surly in comparison to his normal cheerful disposition. Maybe he was just looking forward to his nap on the plane ride to Memphis (which he’s stated is a very critical part to his day) or maybe it’s because a buyout for Lopez seems very unlikely at this point. In order for players to join another team for the playoffs, they need to be released by Friday.

Robin's response: “I haven't even been thinking about it. We've been having a lot of fun out on the court right now and I'm relishing it.”

Lopez did, however, crack a smile when asked about the sequence involving his brother in Monday’s game against Milwaukee. The older Lopez knocked down a triple and had himself his signature tea party only to be followed by a monster dunk from Brook Lopez on the other end. “Something must have put that fire in him to go get that dunk. I'm not sure what it was.”

On The Mend: Denzel Valentine was spotted on the bike upstairs at the Advocate Center. Chandler Hutchison, who visited the Bahamas over All-Star break, was seen running on the treadmill.

According to Boylen, “(Hutchison) is still a little ways away. He’s working at it and he has progressed. Don’t think I can give you a timeline, but there has been improvement and growth.”

 

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Chandler Hutchison's broken toe a surprise, 'kind of a bummer' for Bulls rookie

Chandler Hutchison's broken toe a surprise, 'kind of a bummer' for Bulls rookie

When Chandler Hutchison landed after a block attempt on Justin Anderson in the waning moments of Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks, the Bulls rookie felt some "weird" pain in his right big toe.

But the 22-year-old thought it was nothing more than that, a similar pain as if he had jammed his finger.

Hutchison practiced in full the following afternoon and then logged a career-high 41 minutes on Friday against the LA Clippers without much discomfort. But after that game the pain in his toe began to worsen, not subside. That’s when he alerted the Bulls training staff of the pain, and a subsequent X-ray revealed a broken sesamoid bone.

"It’s surprising," Hutchison said in the locker room prior to Sunday's game against the Cavaliers. "You play a whole game and you think just some ice, some stim, some treatment and you’ll be good. And then to have to be out for multiple weeks, it’s kind of a bummer.

The injury will keep Hutchison in a walking boot through the All-Star break, which as of Sunday is three weeks away. The rookie from Boise State was given an initial 2-4 week timetable for a return, but given the Bulls’ 11-38 record and rash of injuries they’ve suffered it’s safe to assume he’ll return closer to Week 4.

Despite not realizing the severity of the injury when it initially happened, Hutchison said he doesn’t regret not alerting anyone of the pain earlier.

“It’s just a matter of resting it to make it feel better. I don’t think one game is going to put me out another week because I played on it,” he said. “It’s just something that as soon as we figured out what it was we’ve just got to take care of it.”

It’s unfortunate timing for Hutchison, as he was playing easily the best basketball of his young NBA career. Ironically, he tallied his first career double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) on Friday while playing with the break. In his last seven games he had averaged 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field.

He had entered the starting lineup following the Justin Holiday trade and was beginning to look comfortable on the wing as a viable fast break option, a solid cutter and finisher at the rim and a long defender for a Bulls team in need of one.

“I knew that it was just a matter of me being comfortable and getting out there and playing with the guys and having them trust me a little bit more and coaches trusting me, understanding that I’m reliable out there,” he said.

“At least there’s something that I can build off and stay positive while I’m out and then try to pick back up where I’ve been a little bit more successful when I come back and when I get back on the court.”

Jim Boylen, who has made known his old-school approach since taking over as head coach seven weeks ago, said he was proud of Hutchison trying to play through pain on both Thursday and Friday.

“This guy wants to play, man. He’s a starter in the NBA. It’s his dream. Obviously he could function with it. I give him credit for the toughness to fight through,” he said. “There’s part of me that likes that. We want to understand what’s going on with our guys and we do, and this is a unique injury in a unique place that obviously didn’t affect his play but after his play was sore.”

Hutchison’s broken toe marks the seventh different player to suffer a multi-week injury this season. Just 49 games into the season, Bobby Portis (31 games missed), Lauri Markkanen (23), Kris Dun (26), Denzel Valentine (49), Zach LaVine (6), Wendell Carter (5) and Hutchison (5) have missed extended time. Valentine and Carter are out for the year and will miss 82 and 38 games, respectively, while a best-case timeline for Hutchison has him missing nine more games.

But Boylen was quick to denounce any of the injuries falling on the medical and training staff. In fact, Boylen, who has been a part of six NBA franchises, heaped praise on them.

“I’ve been through these situations before. Been through it in Houston when we had the rebuild in Houston after the championship years,” Boylen said. “Been through these situations where you have a rash of injuries. From my experience in this league, we have the best medical people and the best training staff I’ve been around. That’s not to discount anybody else, but these guys are as good as anybody I’ve ever been with.”