Bulls guard Zach LaVine has been complaining privately about the lingering soreness in his left ankle for weeks, but he chose to play through it.
That same ankle that cost him five games in December could cost him a few more games.
Coach Jim Boylen said LaVine’s status for the game Sunday against the Cavaliers was in question because of swelling. And LaVine wasn’t alone in the training room Saturday.
As the losses pile up, so have the injuries.
The most significant one could be to rookie Chandler Hutchison. He had X-rays on his right foot after the 106-101 loss to the Clippers on Friday, then had an MRI exam Saturday morning that showed what the team had feared — a fracture that will have him in a walking boot two to four weeks. He will be re-evaluated at the All-Star break in mid-February.
The timing couldn’t be worse. Hutchison is coming off one of his better games since becoming a starter, scoring 12 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and finishing plus-1.
With Hutchison on the shelf for at least a month, both first-round picks from the 2018 draft will miss valuable minutes in their development.
Wendell Carter Jr. had surgery on his left thumb Monday and likely is out for the rest of the season.
That might be good news for the tanking efforts of the Bulls (11-38), but it’s another gut punch in a season that was supposed to be crucial for the development of the team’s young players.
“I stay positive,’’ Kris Dunn said. “I know what we’re going through. It’s adversity, and it definitely has hit this team. It shows your true character when adversity hits.
‘‘And for me, the point guard, I just have to stay positive for the group, keep coming in, keep working hard and keep trying to get better for the team. Keep everybody’s spirits up. Make sure we keep coming out for each game looking to improve.’’
That’s not easy to do as injuries plague the team.
There were huge expectations for the second year of the Bulls’ rebuild, not record-wise but everywhere else.
The first domino fell quickly when Lauri Markkanen injured his right elbow in the opening days of training camp and missed almost 10 weeks.
In that same week, Denzel Valentine’s left ankle showed instability again, leading to season-ending surgery.
Since then, Dunn has gone down twice with knee and ankle injuries. Bobby Portis has been down twice with a knee injury and a bad ankle. LaVine’s ankle cost him some time and could again. And Markkanen still is dealing with soreness in his elbow.
The core three of Dunn, Markkanen and LaVine were expected to show how well they could play together, but just getting them on the floor at the same time has been a challenge.
When asked if he has seen growth among the three, Dunn said, “That’s what we’re hoping for. At the same time, we’re still trying to figure us out as a team. We can’t focus on just us three.
“We’ve got to learn how to become one, become a team. The good teams do that. You can have the talent, but you’ve got to learn how to become a team.’’
That’s easier said than done when key player after key player is on the bench in street clothes.