Maybe Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson is saving up all his luck for the lottery. Because the basketball gods are only complicating matters for him on the court.
Even Paxson’s best moves have been stunted by some malady or injury that has short-circuited the Bulls’ rebuild. Chandler Hutchison’s right big toe is the latest bad break and all too typical of the tough luck that has the Bulls spinning their wheels since firing Tom Thibodeau in 2015 — coming just as Hutchison was starting to establish himself as a big piece of the puzzle. He’ll be in a walking boot two to four weeks and will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break.
Hutchison’s injury, in fact, initially occurred on a play that probably shouldn’t have happened — when he challenged a needless dunk attempt by Justin Anderson in the waning seconds of the Hawks’ blowout victory Wednesday at the United Center.
“A bozo play [by Anderson],” Hutchison said. “I kind of fell weird [on the Anderson dunk attempt]. I thought it was a jam — like when you jam your finger. You tape it up and play through it.”
And Hutchison aggravated the injury after trying to play through it when he scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds in a career-high 41 minutes against the Clippers on Friday. Admirable but ultimately costly.
“I thought I was going to be fine,” Hutchison said. “Just take some Advil, play through it. And then I guess just playing on it — 40 minutes is a long game, the discomfort was a little bit higher. I thought maybe it would have gotten a little better from a couple of days off. But I just decided to get it checked out.”
Coach Jim Boylen did not second-guess Hutchison’s decision to play through the injury.
“He had a double-double, no regret there,” Boylen said.
And Hutchison agreed.
“When it initially happened, it was painful, but it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s no way I can play the next game,” Hutchison said. “I practiced the whole time and just kind of powered through it.”
And so it goes. Hutchison followed fellow first-round draft pick Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb), who followed Bobby Portis (ankle), who followed Zach LaVine (ankle), who followed Kris Dunn (knee), who followed Portis (knee), who followed Lauri Markkanen (elbow), who followed Denzel Valentine (ankle) on the sidelines.
It’s adding up. Virtually every key piece on the roster has missed time with an injury. So it’s no surprise that the Bulls are not making discernible progress well into the second full season of the latest rebuild.
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The Bulls need to develop talent and chemistry, but — even with LaVine, Markkanen and Dunn playing together the last 15 games — they always seem to be in a state of flux.
As for the injuries, all the Bulls can do is keep their fingers crossed that their luck eventually turns.
“It’s what it is,” Boylen said. “Whose fault is it? Why is it happening? I don’t know. From my experience in this league, we have the best medical people and training staff I’ve been around. We’re in a bad moment. These things happen. And we’re not gonna cry about it. Next guy’s got to step up. And we’re going to move forward.
“We got to look at positives, too. Chandler Hutchison’s a heck of a pick. He’s gonna be a good Bull. Wendell Carter’s a heck of a pick. He’s gonna be a good Bull. They’re hurt now, but they’re gonna be important to our future. And Denzel Valentine is hurt now, but he’s a good Bull and a tough kid.”