Bulls guards Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball to miss upcoming three-city trip

Both starting guards have been dealing with left knee injuries. LaVine was making progress; Ball was not. Coach Billy Donovan said Ball was starting a different therapy with the hope that it would bring positive results.

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The starting backcourt remains an issue for the Bulls.

Specifically, it is still absent.

Both Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball were dealing with left knee issues, and not only missed the showdown Wednesday with the division-rival Cavaliers, but also won’t go on the upcoming three-game road trip, starting Friday in Milwaukee, according to coach Billy Donovan.

LaVine was progressing with his current therapy for the knee and was even on the court shooting free throws, working on form shooting, and in a strength program. That doesn’t mean there’s a definite timetable for his return, but Donovan sounded upbeat about LaVine.

Not so much with Ball.

“When he was on the road with us and not playing in Boston, there was treatment he was given, didn’t really respond great to that,’’ Donovan said. “Met with the doctor, there’s another set of treatments going on right now. We’ll probably know more once we see how he responds to that.

“That’s why there was a reason to get him back as soon as possible from Memphis because you just don’t want to waste days for any player. You want to make sure they’re able to see the doctors and the doctors are able to look at images. . . . Once they did that they’re on another path now and we’ll see how he responds to that.’’

Donovan had no further details, but the team is now listing the injury as a bone bruise.

The team loses a lot with LaVine (24.9 points per game) and Ball (5.1 assists per game) out. It impacts their three-point shooting, too, as Ball is a 42.3% shooter while LaVine is at 41.2%.

With those two out, Donovan started Coby White and rookie Ayo Dosunmu.

Welcome back

The Bulls finally got Alex Caruso back against the Cavs, after the guard was sidelined for almost a month with a hamstring, then made a brief comeback until a mid-foot sprain, and then went into the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the last few weeks.

It was a lot of sitting around for the defensive specialist and a lot of frustration.

“I didn’t have that competitive outlet for almost a month,” Caruso said. “And for a guy who [is 27 years old], for almost 20 years of my life I’ve played basketball. I’m a winner. I’ve been structured, wired to, January and December I’m playing basketball. I’m competing and playing. To not have that was a struggle for me.’’

So who was Caruso’s first assignment Wednesday? The 6-5 combo guard locked up with 6-8 power forward Kevin Love.

Caruso is on a minutes restriction of about 24 minutes for the time being — he played 23 on Wednesday in the Bulls’ 117-104 victory — and as long as he responds well Thursday, his playing time will slowly increase.

Up the Hill

The Bulls announced before the game that forward Malcolm Hill signed a two-way contract.

The former Illini starter was originally brought in on a 10-day contract and flashed immediately in the playing time he was given for the short-handed Bulls. That included scoring 12 in the loss to Memphis on Monday afternoon.

A spot became available when the Bulls waived guard Devon Dotson. The Bulls were guard-heavy even with all the injuries, and needed more help in the frontcourt. Hill gives them that.

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