INDIANAPOLIS — On Jan. 25, forward Chandler Hutchison, who finally was starting to get in a groove after being selected with the 22nd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, saw his rookie season come to an end with a broken left toe after only 44 games.
He had played a season-high 41 minutes in the loss to the Clippers, scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
And just like that, the Boise State product was shut down.
This offseason was supposed to mark his comeback. Hutchison spent the summer working on his craft, looking to take in all the advice Otto Porter Jr. was dishing out.
And then his left hamstring betrayed him right before training camp started.
So, yeah, the fact that he was activated Sunday for the first time in almost nine months was meaningful.
“It was, for sure, a setback,’’ Hutchison said. “I had plans to start training camp this year, and that was unable to happen, so the disappointment’s there for me, for sure. I was ready to go, and then you have to deal with it. But that’s kind of how my last half-year has gone, so I’ve been prepared to deal with it, and I’ve been doing that, working hard to get back on the court.’’
He’s also returning to a very different situation.
Before he was injured, he was getting time as a starter and heavy minutes off the bench.
After he went down, the Bulls eventually acquired a proven small forward in Porter.
Now there’s a bit of a line at that position.
Tomas Satoransky can play the three, Denzel Valentine is still in play at that spot when he’s active and rookie Coby White can slide to the three.
Hutchison just needs to be ready for whatever minutes come his way.
“Multi-ballhandler, big-wing defender, improving shooter, slasher,’’ coach Jim Boylen said of Hutchison’s skills.
“He makes positive plays on the floor without having the ball in his hands. That’s what good players do, and he’s a good player.’’
Boylen also likes how Hutchison fits perfectly into his multi-ball-handling system. At Boise State, Hutchison became very good at getting the rebound and pushing the ball up the court. That’s exactly what the Bulls want from him.
“I feel like my role from last year hasn’t changed,’’ said Hutchison, who didn’t play against the Pacers. “I know the opportunities are going to be there for me and to just continue to be someone reliable on the court that plays hard and is going to make the right decisions.
“This group, when we’re our best, is unselfish, the ball is moving, guys are rebounding, pushing, athletic group that plays the right way. So that’s something I can do right away.’’
The Bulls haven’t excelled in many defensive categories this season, but they did enter Sunday eighth in steals and third in deflections.
Boylen was hoping those attributes would serve as building blocks for an eventually improved defense.
“What I do is try to coach our guys to be in the right position,’’ Boylen said. “I don’t coach them to steal the ball.
“With that said, Kris Dunn has a special skill. He’s got great hands and great feet.
‘‘Dunn has got that defensive-back mentality. He was a football player, so he’s got that ballhawk in him, and that’s a special thing.’’