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Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. is off crutches but still on the shelf

Porter is dealing with a soft-tissue injury in his left foot, and coach Jim Boylen said his minutes will remain closely watched when he returns.

Veteran forward Otto Porter Jr. knows something about slow starts to a season. He went through one last season with the Wizards and stumbled out of the gate this season with the Bulls.

But something was starting to click for Porter — 22 points Nov. 1 against the Pistons, 18 points Tuesday against the Lakers and 13 points in his first 12 minutes Wednesday against the Hawks — before he suffered a sprained left foot.

Porter was out Saturday against the Rockets, but coach Jim Boylen said that he was off crutches and that the soft-tissue injury to the foot was healing.

‘‘It’s just heartbreaking,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘Injuries in this league are very, very difficult on everyone, especially the guy it happens to. We expect him back. When, we’re not sure. . . .

‘‘When a guy goes off into the locker room, you’re like, ‘Oh, geez.’ Then they take him to the X-ray room, and you’re like, ‘Oh, no.’ So I think we got through it pretty good, and he’ll hopefully be back soon.’’

When Porter returns, expect the Bulls to continue monitoring him closely. He was already on a minutes watch to start the season, especially on back-to-backs, and that won’t likely change.

Porter admitted last week that he has had issues with his hip and that it’s an ongoing process to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

So will that mean some ‘‘load management’’ days off when he returns from the foot injury? Boylen said he won’t be against it.

‘‘I think it’s up to the teams to manage their players,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘We don’t ever want to put anyone in jeopardy. We want to do what’s right for the player but also what’s right for the team. It’s a delicate balancing act. We also have an obligation to do what’s right for the league. It’s a tough thing.

‘‘I think it’s perceived that it’s a lot of the players or all the players [sitting out games]. It’s usually a select player or two on each team, and I’m sure each team feels that’s what’s best for his longevity, his ability to help the team.’’

Valentine’s big night

Swingman Denzel Valentine was back on the Bulls’ roster but didn’t play against the Rockets after scoring 25 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and handing out eight assists Friday for the G League’s Windy City Bulls.

That doesn’t mean Valentine has played his way back into the Bulls’ rotation, but Boylen said he thought it was a great confidence-builder for him.

‘‘I look at the 18 rebounds and think, ‘Just going out there and trying to play, just play ball,’ ’’ Boylen said. ‘‘It’s funny how when you rebound, your three-ball starts going in, you start scoring. So I’m happy for him. I think it was a good thing for him. Sometimes it’s difficult to do that, to go to the G League and do that. I think it will pay dividends for him.

‘‘It gives confidence that he’s in shape and that his conditioning and effort were good. It gives confidence that he had the ball in his hands and did some positive things.’’

Big man Daniel Gafford, who scored 20 points Friday for Windy City, also was active against the Rockets. He went scoreless in five minutes.