Bulls coach Billy Donovan looking for breaks for short-handed team
The Bulls haven’t been able to get the practice time to work on conditioning and have been forced to use key players for heavy minutes. Donovan is hoping that help is coming with three days off and more players on the way back.
To Bulls coach Billy Donovan’s way of thinking, it wasn’t the ideal scenario.
In the wake of two games being postponed, limited practice time and a handful of players coming out of the NBA’s health-and-safety protocol, Donovan was hoping to be able to ease his players back into heavy minutes.
The circumstances Sunday against the Lakers, however, didn’t cooperate.
DeMar DeRozan put in 34 minutes-plus, as did Javonte Green. Alex Caruso, just off a tweaked hamstring, played just less than 38 minutes, then had to leave only minutes into the game Monday against the Rockets.
Then there was Lonzo Ball, who has led the Bulls in minutes played all season and was due for a break. But breaks weren’t really available in a game that went back and forth the entire fourth quarter, and Ball played a team-high 38:04.
The game Monday against the Rockets, then a third game in four nights Wednesday against the Raptors didn’t help, either.
‘‘It’s kind of the hand we’re dealt with a little bit,’’ Donovan said Monday. ‘‘You try and navigate it. More than anything else, instead of those guys going really long periods of time where they’re playing a lot of consecutive minutes, can you get them out a little bit and then pull them back in? The teams that have been hit the way we’ve been hit are probably in a similar situation.’’
Then again, not many teams had 10 players go into the protocol at one time. The Bulls were all but shut down from team activities for a while.
That’s the other concern Donovan is dealing with: Yes, the time off was good for a break, but it also led to some guys losing their conditioning.
‘‘The hard thing is being hit with all this and then not being able to practice,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘It would be one thing if we had the group and we could kind of work collectively as a unit, but we really haven’t been able to do that.’’
The good news for the Bulls is that the schedule smiles on them after Wednesday. They will have three consecutive days off and won’t play again until after Christmas. They’re also expected to have most of their roster back by then, including Zach LaVine and Ayo Dosunmu.
Derrick Jones Jr. left the game Sunday with a strained left hamstring and didn’t return, but Donovan said he didn’t expect him to be out very long.
All the tests showed the strain was relatively mild, so Jones will be re-evaluated after the game Wednesday and have the three-day break to work his way back.
Jones had been out for almost two weeks in the protocol, and the game against the Lakers was his first since he was cleared.
Alfonzo McKinnie will be staying home for a bit longer after the Bulls announced they had signed him to a second 10-day contract.
The Bulls added McKinnie, who played at Curie and Marshall high schools, as a hardship exemption after putting a handful of players in the health-and-safety protocol earlier this month.
McKinnie was averaging four points and 23 minutes in two games before scoring 16 points in 29 minutes against the Rockets.