Otto Porter Jr.’s return remains blurry, as does his Bulls future

Since acquiring Porter in the 2018-19 season, the veteran forward has played in only 45 games. Now that he has ongoing back issues, could the Bulls even look to trade him if an opportunity knocked?

SHARE Otto Porter Jr.’s return remains blurry, as does his Bulls future
The Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr. has missed 11 games, and there seems to be little clarity on a return.

The Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr. has missed 11 games, and there seems to be little clarity on a return.

Rob Carr/Pool Photo via AP

Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. was expected to go through an evaluation process in the next week to test the injured right quadriceps that sidelined him for 11 games.

Then there would be a conditioning period, as well as some time allotted to get his rhythm back.

It had all the makings of a late February return.

Instead, Carter went to the needle and took a platelet-rich plasma shot, didn’t worry about his wind on the court and was back Monday, earlier than scheduled.

Then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum, where forward Otto Porter Jr. resides.

Porter last played Feb. 1 against the Knicks but was laboring through that game with the back woes that have hampered him most of the season.

He has missed 11 games, and there seems to be little clarity on a return. Porter appears to be looking for answers regarding long-term issues caused by his lingering back problems.

“Well, I think with Otto, I wouldn’t say it’s a stalemate,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s progressing and working through things, but he’s still not doing anything on the court.

‘‘He’s doing stuff in the weight room. He’s doing strengthening and rehabilitation and just having people look at him to find out what some of the issues and challenges are that he needs to work through.

“It’s just a matter of him getting stronger and feeling more comfortable, getting rid of the discomfort that he is dealing with when he does certain movements and certain activities, but I don’t really know about a timetable for him to come back.’’

The bigger question is: Will he even come back as a Bull?

Since acquiring him in the 2018-19 season, there has been more frustration than vindication with the deal. The Bulls dumped one mistake in Jabari Parker for a smaller headache in the locker room with Porter, but that hasn’t translated into winning basketball.

Porter has played in only 45 games with the Bulls, going 19-26. So the front office has paid him basically $3.5 million per victory.

Porter has an expiring contract, so if the Bulls can get involved in a big trade, he could be moved.

But if he’s not healthy or simply using this season to get the back to 100% before he hits free agency, all bets are off.

Off the Mark

Forward Lauri Markkanen (right shoulder) has missed six consecutive games, and Donovan said he still hasn’t done any work on the court.

“Lauri right now shows signs of improvement, but his days are mixed,’’ Donovan said.

“Sometimes with his injury, I think the mornings are a lot more challenging, and as he gets up and moves around a little bit, he starts to feel better.

“The one good part of Lauri is the conditioning piece of him being able to run and do those kinds of things that he’s still able to do. His issues are when he raises his arm over his head. He still has discomfort there. It’s not to the point where it was when he first got injured.’’

With Markkanen sidelined, Donovan kept going with a smaller starting lineup, inserting Garrett Temple in his place in a three-guard look.

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