Aprils haven’t been kind to the Bulls lately.
Besides the early shutdown of last season, for most of this core roster April has been the month to plan vacations, collect the cardboard boxes and pack the lockers up for the non-playoff extended offseason.
The way veteran forward Thad Young is eyeing up this April? That’s going to be “take care of business’’ month.
The NBA released the second half of the schedule Wednesday afternoon, and with the Bulls currently sitting in position to get at least a play-in game for the postseason, there are bigger goals being talked about.
Specifically, making sure this team is in the top six of the Eastern Conference, taking them out of a potential land mine of play-in game pressure.
“Me and Zach [LaVine] talk about it all the time,’’ Young said of landing a top-six spot. “And it’s always on my mind. I’m an analytical guy, I look at the numbers, I look at who’s in front of us, I look at our schedule and I’ve seen months where we can kind of take care of business and really push some leeway and some gaps in between us and other teams.
“I see in April where we can really cover some ground on some teams that we can really step in and face and make sure we take care of business. So for us, it’s about, like I said, just keeping our mindset on the opportunity at hand.’’
Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Bulls will first have to deal with the 76ers and the Heat at the United Center on March 11 and 12, before even thinking about April.But Young actually made a good point.
April will give the Bulls a chance for a lot of winnable games — the Timberwolves, two with the Grizzlies, the Hawks and the Cavaliers — but then some must-win games if they want to be considered a real playoff team, like two in Miami against the Heat, and rematches with the Pacers and Knicks.
The season is tentatively supposed to end on May 16 for the Bulls, but the last four games could be tough, considering they host the Nets and Raptors, play the Nets in Brooklyn, and then return home for the finale against the Bucks.
Coach Billy Donovan has bigger concerns than April or playoff positioning. Like surviving.
“We had 17 games, I think, in 31 days,’’ Donovan said. “Now I think it’s like 37 in 66 days or something. Listen, everybody’s dealing with this in terms of trying to play a condensed schedule in a short period of time. There’s a lot of challenges with it on a lot of fronts. Very, very limited practice times. I think we have three segments throughout those games where there’s actually two days in between a game.
“So I think [it’s] the balance of the rest and recovery, how well those guys take care of themselves, what we can get done in shootarounds, how can we continually progress and get better with limited practice time. . . . But I think everybody’s kind of dealing with the same circumstances.’’
Off the Mark
With four games left before the break, Donovan said it’s very unlikely that Lauri Markkanen (right shoulder sprain) will be back for any of them.
“The biggest challenge I think for Lauri right now is because of the injury, if he reinjures it or hurts it again relatively quickly on his return, it’s going to almost put him back to ground zero again,’’ Donovan said. “So, he’s working with the medical staff and he’s doing what he can physically to keep himself in condition.’’