Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr. returns Saturday against Thunder
When Jones fractured his right index finger Jan. 25, the timetable for the injury to heal was six to eight weeks. But the timetable for Jones to play always depended on his pain tolerance and whether he could play with a splint.
The original timetable for Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr.’s recovery from injury hasn’t changed.
When Jones fractured his right index finger Jan. 25 — just as he was set to return from a bone bruise in his knee — the Bulls said it would take six to eight weeks to heal.
Playing, however, is a different story. Jones and the Bulls’ doctors always thought a splint and an ability to deal with some discomfort could get him back on the court sooner than that, and Jones was activated before the game Saturday against the Thunder at the United Center.
‘‘Yeah, I think the biggest thing the first couple of weeks was about letting the finger calm down and letting the discomfort calm down,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘I think we got it to that place, and the next thing was [whether he] could get out there and do some contact. We’ve obviously been limited with practices, so trying to create some situations for him after shootarounds or even some days off where he can come in and do some things where there is contact.
‘‘He’s had some discomfort there. I’m not going to say he feels 100%, and he doesn’t. But the doctors have always felt very comfortable that he could come back.’’
Before the knee and finger sidelined him, Jones was helping the Bulls fill the void at forward left by the wrist injury to Patrick Williams. Along with Javonte Green, Jones often was defending players bigger than he is and focusing more on the defensive end, where the Bulls have had some issues.
Jones not only was establishing himself as a key player off the bench, but he had started eight games and was averaging 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds. He scored three points and was a plus-13 in 23 minutes against the Thunder.
Donovan did warn, however, that the Bulls still have to keep a close eye on Jones. The splint should protect the finger as it continues to heal, but it won’t protect him from dealing with pain on contact.
‘‘The healing process is going to be six to eight weeks, but him playing was really going to be about how much discomfort he had to deal with and whether or not he could play with that discomfort,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘When he gets hit there, there is some discomfort, but it’s not to the point where it was two weeks ago.’’
Hard to rattle
Reserve guard Coby White said he had little concern about the NBA trade deadline Thursday coming and going — and with good reason.
‘‘[Executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas], [general manager] Marc [Eversley], Billy, they never came to me and said anything about me being traded,’’ White said. ‘‘So I won’t stress. I don’t pay attention to the internet and talking; that ain’t who I am. I just focus on how I can help the team and on bettering myself as a player and as a person. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me.’’
The Bulls have wanted to honor the broadcast career of Neil Funk since he called his last game at the end of the 2019-20 season, but they wanted the fans to be able to celebrate ‘‘Neil Funk Night,’’ too.
The coronavirus protocols didn’t allow that last season, but the celebration finally took place Saturday. Funk had a 41-year broadcasting career and spent 28 seasons announcing for the Bulls.