Coach Billy Donovan looking for answers to keep Bulls afloat until injured players return
The Bulls have lost four games in a row and continue to struggle against the NBA’s best.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan is still searching. He knows what the team has done in the last couple of weeks — dropping four games in a row — isn’t good enough.
That’s why Donovan and his staff have been experimenting with lineups and rotations, trying to hold down the fort until players such as Lonzo Ball (knee surgery), Alex Caruso (wrist surgery) and Patrick Williams (wrist surgery) can return.
Donovan said Caruso and Williams are waiting to be scanned again — possibly in the next week or so — so that they can be cleared for contact. Once they start practicing, it will be a matter of days until they return.
Donovan also said Ball is neither ahead of schedule nor behind it, which means he still is on course for a return in middle or late March. He is running forward and laterally but occasionally has had to be backed off because of soreness.
Until the injured players return, Donovan continues to look for personnel answers with those he has available. That’s why the ‘‘Bruise Brothers’’ have been a topic of discussion, with Donovan trying to see whether playing big men Nikola Vucevic and Tristan Thompson at the same time can work.
The two had a few good moments Thursday against the Hawks but struggled after starting Friday against the Bucks. They seemed to clog the driving lanes and didn’t help with spacing on offense and had matchup issues on defense. That’s why Donovan went away from it pretty quickly.
‘‘It’s not fair to those guys because they haven’t really been able to be together a lot on the floor working on it,’’ Donovan said of Vucevic and Thompson. ‘‘I’m kind of going on the fly here a little bit.
‘‘I liked the idea of having Tristan start the game. It could be something we’re going to have to build out because I do think some of our spacing challenges offensively have needed to be better. It’s the lack of time that we’ve had together.’’
Not that Donovan should scrap that look completely because there are some teams — such as the Cavaliers, who start three 7-footers — the ‘‘Bruise Brothers’’ might have more success against.
Still, Vucevic and Thompson starting might not be the best idea Monday against the 76ers, especially with the James Harden/Joel Embiid pick-and-roll machine. Donovan would be better served to start forward Javonte Green, just so he has someone physical and athletic to throw at Harden.
Either way, after the game against the 76ers, the Bulls will have a chance to catch their breath with winnable games against the Pistons, Cavaliers and Kings.
‘‘The biggest thing for me is when we get to this point of the season, I think you want to be playing really good basketball,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘If you’re not playing well, [even if] you have a great seed, to me it really doesn’t make a difference.’’