There’s never a good time for a team to be bitten by the injury bug, but now is a particularly bad time for the Bulls.
Coach Billy Donovan’s team is a game behind the Wizards for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and the last spot in the play-in tournament. Now they face a back-to-back with forward DeMar DeRozan out for at least the first of those games.
An MRI exam Tuesday revealed DeRozan has a Grade 1 thigh strain. He is listed as out for the Bulls’ game Wednesday against the Pacers in Indianapolis, and it wasn’t clear whether he would be available for their game Thursday against the Bucks at the United Center.
‘‘There’s enough discomfort there where he is having a hard time moving, cutting and jumping,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘A lot of it is going to be how he progresses every day.’’
DeRozan was forthcoming about his discomfort after the Bulls’ loss Monday to the Magic, saying he has been playing through pain for more than a month. The discomfort was enough to cause him to remove himself from the game late in the fourth quarter for fear of further injury.
DeRozan missed three games in January with a strained right quadriceps and another last week with soreness in his right hip. But he said those absences didn’t help him to feel any better.
‘‘It’s been bad, to be honest,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘I’ve never been one to complain or make any type of excuses. It’s just been something I’ve been dealing with for a while.’’
He didn’t rule out taking part in his second consecutive All-Star Game, which is scheduled for Sunday in Salt Lake City, but he said he isn’t worried about it. His focus is on returning to the Bulls.
DeRozan’s honesty provides some clarity about why his numbers have been down in February. In the six games he has played in this month, he’s averaging 18.3 points, 6.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds. For the season, he’s averaging 25.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds.
Now the question becomes how the Bulls will make a push for a spot in the play-in tournament without him.
Forward Derrick Jones Jr. left the game against the Magic in the second quarter with what Donovan said was a strained groin and also will be out against the Pacers.
Meanwhile, guard Alex Caruso, who sat out Monday after aggravating his sprained left foot, was improving, Donovan said. He is questionable for Wednesday.
With the Bulls down multiple players, Donovan will look to rookie Dalen Terry to step up. He credited Terry for staying ready and providing valuable minutes Monday. He finished with four points and one rebound in nine minutes against the Magic.
‘‘I feel comfortable with him,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He, for the amount of minutes he got, gave us a really big lift off the bench.’’
Considering the push the Bulls need to make with 25 games left in the regular season, Donovan said his players have the right sense of urgency.
‘‘I’ve said this before: Their spirit has always been the kind to try and come back,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘This group has character from that standpoint. We’ll see. We’re going to be down maybe some bodies. . . . It doesn’t really make a difference. We have to play better and compete better.’’