Injuries pile up at power forward for Bulls
Coach Billy Donovan doesn’t think playing undersized personnel at that spot has led to all the injuries, but he realizes the team lacks depth at the position. His hope is help will be on the way soon, starting with Alex Caruso.
It would be an easy conclusion to draw, but it wouldn’t be an accurate one, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
Since Patrick Williams went down five games into the regular season and had surgery on his left wrist, the power-forward spot has been filled by one player after another.
Alex Caruso saw some time there but has been sidelined by a strained hamstring, a sprained foot and now by the NBA’s health-and-safety protocols. Javonte Green got the most playing time there with the starters, but he has been out with a groin injury. Derrick Jones Jr. was the latest to start there, only to suffer a bone bruise in his knee Wednesday that is expected to keep him out two weeks to a month.
So has going undersized at the position led to these smaller players breaking down while trying to guard bigger, stronger guys?
‘‘I don’t think it has anything to do with that,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Alex planted wrong and sprained his foot. Derrick was going to the basket on a drive 35 seconds into the game and kind of had his knee. Javonte, the way his leg swung out . . . I don’t think they’re getting ‘beaten up,’ so to speak, by bigger guys than them. I don’t think that’s the reason why these guys have suffered injuries.’’
Donovan and his staff had better hope it’s coincidence because they went undersized at that spot again Friday, starting Troy Brown Jr. against the Warriors. The versatile Brown is listed at 6-6 but has shown he can play in that spot this season.
The Bulls also have Alfonzo McKinnie on the bench, but there’s no questioning the lack of depth at that spot.
What can the Bulls do about it with their roster right now? Very little besides get healthy.
Caruso likely will be the first player coming back. Donovan said before the game that Caruso would stay back in Chicago for the Bulls’ upcoming two-city trip but could start working on his conditioning and be ready for the game against the Cavaliers in the middle of next week.
‘‘He’s still in protocols,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He seems to be doing OK. He’s had some mild symptoms. But if you go back to Dec. 4, he tweaked his hamstring, and then [came] that foot sprain. [He] kind of got cleared to come back [but] tested positive [for COVID-19] . . . so he’s been in and out for a long period of time. I don’t think it’s going to be some long, prolonged thing for weeks, but clearly with this back-to-back he won’t be available.’’
Williams on the mend?
It was a good sign to see Williams getting a workout in on the court at the United Center before the game against the Warriors, but Donovan quickly squashed that excitement.
‘‘We’re trying to get him just a conditioning piece; he can do some of that,’’ Donovan said of Williams’ rehab process. ‘‘He still has to be very, very careful with the [wrist] in terms of being around a lot of people. There is some form shooting they are allowing him to do. Just trying to get his movements back and trying to get him working on defense, cutting.
‘‘That’s kind of the focus for him right now. He’s been cleared to do a lot of the cardiovascular stuff.’’
The Bulls officially announced former Illinois forward Malcolm Hill had signed a 10-day contract after the team was allotted another hardship space on the roster.
The 6-6 Hill was called up from the G League, where he was averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds with Birmingham.