Bulls’ health issues provide opportunities for young reserves
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Considering the way injuries have depleted the Bulls’ roster, coach Fred Hoiberg said opportunities for younger players to play meaningful minutes aren’t going to diminish soon.
With guard Dwyane Wade still out with an injured right wrist, forward Nikola Mirotic dealing with persistent back spasms and forward Paul Zipser in a boot because of tendinitis in his left ankle, there will be plenty of chances.
Wade missed his second consecutive game Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors. An MRI exam Monday didn’t indicate any long-term damage, but Hoiberg said Wade wasn’t ready to return. He might be back Thursday against the Boston Celtics.
Mirotic and Zipser, though, might miss more time. Before the game against the Raptors, Mirotic said his back is better but still isn’t 100 percent. Hoiberg wouldn’t rule out Mirotic against the Celtics, but he said Zipser likely wouldn’t play again until after the All-Star break.
The rash of injuries has provided chances for guard Michael Carter-Williams and forward Bobby Portis. Although the youngsters played well at times during the Bulls’ recent six-game road trip, consistency continues to be an issue. So does putting together a complete 48-minute effort.
‘‘That’s going to happen with young players, especially with guys that are getting opportunities for the first time,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘You’ve got to learn from it; you’ve got to get better. Those guys will continue to get opportunities because of where we are with our lineup right now and, hopefully, play better.’’
Carter-Williams has been the biggest beneficiary of the Bulls’ injuries. Swingman Jimmy Butler had missed four of the Bulls’ last five games before playing against the Raptors, and Carter-Williams had been his primary fill-in.
Carter-Williams scored 23 points in a loss Feb. 3 to the Houston Rockets, then followed that with a 21-point effort in a victory against the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 6. But Carter-Williams struggled in the last three games of the Bulls’ road trip, including a 1-for-9 shooting performance in a loss last Wednesday to the Golden State Warriors and a 4-for-12 outing in a loss Sunday to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Injuries aside, the Bulls’ road won’t get any easier after the All-Star break this weekend. Forward Taj Gibson said the team can’t lose sight of the task at hand.
‘‘We just try to keep guys’ heads level, try to keep guys’ heads still into the fight, try to end on the right path,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘These next two games [Raptors and Celtics] are important to us, and we try to instill that into the young guys.’’
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