You gotta love the Bulls’ confidence even heading to Milwaukee on Wednesday for Game 5 of the first-round playoff series trailing 3-1. They’re not even taking Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso.
Maybe I didn’t say exactly what was needed.
Piling on a “What-next” season, the Bulls learned Tuesday that LaVine was placed under NBA health and safety protocols and could miss Wednesday’s potential elimination game. Bulls coach Billy Donovan, before the team left early Tuesday afternoon, told reporters that LaVine was undergoing more testing.
“Doctors told me he was within health and safety protocols,” Donovan confirmed. “I think they’re waiting for more testing. He’ll continue to test and probably know a little more. He won’t be traveling with us today. If for some reason testing allows him to go to Milwaukee, he will do it. “
Donovan said Caruso was at home dealing with the concussion he suffered in Sunday’s Game 4 loss. He was also not traveling with the team on Tuesday.
Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso did not travel with the team to Chicago on Tuesday, but neither was ruled out for Game 5.
“Still in concussion protocols,” Donovan added. “He will be having tests throughout the day. Obviously he was not here today to do anything. At home to rest. We will probably know more about his symptoms later in the day. the day. the symptoms were, I’m really not sure. He’s resting at home and they’ll reassess him later in the day. At the moment he’s not (out of game 5). He won’t be traveling not (Tuesday).”
And so the Bulls are gearing up to take on the defending NBA champions in their home arena after beating the Bulls in Chicago over the weekend by margins of 30 and 24 points.
Got them where we want them, relaxed and overconfident?
“It sucks,” DeMar DeRozan agreed. “First and foremost, just from a health perspective, it sucks, to be in this situation, to feel this. First and foremost for him, and us not having him, he’s missing a full opportunity to playing in a playoff; it’s frustrating.”
“It sucks,” DeRozan continued. “I can’t even imagine how he feels. The most important part now is that he came out of it healthy. I spoke to him a bit this morning. Just to make sure he was okay. more than anything. He was more frustrated than anything. Your frustration outweighs everything else, no matter how he felt. I was just trying to be there to keep him mentally positive more than anything.
DeRozan was asked about playing without LaVine, who is averaging 19.3 points, a fraction behind Nikola Vucevic for second on the team in scoring and leading the team in scoring. assists and shots.
“Oh!” DeRozan exclaimed in a “you’re kidding me” kind of post. “Playing without him was extremely difficult. Zach is hard to replace, what he brings, who he is, the attention he brings. It’s a different dynamic of a game when Zach isn’t there- low. Not having him and playing those games (earlier this season) without him was definitely tough. We’re just going to have to figure it out for tomorrow night, the next man, and find the energy to go out there and get ourselves fight for him too. It’s a knockout match; just I have to go out and leave it all there.”
DeMar DeRozan is averaging 23.3 and 19.3 points, respectively in the postseason so far.
The consensus now, of course, is that it’s going to be a nasty mess out there.
If neither LaVine nor Caruso can play, that likely means a starting backcourt of Ayo Dosunmu, who started steadily once Lonzo Ball was injured, and possibly Coby White. Maybe DeRozan, then a front line with Derrick Jones Jr. or Javonte Green.
Has anyone seen Tyler Cook? Stanley Johnson is no longer busy with the Lakers missing the play-in. And where the hell is Alize Johnson, anyway?
Khris Middleton remains out for the Bucks.
No offense to him, but he doesn’t seem as important.
The NBA no longer regularly tests players. But Donovan said LaVine was apparently not feeling well and contacted medical personnel as a precaution not to infect others.
“More testing would basically give us a much clearer understanding of whether he’s available or not,” Donovan said. “Right now not all the testing is complete. But there’s been enough testing they’ve done to put him through health and safety protocols. He may have called the coach and told him said he wasn’t feeling well. I know right now talking to our doctors he wasn’t feeling well. I don’t know if Zach asked for a test. I don’t know if the doctors have asked for a test. That being said, everyone has a responsibility here that when someone is not feeling well to let the doctor know.
“It’s a blow,” acknowledged Donovan. “But I think the only thing we need to do is step up and take a few shots, take the right shots. Last game we generated 18 or 19 three-way corners. We haven’t shot well since the corner. I feel good about the shots that we’re getting. With the way they use their length and size at the basket, it’s going to require you to take some of these shots and have to make some of these shots. We have I think sometimes we’ve done a really good job, and there have been times where decision-making and maybe going a little too far in the paint has taken possession of us where we need to be able to vaporize the ball and to find the open man a little better. I think the shots we get are pretty good.
It’s really unfortunate, especially for LaVine, who was so anxious for his first career playoff series and pulled off a brilliant hidden effort in desperation for the end result on Sunday with 24 points and 13 assists. You really feel bad for him the way he endured the Bulls’ final years of rebuilding with class and dignity, always dismissing individual accolades in the enteric hope of team success.
Zach LaVine’s status for Game 5 is currently pending after entering NBA health and safety protocols on Tuesday.
He’s a free agent after the season and so without returning to Chicago later in the week, Sunday could have been LaVine’s last fight with the Bulls. Although that seems unlikely as the new management has always stated their desire to not only retain LaVine, but to continue to build around him.
But if the Bulls’ season ends Wednesday in Milwaukee, there will likely be changes. None of that will be clear for months since talks with free agents can’t begin until July after the draft. The Bulls have their pick in this draft at No. 18.
I’m not rejecting the Bulls on Wednesday yet, and it’s still early days for fake drafts since I’ve yet to learn the names of everyone but the top three projected guys. But NBADraft.net is projecting for Bulls 6-8 Baylor forward Kendall Brown. CBS Sports has 7-1 Auburn center Walker Kessler. The Ringer suggests 6-7 Ohio State forward EJ Liddell.
It’s in two months. Right, Wednesday. David and Goliath. One in a million? As the commentary started from the movie, you say there is a chance? There aren’t many now who will say the Bulls do. Heck, the ESPN panel of about two dozen unanimously had the Bucks before the games were played.
So did they see game 2!
“We never really cared about outside noise,” Vucevic said. “You can’t focus on that. There’s so much these days, social media, whatever it is, people trying to find stuff. You have to focus on yourself, your team and what we can do to get out there and expand that We had a great day today we worked on the pitch and we’re going to go out there tomorrow and compete and fight and hopefully we can win and bring the show back to Chicago. People are going to write what they want to write, people are going to say what they want to say. We have to focus on ourselves.
“Obviously,” Vucevic added, “de Mar and I will fall more and more into being more aggressive, whether that’s taking more hits or creating more chances for others, taking decisions. It will be a bit of an adjustment, but we have already experienced it throughout the season. So we have an idea of what we can do, what can work. Hope this can help us a bit too.”
The Bulls were 9-6 this season in games LaVine didn’t play. They were 22-19 when Caruso was out. When the two were out, they were 5-3. Of course, they were 0-4 in the regular season against the Bucks no matter who was playing. But at least 1-3 now.
“A lot of teams have been through a lot of different ups and downs, injuries and COVID-related stuff, so just deal with that,” Vucevic said. “At no time did we feel sorry for ourselves. You have to take it and move on. It’s unfortunate, but especially for those guys who want to be out there with us and compete and they don’t. can’t. It’s an opportunity for someone else to do it. Look at Brooklyn last year. Kyrie (Irving) and (James) Harden aren’t hurt, maybe it’s going differently. Now , you see Phoenix lost (Devin) Booker, Dallas didn’t have Luka (Doncic). They don’t have Middleton. It’s always something. It’s very rare that you have a team that is 100 % healthy all the time.”
But like this? And now? Although, as Rosanne Rosannadanna has often observed, “It just shows you. It’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”