7 p.m CT., NBC Chicago Sports
The Chicago Bulls had all their main guys healthy for exactly two games.
That clean bill of health has come crashing down. Zach LaVine will miss two to four weeks with a medial left ankle sprain retroactive to Dec. 15. The Bulls also announced that Bobby Portis has a sprained right ankle and will miss two to four weeks after playing just five games since coming back from an MCL sprain injury.
In other injury news, Cameron Payne didn’t practice Thursday and the Bulls list him as day-to-day.
After missing Wednesday’s game to welcome his first child into the world, Bulls killer Nikola Vucevic is set to play tonight. Jonathan Simmons sprained his ankle against the Spurs Wednesday and is out.
The Last Time:
The Bulls fell 97-91 to the Magic in Mexico. Tied at 91 with just over a minute remaining, the Magic proceeded to score six straight points while the Bulls committed two turnovers down the stretch. Vucevic netted 26 points to lead the way for the Magic.
This was the beginning of the Jabari Parker exile experiment, as the former Duke star played just four minutes.
Speaking of Jabari.....
Jabari exile experiment over by necessity?
The Portis injury naturally opens back up minutes for Parker at the power forward position. Really, the Bulls have three players on their roster capable of playing that position. With Portis out, the Bulls aren’t going to play Lauri Markkanen 48 minutes and/or awkwardly try to fit somebody else at that position, though Jim Boylen did talk about playing Chandler Hutchison or Justin Holiday there at times.
It’ll be interesting how Parker responds to the opportunity. Will the defensive effort remain poor like it has all season? Or did the demotion and exile light a fire under the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft? Tonight, we should get the first look at which version of Parker will emerge.
Who has stepped up on first unit without LaVine?
It’s been three games (super small sample size alert), but the Bulls offensive rating has actually been better (98.0) since LaVine injured himself than it was with LaVine on the floor with Jim Boylen as the head coach.
Kris Dunn has stepped up in LaVine’s absence, averaging 20 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and he’s averaging almost twice as many assists (5.3) as turnovers (2.7). His usage percentage has been 26.8 in that span, which isn’t as high as you’d think.
Markkanen has garnered a 22.0 usage percentage with LaVine out and has played better the last three games to the tune of 15.7 points per game on 44 percent from the field, though his six-shot performance against the Nets was disappointing.
Dunn and Markkanen will need to shoulder the scoring burden offensively for the Bulls with a few Holiday 3-point field goals sprinkled in there.