The Chicago Bulls have spent the last week getting humbled.
After a three-game winning streak against middling/bad teams, the Bulls were feeling pretty good about themselves and fans were beginning to familiarize themselves with this crazy feeling called optimism.
Then the daydream broke and the Bulls crashed back to reality.
Dominating defeats against two teams among the best in their respective conferences (the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics) was the headline of the week for the Bulls. The other headline: a freak collision in 5-on-5’s in practice with Denzel Valentine left Wendell Carter Jr. with a thigh contusion and a seat at the end of the bench for at least the next four weeks.
Carter’s durability once again becoming a major storyline.
The good news for the Bulls is they are extremely well rested. Their last game was Monday against the Celtics while their opponent tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers, played on Thursday.
Zach LaVine is having the best season of his professional career, putting up 27 points per game on 50/40/88 shooting splits. He’s also averaging the most assists per 36 minutes of his career and just from the eye test his ability to read defenses and put his teammates into positions to score the rock is improved as well.
The star player on a crappy or rebuilding team is always in a constant wave of trade rumors. LaVine is no different. Reporters out in New York are hearing that the New York Knicks have interest. Tom Thibodeau continues his perpetual quest of recruiting his former players. Taj Gibson randomly re-signed with the Knicks at the beginning of January after getting waived. Of course, New York is front and center in the Derrick Rose trade rumors. LaVine worked under Thibodeau’s tutelage in Minnesota for a season. And we all damn well know that it’s just a matter of time before Thibs figures out some excuse to get Jo Noah on the Knicks either as a coach or maybe even a player. Remember the TimberBulls? Well it’s about to be the Knulls....or the Buicks?
Turning to more imminent concerns though, the schedule doesn’t get that much easier for the Bulls. The Trail Blazers are sitting at 9-8, but Damian Lillard is always a problem. Carmelo Anthony can still score a bit and they have one of the best wing defenders in the association in Robert Covington right now (assuming he plays tonight). The Blazers are missing key guys like CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic which obviously hurts their chances a little.
It’s not a Herculean task like beating the Lakers or the Celtics. But the Bulls need to register a good 48 minutes of basketball to record what would probably be their best win of the season to date.
Wendell Carter Jr. is out for four weeks with a thigh contusion injury.
For the Blazers, they have a lot of key guys out. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic are out indefinitely. Wingman Robert Covington is listed as questionable with a concussion.
Game Time: 7:00 CDT; NBC Sports Chicago