When seeing Derrick Jones hit the ground with a non-contact injury in the first minute of the Bulls’ shellacking at the hands of the Nets, the worst was feared.
The news isn’t necessarily good, but it’s better than worst-case, as Jones reportedly suffered a bone bruise and will has a 4-6 week estimate of returning to play.
This is bad for the team on multiple levels. On the court, the Bulls went into this season as having one particularly glaring hole in their starting lineup. Patrick Williams was hurt a few games into the season and may not return all year. Then last week Javonte Green suffered a long-term injury and he’s ‘weeks’ away from returning. Now Jones is out for this extended period as well.
Last night, that meant a lot of minutes went to Alfonzo McKinnie, who was signed to a hardship exception last month and had since earned a full-season contract at the minimum. The result was this was indeed too many minutes for Alfonzo McKinnie game, as in his 20 minutes on the court the team was -17 while he went 2-10 from the field (including several wide-open three point attempts) with 3 turnovers and 5 fouls. Last night will unfortunately (as McKinnie is a good story of local guy grinding for a job in the show) be known as “The Alfonzo McKinnie Game”.
It was especially glaring last night because McKinnie was tasked with Jones’ role of guarding Kevin Durant. And while we can rationalize that Alex Caruso’s impending return (though that’s likely not going to be Friday) means that the Bulls best five-man lineup is still available soon, this injury does further hamper the Bulls chances when guarding Durant (though their season matchups are over now), or Giannis (whose team the Bulls have yet to face this year), or other big forwards.
That was the case even before the Green (too small) and Jones (too thin) injuries, but now maybe more urgency is placed on acquiring someone for that role to integrate with the team before the playoffs. So on another level, Jones was also one of the more tradeable contracts on this roster, as (in an unfortunate level for Jones himself) he is on an expiring contract of $9.7M. That said, I am not sure Jones had much more value than salary flotsam anyway, so his being likely unable to play until after the trade deadline shouldn’t hurt any outgoing trade package too much.
But it does hurt immediately and for the foreseeable future as the Bulls will have to play small by default instead of by design.