Altogether it was a bad news day yesterday for the Bulls, as though they clinched a spot in the playoffs by guaranteeing a top-6 seed, they got demolished again on the court and learned that Lonzo Ball won’t be returning this season.
But the fact that they are not only avoiding the play-in tournament, and made that mark with a few games to spare, there is an opportunity earned here to give players some rest until the first round starts in 10 days.
They will not be missing out on anything by doing this. While a game behind the Raptors for the 5th seed, the Bulls will get that seed if they tie Toronto in record. But with the 2-4 seeds all tied with the same record themselves, there really is no strategy for the Bulls to game for in terms of a first round matchup. Even if they could control their opponent, they suck against all teams better than them!
Billy Donovan was asked about this after the loss last night:
“The big thing is the guys’ health,” agreed Donovan. “But the other thing is I don’t want to miss out - and I think AK (chief basketball executive Arturas Karnisovas) would be in alignment with this, too - where you sit there and say, ‘OK, were going to sit these guys out and not play them and not necessarily worry about growing and getting better.’ There’s going to be another week layoff before you play again and (we’re) not sure who you’re going to play. There’s a different rhythm to that. I do think there’s a level of opportunity because I think we have some inexperienced guys in these situations. We’ll be taking inventory of how they are feeling and what they need, (but) we’re not necessarily changing where we’re at (in the standings).”
I mean...I guess he has to say this as an ol’ ball coach, but 1) being ‘in rhythm’ isn’t as important as being healthy, and 2) they won’t gain much of this over the next 3 games, assuming it’s like most NBA ends of seasons (trashball) and there’s several days off while the play-in tournament happens anyway.
There are a few players who really need rest!
As we know, LaVine has been nursing a knee injury essentially since around the All-Star break, pretty much always listed on the injury report but for the most part playing in games. The results have been sporadic, and last night was a game where LaVine sat, and this was worrisome:
Sounds like this is more than a precautionary measure. Donovan said LaVine didn't feel great this AM, sat out shootaround— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) April 5, 2022
Medical didn't leave impression it will be multiple-game absence, but Donovan added he's unsure of LaVine's status vs. BOS. Basically remains day-to-day https://t.co/1k94hvFGHU
Part of the reason why Alex Caruso’s return didn’t save the season is because Caruso himself has been really bad since returning. Last night he went 0-6 and two were airballed threes (he did have 8 assists to zero turnovers).
It’s clear Caruso is still favoring his healing wrist, and since his return we can add back spasms to the list of health issues, which had him calling to leave a game over the weekend.
There’s also the factor of Caruso’s style of play. LaVine can be effective while not further hurting himself, but one of Caruso’s main skills is falling on the floor (The NBA: it’s fan-tastic!).
DeRozan received one rest day, but has otherwise been playing huge minutes and while a rejuvenated 32 is still 32.
What does he think?
DeMar DeRozan: "I don't need no time off."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) April 6, 2022
Well luckily it’s not up to you, pal! And there’s a double-negative so ipso facto you are caught and now have to sit.
The Bulls have a back-to-back tonight, and should sit all these dudes. But the earliest injury report today only has LaVine listed, and as ‘probable’.