CHICAGO — With a week remaining before the NBA’s trade deadline, few within or around the Chicago Bulls organization anticipate the franchise making a major move.
If the Bulls swing a deal before the Feb. 8 deadline, most will be surprised. It’s not that the Bulls can’t make a trade, but there’s a prevailing belief that the front office won’t commit to something substantial.
There’s a long history of the Bulls sticking with the status quo. And after the last two deadlines came and went without the Bulls being active, the team’s decision-makers haven’t provided any reason to think that will change.
Chicago also doesn’t sit in a position of power.
The Bulls are clinging to — and perhaps overvaluing — their most attractive asset (Alex Caruso), drawing little to no interest in their most talented and highest-paid player (Zach LaVine) and might be stuck paying pricey, aging veterans (DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević).
Couple those realities with rampant injuries continuing to ravage the roster.
Injury Update: Dalen Terry (right ankle) is out for the remainder of tonight’s game vs. Toronto. pic.twitter.com/8w58fk9XEQ
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 31, 2024
Further tests revealed fourth-year forward Patrick Williams has acute bone edema in his left foot. The diagnosis calls for “active rest.” Williams is scheduled to be reassessed in approximately two weeks. He has been fitted with a protective walking boot to immobilize his foot.
“It’s pretty clear right now with moving into the end of the month of January, and then 14 or 15 days until the break, I think we can anticipate he’s not going to be available prior to the All-Star break,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
Williams’ absence leaves the Bulls without three rotational players. LaVine and reserve forward Torrey Craig are also injured. Craig is expected to return soon. But it appears second-year forward Dalen Terry will join them on the injury report.
Terry exited the Bulls’ 118-107 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday with a right ankle injury. He needed assistance to the locker room and left the United Center using a knee scooter. Terry was receiving postgame medical treatment at his locker and was not available to reporters.
The absences have crippled the Bulls as the deadline approaches.
“The hard part for us, quite honestly, is the fact that we’ve had injuries to some guys,” Donovan said Sunday in Portland. “You could sit there and say, ‘Yeah, with Patrick out and Torrey being out, it’d be nice right now to have a bigger forward. We need a forward.’ … That would be something you’d want to do. But it’s injuries.”
It has forced Donovan to play Caruso for more minutes than are ideal. Caruso has averaged 31.4 minutes in his past dozen games. He’s averaging 26.1 this season and just 21.8 for his career. Caruso’s high-energy style makes him more susceptible to bumps and bruises.
“I don’t love it, personally, just for him,” Donovan said. “The situation’s presented itself where, quite honestly, whether it be Alex or DeMar or Coby (White), some of the minutes have gone way up. And we’ll need some of our younger guys to take advantage of the opportunity. But a really sweet spot for Alex is 26 to 28 minutes.”
Rookie forward Julian Phillips and Terry, in his eight minutes before exiting, assembled a handful of plays that showed progress. Both slithered into the painted area and finished acrobatic layups in traffic. After a season-high 11 points in Sunday’s win against the Portland Trail Blazers, Phillips scored 9 points in 20 minutes off the bench. He made 2 of 3 3-pointers, continuing to demonstrate improved shooting mechanics and confidence from the perimeter.
“It sucks to keep losing guys, especially guys like Patrick and Dalen, guys who have been playing well for us lately,” Vučević said. “Dalen finally started getting some minutes and really started making the best out of it.”
Vučević said the team’s goal remains.
“Try to get as many wins as we can,” he said. “We’re trying to catch other teams in front of us. But also, we have the teams behind us like Atlanta, Brooklyn, they’re right there. So we have to make sure we don’t lose any ground to teams in front of us and not let the teams behind us catch us.
“We have to dig through it and find a way to play the best we can with what we have and try to finish strong.”
(Photo of Dalen Terry: Bill Streicher / USA Today)