DeMar DeRozan returned to the court with the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at the United Center after missing Wednesday’s game for personal reasons.
DeRozan was away from the team for two days to attend to a family matter. The Bulls offense struggled mightily without him, scoring only 94 points in the loss to the Orlando Magic.
It’s rare for the Bulls to need to make do without DeRozan. He missed only 14 games in his last two seasons in Chicago, several of which were due to late-season load management and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bulls gained appreciation for what they lose whenever DeRozan can’t be on the court.
“He’s almost like another point guard, another playmaker for us,” coach Billy Donovan said. “At times we got sped up the other night, especially in the first half with the turnovers, and we’ve got to take better care of the basketball. Usually in those situations, he’s the calming force for us.
Potential trade partners for Zach LaVine
A Yahoo Sports report Friday listed several potential destinations for guard Zach LaVine as the Bulls listen to trade suitors: the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs.
Each of these teams offers different pros — connections to his agency, Klutch Sports, and veteran All-Stars. But the common thread is an expectation to participate in the playoffs, either this season or in the near future.
The report also suggested the Bulls could be preparing for a full rebuild, a prospect that the front office previously had treated as an impossibility. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of the entire roster, but it could mean shipping off key pieces such as Alex Caruso to begin a new era.
Tournament court a slip-n-slide
After the initial weeks of the NBA In-Season Tournament, the Bulls have been generally enthusiastic about the challenges in the inaugural event.
Forward Torrey Craig said there’s been a heightened preparation and environment for tournament games. Donovan has attempted to emphasize the four group-stage games as the Bulls hope to get to Las Vegas for the semifinals.
But they still are uncertain about one aspect of the tournament: the court.
Fans already were skeptical when the NBA last month debuted the unique colors teams would utilize on their home courts throughout the tournament. In person, they’ve earned mixed reviews. The Bulls court drew particular ire for the blood-red hardwood, which created a stark image — and a lack of contrast for TV viewers — during games.
“It’s a little red,” Donovan joked.
For the Bulls, however, it isn’t the aesthetic that causes concern. It’s the surface.
Players throughout the NBA have complained that the In-Season Tournament courts are slicker than their typical playing surfaces. Craig slipped four times in the first game against the Brooklyn Nets. Donovan noted that some of the decals on the court appeared to be particularly slippery. Guard Coby White found several dead spots where the ball didn’t bounce evenly compared to the rest of the court.
“I play hard so it makes me conscious and a little worried of how hard I can cut or go to the basket or play defensively,” Craig said. “That’s always in the back of my head.”
The Bulls will play at most one more game on their In-Season Tournament court this season — and that will happen only if they win Eastern Conference Group C and host a quarterfinal game.