PHOENIX – There was plenty of excitement when a quintet of new players arrived on the Bulls at the trade deadline, including a 2021 All-Star in Nikola Vucevic.
But the downside at the moment for head coach Billy Donovan was trying to find the right combination to insert in the lineup to make the group work. That’s going to take some time as the last two games for the Bulls have proved, since each resulted in decisive wins for their opponents.
The newest try at a lineup came on Monday night when Thaddeus Young re-entered the starting five in place of Lauri Markkanen, who was coming off the bench for the first time this season. It didn’t quite work out, as Stephen Curry helped to push the Warriors to a 116-102 victory two days after San Antonio beat the Bulls by 16.
Now a team that needs all of their players available as much as possible down the stretch may have to play without their leading scorer.
An ankle injury that happened against the Cavaliers last Wednesday was reaggravated against the Warriors on Monday. Because of that, LaVine is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Suns in Phoenix.
This would be something quite unusual for the 2020-2021 Bulls’ seasons since LaVine has yet to miss any of the team’s 45 games so far. But after a 4-for-16 shooting performance with four turnovers against Golden State on Monday night, even he acknowledged that he may have to take a seat against the Suns.
“I’m gonna have to because, obviously, like I said, I rolled it a little bit today when I fell out there. I feel like I’m back at square one again,” said LaVine late Monday night when asked if he would consider taking a few extra day to rest the ankle. “So I’m gonna have to try make some adjustments, do everything I can to get myself ready to go, but we’ll have a conversation going forward and figure it out.”
Having this injury is one of the few negatives in what has been the guard’s best season in his seventh NBA season. The first time All-Star has what would be career-highs in points (27.5), rebounds (5), and assists (4.8), and having him work with Vucevic was one of the key things that Donovan would like to see as the team continues the second half of their season.
Unfortunately that may have to wait just a bit.