Bulls backcourt suddenly lacks possible assets as trade deadline nears

Bulls backcourt suddenly lacks possible assets as trade deadline nears

Even with backcourt players in and out of the lineup most of the season, the Bulls were still operating from a position of strength with their guards. With Alex Caruso having wrist surgery on Monday, and Lonzo Ball expected to have knee surgery later this week, that’s no longer the case.

It felt like a position of strength for the Bulls about a month ago.

Backcourt depth that few teams in the league were even close to having, and enough that if a trade was to be made by the front office, moving a guard would make the most sense.

That’s changed quickly.

Combo guard Alex Caruso had surgery on his right wrist Monday morning, and starting point guard Lonzo Ball was still rehabbing his knee in preparation for surgery later this week. Both were given timelines of six-to-eight weeks, but Caruso’s was for a re-evaluation of the wrist at the point, not necessarily a return.

With the Feb.10 trade deadline just a few weeks out, the Bulls are suddenly coveting their backcourt assets, needing all hands on deck for both guard spots.

“I have not talked to [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] about that in specifics, or [general manager] Marc [Eversley], but I would say this from my perspective – I think a lot of it is going to be the timetable of some of these surgeries with Alex and Lonzo, just finding out when would it be close to a return date,’’ Donovan said. “I’ve said this before, but I think for a lot of front offices it’s probably difficult to really evaluate teams because teams have been in such flux with Covid, and for us it’s been Covid and injuries, so I don’t know if it’s anything backcourt-wise.

“We’re thin there now, and we went from really having a deep backcourt – but our backcourt was never really deep this year because we were always dealing with something. It’s been a flux of guys in and out so we were never whole back there. So I haven’t had enough conversations with Arturas to really get into any details of what the thought process may be at this point and time.’’

The Bulls haven’t been alone in that uncertainty.

While the health and safety protocols have simmered for most teams, the league has been dealing with a rash of injuries, as well as some borderline playoff teams deciding if they want to be buyers or sellers.

There has been some movement in the trade market over the last week, but obviously none that have involved the Bulls or filling the vacancy of the lack of size they still have at the four.

They do have time to at least see how Caruso and Ball are healing as the deadline ticks down, but it’s not an easy position to be in for Karnisovas.

Donovan does expect the coaching staff and front office to have a more detailed sit-down soon, discussing the roster from top to bottom.

Forty-one and done

One night after scoring 41 in the loss to Orlando, Donovan decided that consecutive games in which DeMar DeRozan had put in 38-plus minutes was enough.

DeRozan was sidelined for what was realistically load management, especially with the game in Oklahoma City the second game of a back-to-back.

“You guys had asked me a lot about this just with the stress we had with these make-up games, and so many games condensed, there would be conversations we had,’’ Donovan said. “And I just think with DeMar, just physically where he’s at he needs a break here.’’

DeRozan, 32, led the Bulls with 34.8 minutes per game, which ranked him 17th overall in the league. Toronto’s Fred VanVleet led the league with 38.2 minutes per game.

Troy Brown Jr. started in DeRozan’s spot.

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