And so the Bulls Saturday play the streaking San Antonio Spurs with Zach LaVine back in Chicago with an ankle injury and Jabari Parker still likely out of the current playing rotation. Bulls coach Jim Boylen after practice Saturday morning said Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono will start in the backcourt with Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. LaVine is in a walking boot and scheduled to undergo further examination in Chicago. He will miss at least the next two games and be reevaluated next week.
"What I told the team is we have to come together and try to play good defense, rebound the ball and not turn it over," Boylen said as the woes, miseries and just bad luck continue to dunk on the Bulls. "And the next man has to step up. To replace some of those points, we probably have to get a lot from more guys.
"To me that is just what the NBA is," Boylen added. "You're in constant adjustment. You hope to have a healthy team, you hope to have a solid rotation, but most of the time you don't. And you have to adjust and guys have to step up and play their minutes with energy and effort and toughness."
But no one said it was going to be like this in one of the more unusual weeks in franchise history with a coaching change, a player disagreement, a trip to Mexico City for one game, the principal free agent acquisition from last summer being dropped from the playing rotation and now with three injured players finally back for two games — Markkanen, Dunn and Bobby Portis — the team's leading scorer gets hurt.
LaVine told the Bulls medical staff he believes the injury occurred when he stepped on someone's foot late in the fourth quarter of the Thursday loss to the Orlando Magic in Mexico. LaVine initially thought it was a mild sprain. He had an MRI when the team arrived in San Antonio Saturday and was put in a walking boot. There apparently was no serious damage in what was termed a sprained deltoid ligament. Boylen said the Bulls want LaVine to consult with specialists and then develop a treatment plan. So it seems like he'll be out at least a week.
"We're disappointed and sorry that he was hurt," said Boylen. "But we're hopeful that we can get a good evaluation and get moving towards recovery. I think we'll have a better evaluation for you on Wednesday. I don't know exactly what that would be. He's going to see some specialists because we want to get as much information as we can. And then we'll get a diagnosis and start building a rehab schedule."
"He was in a boot yesterday at the airport. He's in a boot now," said Boylen.
So the Bulls will start a lineup that is averaging about 50 points per game combined without Parker and LaVine, who average 39 points between them. The Spurs have won four straight by an average of 22 points per game. The Bulls have lost 10 of their last 11 and four of five since the coaching change.
"Everybody needs to be ready to play," Boylen said when asked about Parker. "We're a man down. Next guy has to step up. Everybody on our roster needs to be ready to roll. I think he's (Parker) done a great job. It's not an easy situation. I've been direct and honest with him about what I expect and what I hope he can continue to work on. That's where it's at."
Curiously, Parker has been more loquacious — at least for him — since his playing time was essentially eliminated starting in the Orlando game Thursday. He's not exactly wordy, but he's been more expansive in interviews the last few days.
"I did decide to come here," Parker acknowledged without any apparent bitterness about the curious circumstances. "I did everything I can to prove that I belong here to play. I'm going to continue to do that. My job is to be ready and to be on the court. I only deal with Jim and I just have to take his word for it and trust what he's telling me.
"(My role remains) uncertain. I have to talk to the staff," Parker said. "I was given the expectation I was out of the lineup. Until somebody says otherwise, I'm still in that position. It's always what I can control. It's never pointing a finger."
Could Parker have done something differently?
"I can have as many opinions as possible, but that doesn't matter," Parker said. "It doesn't matter how I feel. It is what it is. I still chose to be here."