The story of the season for the Bulls, sigh again, has been injury and absence.
Once it was Derrick Rose getting his face fractured in the first practice; then it was Nikola Mirotic having his face fractured before the first game in somewhat different circumstances, both he and Bobby Portis lost to start the season. And now with Lauri Markkanen out until next month with an elbow injury and Kris Dunn missing his second game Saturday with the birth of his first child, the Bulls learned Denzel Valentine will be out at least another two weeks with a bone bruise in his left ankle.
Valentine, the 14th pick in the 2016 draft, had ankle surgery after his rookie season that was marred by serious sprained ankles. Valentine also had arthroscopic knee surgery after last season and appeared fully healthy to start this season. But he said shortly after Labor Day in informal workouts at the Advocate Center, he suffered another left ankle sprain. But there apparently also was a bone bruise that was hidden by the swelling. When his recovery was slow, the team did another MRI last week and the bone bruise was discovered.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Valentine will be reevaluated in 10 days to two weeks. He initially was expected to be out two weeks after the opening of training camp at the end of September.
"It's the start of the season, home opener; you feel the energy and it feels like I am supposed to be out there, it sucks," Valentine said pregame. "Because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad. Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what's going on, I at least have a time frame and can be patient with it. It's bad news, but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.
"It's not that bad," Valentine insisted. "My ankle is actually feeling better; just some healing. I can still do stuff; I don't think I'll fall that much behind. It happened the first week when I got back after Labor Day and has been lingering. We were playing open gym and I kind of twisted it and it was worse than we thought. Just taking time, the healing; that's what's taking so long. I feel like the training staff took the correct steps, so not being healed up it showed we needed to back off a little bit."
Valentine, a 6-6 swingman, felt he was ready for a breakout season after averaging 10.2 points last season and being one of the team's best three-point shooters at 37 percent. Plus, he's missed with a void at small forward as Justin Holiday is filling in there.
"I'm a fighter," said Valentine. "I'm not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt. I can't sit here and be negative. I've just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bitter sweet when I come back and have a great year."