It was not the ideal scenario as far as Billy Donovan was concerned.
Two games postponed, very limited practice time, and a handful of players coming out of the league’s health and safety protocol, the Bulls coach was hoping to be able to ease his players back into heavy minutes.
The Sunday game against the Lakers didn’t corporate, however.
DeMar DeRozan put in 34 minutes plus, as did Javonte Green. Fresh off a tweaked hamstring, Alex Caruso notched just under 38 minutes. And of course just minutes into the showdown with the Rockets, he had to leave the court and go to the locker room.
Then there was Lonzo Ball, who has led the Bulls in minutes played all season and was due for a break. In a game with his former team that was back and forth the entire fourth quarter, breaks weren’t really available.
Ball finished with a team-high 38:04.
The back-to-back with Houston, and then a third game in four nights on Wednesday wasn’t doing many favors either.
“It’s kind of the hand we’re dealt with a little bit,” Donovan said Monday. “You try and navigate it, and more than anything else instead of those guys going really long periods of time where they’re playing a lot of consecutive minutes in a row, can you get them out a little bit and then pull them back in? The teams that have been hit the way we’ve been hit are probably in a similar situation.”
Then again, not many teams had 10 players go into the protocol at one time, forced to basically be shut down from all team activities.
That’s the other concern Donovan is dealing with. Yes, the time off was good for a break, but it also led to some guys losing their wind.
“The hard thing is being hit with all this and then not being able to practice,” Donovan said. “It would be one thing if we had the group and we could kind of work collectively as a unit, but we really haven’t been able to do that.”
The good news for the Bulls is the schedule smiles on them after Wednesday.
The team will have three straight days off and won’t play again until after Christmas. They’re also expected to have most of the roster back then, as Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., and Alize Johnson should all be back from the protocols.
Derrick Jones Jr. left Sunday’s win with a strained left hamstring and didn’t return, but Donovan didn’t expect the forward to be on the shelf very long.
All the tests came back as relatively mild, so Jones will be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s game, and have the three-day break to work his way back.
Jones had been sidelined for almost two weeks in the protocol, and the game against Los Angeles was his first one since he was cleared.
Alfonzo McKinnie will be staying home for a bit longer, as the Bulls announced that the forward was signed to a second 10-day contract.
MicKinnie, who played at Curie and then Marshall High School, was added as a hardship exemption when the Bulls sent a handful of players into the league’s health and safety protocol while they were on a road trip to Cleveland and Miami.
McKinnie entered the game with the Rockets with two games under his belt, averaging 23 minutes and 4.0 points off the bench.