Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
ATLANTA --- For 1 minute, 19 seconds during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls' overtime loss to Orlando Saturday night, coach Billy Donovan used a lineup of Andre Drummond, Coby White, Dalen Terry, Julian Phillips and Torrey Craig.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
Not only did Franz Wagner slip free off what Donovan termed blown defensive coverages, this unit had never before appeared this season and, on paper, is offensively challenged.
"Really?" Donovan said wryly.
Welcome to the current Bulls' reality, where injuries to Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams, a minutes limit for Craig and, at least against the Magic, foul trouble for Drummond and Ayo Dosunmu is exposing the back end of the roster.
"I'm just trying to get guys rest," Donovan said. "We were just trying to buy some time to get Alex (Caruso) and DeMar (DeRozan) some rest."
All teams are banged up and battling the February blues at this time of the season, with the All-Star break imminent. But few teams are in as dire need of a break as the Bulls, who, as Donovan has been saying for weeks, are logging more minutes than he would like. Same for Caruso.
"Everyone's feeling it," White said. "It is what it is. We got two more games until the break, so we gotta finish off strong."
To White's credit, he refused to use fatigue as an excuse for his 5-for-21 shooting night.
The issue for the Bulls is LaVine is out for the season following right foot surgery. Williams remains in a walking boot and hasn't started any on-court work in advance of a re-evaluation later this week. His best-case scenario is playing the first game out of the All-Star break, but that could be a longshot.
DeRozan is tied with Luka Dončić for the league lead in minutes per game at 37.6. White is eighth at 36.3. White leads the NBA in total minutes, while DeRozan is second.
"It's easy to point and look that way, but the way I look at it and stress to everybody is, 'Look, man, we need every game. We gotta lay it all out on the line every game,'" DeRozan said. "Every game is important whether we got a full team or limited guys. I don't want to leave one minute untouched if it was up to me, just so we can win a game.
"I'm pretty sure everybody is tired. It's that time of the season where everybody is just waiting for the break. But we gotta leave it all out there."
Donovan didn't play Jevon Carter against the Magic, citing Orlando's size as a matchup issue. After averaging 22.3 minutes for a 58-win Milwaukee Bucks team last season, Carter is averaging just 13.6 minutes for the Bulls.
Nobody could've envisioned that when Carter signed a three-year deal immediately when free agency began last summer. To Carter's credit, he hasn't complained and said he's blessed to be in the NBA regardless of his role.
Terry and Phillips have showed flashes in their limited minutes, but both are raw players who need experience. The Bulls could be adding a player via the buyout market, which would help the current situation, especially if they add size and shooting. Craig losing his minutes limit could help too.
Donovan said he wanted to play the double-big lineup of Drummond and Nikola Vucevic more against Orlando but Drummond's foul trouble prevented that.
The Bulls face the Hawks on Monday and travel to Cleveland to conclude this four-game trip on Wednesday. Look for the heavy minutes for the starters to continue.
"I just always love hooping," DeRozan said. "I play all summer for free. When you're playing for an organization and something is on the line, I want to play every single second, minute, opportunity I can. That's why I pride myself on not missing games."