Chicago Bulls

Bulls' injury situation clouds play-in matchup vs. Hawks

Ayo Dosunmu, Andre Drummond both played well in season series and face uncertain availability

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It seemed fitting, if not downright cruel, that as Ayo Dosunmu addressed reporters on whether he might play in Wednesday's play-in matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, the Chicago Bulls' public and media relations staff released another injury update.

"Forward Onuralp Bitim has been diagnosed with a detached retina in his right eye. He will require season-ending surgery and will be out for the remainder of the postseason."

The fact the first-year Turkish player had largely dropped from coach Billy Donovan's playing rotation after a brief success story didn't erase the fact Bitim marks the third season-ending surgery the Bulls have endured this season. And the stories of Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams also don't account for Lonzo Ball's absence of over two years.

Injuries are part of professional sports. Trae Young recently returned for the Atlanta Hawks, who will play on Wednesday without Saddiq Bey, Onyeka Okongwu and Jalen Johnson.

But the Bulls know their opportunity to beat the Hawks and advance to a Friday play-in game against the loser of Wednesday's Philadelphia 76ers-Miami Heat matchup improves significantly if Dosunmu and Andre Drummond are available.

And Drummond is a longshot since coach Billy Donovan said he didn't practice Tuesday and still has swelling his sprained left ankle. He's officially listed as questionable.

Dosunmu at least participated in some halfcourt situations during the official practice and then spent roughly 2 minutes scrimmaging against player development coaches and two-way contract players in his first contact session since Wendell Carter Jr. kneed him in the thigh on April 7 in Orlando.

"I wanted to try to get an assessment of how I feel," Dosunmu said. "If I play (Wednesday), I didn’t want that to be my first time playing. I really wanted to play in New York. But it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t the right timing. So I asked if I could do a 2-minute scrimmage, get up and down and see how my wind and my movement was."

Dosunmu, also listed as questionable, said a significant hurdle remains for him to clear to be able to play against the Hawks.

"It’s really just trying to be able to sprint at a top speed," he said. "That’s pretty much the last hurdle I’m trying to get over. I’m doing massages, different stretches, different mobility things, ice, stim, heat, everything just to try to move the bruise in that area and be able to get to a top sprint without discomfort."

Not having Drummond would be a significant blow for the Bulls. Not only would it force Donovan to try smaller lineups featuring Torrey Craig or Javonte Green at center, it would take away a major contributor in the Bulls' significantly improved offensive rebounding.

Drummond averaged 14.7 points and a ridiculous 18 rebounds in just 25 minutes in the three-game season series against Atlanta.

"For he and Ayo, I just don’t know. (Wednesday’s) shootaround will be interesting to see. Even after they go through shootaround as they go through treatment and stuff we’ll see where they’re at," Donovan said. "Andre did not do anything (Tuesday). But he did do some (individual) work (Monday). But I think he ended up having some swelling that he’s dealing with now.

"He and Andre have both been out for a period of time without any real level of physical contact or play. And you’re walking into a situation where it’s one and done. So I just don’t know what to expect if both of those guys are in a position to play."

Dosunmu played his best basketball of the season against the Hawks. He averaged 21 points on 55.6 percent shooting, including 50 percent from 3-point range, and consistently hounded Young.

"Probably my length and my competitiveness," Dosunmu said, when asked why he thinks he's had some success corralling Young. "He’s a competitor. So you when put a competitor on a competitor, that makes it fun. Just try to do whatever it takes to keep him out of rhythm and not foul him, not put him to the line.

"A lot of the better players in the NBA, you give them rhythm or early free throws and they see the ball go in and then they start to really get in their bag. Just try to avoid silly mistakes and make him take tough shots and make tough shots."

Dosunmu has a larger role than when the Bulls played in the Play-In Tournament last season. But he knows what the games mean and, obviously, would love to participate in them.

"It forces a Game 7 mentality. Win or go home. Survive and advance. That’s pretty much the mindset we have. We know we have no margin of error. And we know that a next loss within our next two games will end our season. And we want to keep playing. We want to make a deep run," he said. "So that’s the mentality we have each possession, each quarter. We just gotta play with that confidence and not be scared of the fact that it’s our last game but embrace that feeling, embrace the competition and come together."

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