Torrey Craig

Bulls lose Torrey Craig for multiple weeks to sprained knee

Injury is latest blow to forward position that also remains without Patrick Williams

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls’ first practice following the All-Star break lacked forward thinking.

That’s not to say coach Billy Donovan’s practice plan wasn’t sharp. It’s more that the Bulls lacked actual players who play the forward position.

At least DeMar DeRozan’s excused absence wasn’t related to health. He offered a viewing of his digital series aimed at raising mental health awareness---called “Dinners with DeMar”---for athletes at his alma mater of USC in Los Angeles.

But while both Patrick Williams and Torrey Craig were at the Advocate Center for Tuesday’s late afternoon practice, neither participated and won’t play on Thursday against the NBA-leading Boston Celtics. And, almost unbelievably, Craig sprained his right knee while working out over the break and won’t even be re-evaluated for another two to four weeks.

As for Williams, who hasn’t played since Jan. 25 with acute bone edema in his left foot, his scheduled ramp-up activity hit a speed bump.

“Patrick is doing the light, slow ramp-up. Everything they do is going to be based on his pain and what he can tolerate. Quite honestly, there have been certain things where he’s felt it. He’s much better than he was. I think when this first happened, he was feeling it walking. He’s beyond that right now. But they’re going to be very, very careful in terms of how much they continue to push through and how much they pull back on him,” Donovan said. “He has responded really well and done well. But on some of the things he has done, he has felt it mildly. And they’ll be cautious.

“They just want to make sure on the ramp-up, where if he continues to feel pain, they have to pull back. And that’s where they’re at right now. He has done stuff. For a period of time, he was in the boot and not doing anything but lifting weights. He has done some low-level stuff on the court. He feels much better than he did prior to this. But they’re not going to push him until those symptoms are completely gone.”

Speaking in Cleveland before the last game before the All-Star break, Donovan downplayed the potential for Williams’ injury to be season-ending and said surgery hadn’t been mentioned.

What’s clear is the Bulls need healthy bodies, particularly since Donovan said he didn’t want to keep piling minutes on DeRozan, Coby White and Alex Caruso.

“I don’t know if we can keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Donovan said, alluding to those players’ heavy minutes load. “We’ll have to figure some things out going forward.”

That means more of the double-big lineup featuring Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond and possibly an addition via the buyout market. Although Donovan said management hasn’t asked him to get involved on that front since the coach spoke to Danilo Gallinari, who chose the Bucks.

“We had a really good conversation. I love Gallo, loved my year with him in Oklahoma City. He’s a great guy,” Donovan said. “I think there was probably a lot he was evaluating as it related to his career. I think he’s coming to the end, so how much he wants to play probably played a factor. He has a new family, two kids now. Outside of him, I haven’t talked to anybody else.”

Donovan did complete his deep dive into film study of the double-big pairing, which has a plus-8.5 rating in 106 shared minutes. But Donovan’s point is that numbers can obscure nuance. And while the pairing has worked offensively, it has struggled at times defensively, particularly in defensive transition.

That’s certainly an area where Craig could help, and losing him again is a brutal blow for the Bulls. They already lost him for 22 games with a sprained plantar fascia. And now this.

Depending on how the buyout market shakes down, look for Caruso to get power forward minutes, for the double-big man lineup to thrive anew and for young players like Julian Phillips and Dalen Terry to keep getting opportunity.

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