Derrick Jones Jr. was starting for the injured Javonte Green, who was starting for the injured Patrick Williams.
And now Jones Jr. is injured, expected to miss two-to-four weeks with a hyperextension issue in his right knee. The high-flying forward suffered the injury in the first minute of Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Nets.
Much like the Chicago Bulls needed an emergency replacement signing for their emergency replacement signing last month, they now need a replacement starting power forward for their replacement starting power forward.
Does the injury spur Artūras Karnišovas to more aggressively pursue a starting-level forward? At least for now, the Bulls fortified their roster by signing guard Malcolm Hill to a 10-day contract, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Bulls are one of several teams linked to Jerami Grant. A package of Williams, Jones Jr. and the protected first-round pick from Portland is the likely asking price for Grant. Multiple league sources said the current leaguewide impression is that Karnišovas values and intends to keep Coby White, whom coach Billy Donovan recently called "a winning player."
The Bulls’ defensive rating dropped to 12th after the Nets’ 138-point explosion. And they certainly will miss Jones Jr.’s length and athleticism — just like they miss Green’s physicality and athleticism and Williams’ physicality, length and athleticism.
Jones Jr. projects to return between Jan. 27 and Feb. 10. If the second date sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the NBA trade deadline. And if the Bulls were going to take a big swing at, say, Grant or Harrison Barnes, Jones Jr.’s expiring $9.7 million salary could come in handy.
The injury doesn’t really impact Jones Jr.’s trade value. If he’s included in a deal, it’s most likely for his expiring salary, not his on-court impact. And Jones Jr. will return at some point this season — even in plenty of time for playoff contributions should he remain with the Bulls.
Until then, the Bulls’ defense, already without Alex Caruso, will continue to get challenged. And Donovan knows it.
But he also made clear that certain elements of defensive responsibilities transcend injuries. Not fouling jump shooters. Not getting beat to loose balls. Transition defense. Rebounding. Communication.
“When people talk about Javonte and talk about maybe Alex, and I don’t know where Derrick’s situation is right now, that’s got nothing to do with running back in transition, blocking out, fouling,” Donovan said late Wednesday, before news of Jones Jr.’s estimated absence became official. “Every guy on our team, we’ve got to get much, much better at those things.”
No matter who is on it.