With the exception of their wing players, the Chicago Bulls have been relatively healthy this season. Lauri Markkanen was said to have been playing through a strained oblique muscle (which would account for his rough start to the season), and Luke Kornet had sinus surgery a couple weeks ago, but besides from Otto Porter Jr and Chandler Hutchison going down, the Bulls have had a full roster. In fact, if any Bulls players have been playing through injuries, team officials have been pretty quiet about it, up until now that is.
With such an injury free season under way, you can imagine my surprise when I booted up the old Basketball-Reference.com this morning looking for Denzel Valentine stats and found this injury report staring me in the face:
Very odd. Why are so many players listed?
Up until yesterday, there were only three names on the injured list: Porter, Hutch, and Cristiano Felicio. Today, half the roster are the walking wounded.
This injury report reminds me of one you might have seen at any given point over the last two seasons, when the focus of the team wasn’t so much on winning games as it was securing a lottery pick. There were a lot of key players sitting on the bench with vague sprains and strains to muscles and ligaments. I’m not saying the Bulls are tanking, I’m just saying it’s a little suspicious.
It’s been well documented that the goal of this season was for the Bulls to make the playoffs. After a disappointing 8 – 17 start, and having faced the easiest part of their schedule (the competition only gets tougher from here folks), maybe the Front Office has decided to amend this seasons goal. Maybe they are pivoting toward the familiar path of talent acquisition through the draft lottery.
Coincidence is also a possibility.
It’s a long season. Most players suffer some kind of minor injury during it’s course. A game or two here for a whosit sprain, a game or two there for a sore whatsit, that’s a common occurrence in any professional sport. I’m just a little skeptical that all of these minor aches and pains are showing up now, at the same time, and on the Bulls injury report. It’s especially suspicious considering they never listed Lauri Markkanen as being injured with a sore oblique, even when his poor play was driving fans to call for the Front office to “trade his bum ass.” Now, all of a sudden Ryan Arcidiacono has a bum elbow, Wendell Carter has an abdomen issue (wasn’t there a surgery to fix that this past summer?), Zach LaVine’s got a weak back, etc., etc. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe it’s a tank.
I would say that we’ll know for sure, whether or not the Bulls are tanking, by how Jim Boylen handles players minutes, but his rotations have been so sporadic and erratic that I’m not sure we’d be able to tell the difference between a tanking rotation and his regular lineups. We’ll have to see if they start resting players like LaVine and Carter during games they have a chance at winning.
The other reason so many players could be showing up on the injury report is to cover the butts of the coaching staff and Front Office. It’s a convenient excuse the Bulls have used on many occasions for covering up more nearly two decades worth of incompetence.
How could we, the fans, expect the Bulls to make the playoffs when so many players are injured? How could we, the fans, expect Jim Boylen to get the most out of this roster when guys have been fighting through pain and discomfort all season long? How can we, the fans, expect this young roster to grow and improve when they’ve experienced so many set backs due to injury?
How can this lousy franchise expect we, the fans, to choke down any more of their lame bitching?
Injuries are not a valid excuse for the disappointment of this season. They shouldn’t be a shield to hide a tank behind either.
The goal was the playoffs, GarPax.
On media day, you proudly proclaimed that goal for the entire world to hear. If it doesn’t work out this year, live with your failure. Stop making excuses. Put some effort into improving this team by doing a real coaching search, with an interview process, and multiple candidates. Make the Bulls a team players want to play for by being honest and advocating for them, instead of throwing them under the bus anytime fans get restless or demand more.
Maybe half the Bulls roster showing up on the injury report at the same time is just a coincidence. Maybe it’s the beginning of another tank run. Maybe it’s just the familiar and tired excuses of an unimaginative Front Office. Whatever it turns out to be, it struck me as odd, and something to keep an eye on.
Until we see what comes of it, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!