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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Even before injuries to Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, wing depth loomed as an issue for the Bulls.
Hutchison was coming off a rookie season shortened by injury. Porter has battled nagging injuries throughout his career. And Denzel Valentine was coming off missing an entire season to reconstructive ankle surgery.
On Tuesday, the Bulls fly back to Chicago following their three-game trip with Porter and Hutchison still out and Valentine not playing much although recently in the rotation. Coach Jim Boylen mostly has relied on a three-guard lineup featuring Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Coby White. Both Shaquille Harrison and Dunn have started at small forward on this trip.
“It is frustrating. I try not to look at those things like it’s my frustration. I feel bad for the guy,” Boylen said. “Obviously, the team needs (Porter). But I feel bad for him. I think he’s frustrated. It wears on him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a winning player. So it’s very difficult for him.”
Porter, in his first comments to reporters in a while, agreed.
“It’s definitely tough watching the guys go through that,” Porter said of the team’s 6-14 start. “I just try to remain positive. I still try to be a leader to them in the locker room, what I see out there when I’m watching, what we can do better. I’m always going to be voicing my opinion on what we should do or just adjustments out there on the court.”
Boylen said Porter and Hutchison will be re-evaluated this week in Chicago. Porter has played just nine games this season because of a soft tissue injury to his left foot. Hutchison is on his third injury this season, a sprained right shoulder.
Originally, the Bulls listed Porter’s injury as a sprained left foot. But a second MRI exam on Nov. 19 revealed bone bruising which the team disclosed in a release and Porter cited it as a bone bruise in his remarks to reporters.
“It takes time. Every day it gets a little better. Baby steps,” Porter said. “You can reaggravate it absolutely. And that’s what we’re trying to monitor to make sure that these days that I do activities, the next day it’s not overaggravated or swells back up. We’re definitely watching it close.”
Porter said he has been able to do some elliptical work and lift weights with some spot set shooting.
“I have no idea about coming back sooner or later.,” Porter said. “The new MRI I’m supposed to be taking is just supposed to see how far along I’ve come. It will eliminate any other things that might’ve happened as far as like tissue and stuff like that. Looking forward to it.”
Just like Boylen is looking forward to Porter’s return, whenever it happens.
“We miss his calm, veteran demeanor,” Boylen said. “I said this last year and this year too: He settles us down a bit, maybe at times we need that. He makes timely shots. He’s one of our better shooters. And he has positional size, which is a huge part of that big wing position. We miss those things. He has done a terrific job of trying to help the younger guys and stay connected even though he has been hurt. It’s difficult. But he has a veteran voice. He’s one of our captains. And he’s doing a good job of that.”
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