The dreaded “I” word. Injuries. I’ve long said my biggest fear for this team is that virtually every important player on it carries with him above average injury risk. Even players who wouldn’t seem prone to injury have had problems. Kyle Korver just missed practice with a cyst on his ankle. Taj Gibson missed time with Plantar Fasciitis, Ronnie Brewer missed time with a sore hamstring, and of course, Boozer won’t be back until late November or early December.
For a normal team, a team without huge turnover, preseason injures probably wouldn’t mean a whole heck of a lot. Maybe, outside of the Boozer injury, they won’t mean much for the Bulls either. However, with so many new faces, the Bulls may struggle to find continuity for when the regular season starts.
Let’s take a look at the injuries going forward:
Carlos Boozer: Obviously, the Boozer injury hurts the Bulls on the floor significantly. Besides being their second best player, he’s also the only one on the team who brings the skills he has to the table. The Bulls made it one of their goals to play inside out, but they haven’t really been able to do that in the same way without Boozer as no one else has his post game.
This calls for the Bulls to run largely different plays in preseason or have their options and effectiveness be completely different than they would in the regular season. In other words, his presence or absence is changing everything the team is doing. Even if everything else was flowing great right now, it’d be a struggle to integrate him back into the offense.
The lack of having a backup like Paul Millsap who could fill the same role as Boozer while he’s out will make his injuries hurt us considerably more than they hurt the Jazz who could continue to run through the same sets with or without Boozer.
Ronnie Brewer: Brewer’s back and (presumably) healthy now, but he missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Ignore the fact that the hamstring injury in and of itself is scary since it’s the same injury he had before, and you still have the problem of Brewer not yet feeling comfortable in our offense or defense.
He’s looked tentative on the court so far, and he hasn’t made many plays offensively while missing tons of shots and throwing away a few passes. Brewer was the guy most of us penciled in as the starting SG for this team. Either we’ve made a large mistake in signing him [not going there yet], or the Bulls are going to need a lot more time to integrate him into the system.
Whatever the case, the Bulls are presently looking at a hole in their rotation at SG that they don’t know how to fill yet. Is it Brewer or Bogans? The only certainty is it looks like it won’t be Korver who they like as a scoring option off the bench.
Taj Gibson: Thibodeau said Taj could play through his plantar fasciitis if it was a regular season game. That’s good news, to a point, but this is an injury that requires rest to heal. It was rested all summer long. It’s still a factor. To me, that means it’s likely a factor all season long. If three months off during the summer wasn’t enough to heal this, then how is it going to heal during the season?
I’m not concerned about Taj missing too much time as he played through it last season, but I am concerned that we’ve got a recurring injury and that he’ll play through pain and that may limit his effectiveness.
Edit – It’s been pointed out to me that it was a heal injury and not a recurrence of plantar fasciitis as was originally reported. This certainly calms my nerves somewhat on the long term health of Taj.
Kyle Korver: Korver’s only missed a practice so far, but we’ve now learned he’s been limited with the ankle for awhile but playing through it. He’s “laboring” on the court, and the injury is affecting his shooting and ability to move. Much like Taj, it’s great that he can play through it, but if guys are only playing at 70-80% instead of 100% with injuries, it’s worrisome.
I’m less concerned about Korver’s injury than the others, because Korver is the type of player who probably requires less adjustment for teammates to play with. Just throw him the ball when he’s open and he’ll shoot it or throw it to someone else.
C.J. Watson: Watson missed a couple of games as well, and right now, I don’t know what they have in Watson. At times he looks like he can score, but he’s definitely playing in a score first mentality as a PG. Do the Bulls need to go out and find another backup PG? The Bulls were spoiled with Hinrich last season in that role, and while I think Watson’s fine to play 10-15 minutes a night if Rose went down the Bulls look like they’re completely hosed.
Thus far, the Bulls have been fortunate that Rose, Noah, and Deng have stayed healthy, however looking at their style of play / history, it’s not going to shock anyone to see any of them have injury problems later on either.
While the smaller injuries aren’t likely to make considerable long term impacts on the team’s success, they do impact the team’s chemistry and could cause the Bulls to get off to a slower start even if Boozer was healthy. Throw an unhealthy Boozer into the mix, and the team now needs to run a scheme for which it doesn’t have the personnel or change up their scheme considerably again in two months.
At this stage of the game, there’s little the Bulls can do. I’d like them to sign Erick Dampier as added insurance in case they continue to struggle with injuries, but realistically that won’t solve the fact that we have no low post scorer, don’t know who our starting SG is, and don’t know what we have in terms of a backup PG.
The Bulls enter this season improved, but with many question marks. Questions that can’t be answered until this roster is healthy which won’t happen until December at the earliest and my fear is that it’s always going to be someone with this team. There’s just too much injury risk on it.