The Bulls will begin preseason play tonight without Patrick Williams, who is recovering from a severely sprained left ankle. That leaves a hole in their starting lineup, and coach Billy Donovan is considering a number of options to fill it, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.
Donovan has expressed a desire to play faster this season, so it doesn’t appear he will turn to a traditional big man to step in for Williams at power forward. He has been experimenting with several players to see who fits best alongside Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
“We’ve thrown Derrick (Jones Jr.) in with that (starting) group,” Donovan said. “We’ve thrown Javonte Green in with that group. We’ve put Alex Caruso in there. We’ve put Troy Brown in there with that group. It’s been hard to really evaluate it because as you’re implementing and you’re putting in, there’s things that we have to continue to get better at and improve upon. And then I think the other piece of it is, how well does the group function together?”
There’s more from Chicago:
- It’s possible that Williams could return before the preseason is over, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Williams injured his ankle on September 15 and was projected to miss four to six weeks. Mayberry notes that he wasn’t limping at media day and may be ahead of schedule in his recovery. “He’s been able to come in here and shoot,” Donovan said. “We haven’t done anything laterally, cutting-wise with him. He’s been coming in at night, getting some shots up, doing as much conditioning as he can be doing. But he’s done well. We feel pretty good about the way he’s progressing. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 20 years old. You heal pretty quickly.”
- No team has changed its roster more than the Bulls since last season’s trade deadline, and Vucevic believes they’re ready to contend, calling it “definitely the most talented team I’ve been a part of,” Mayberry adds in the same piece. One concern is lack of depth in the frontcourt after the team missed out on Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency.
- The Cavaliers will be the opponent in the preseason opener, which means a quick return to Chicago for Lauri Markkanen, who suggested in the offseason that he wanted a “fresh start.” Speaking to reporters today, Markkanen refused to criticize his former team, tweets Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about them,” he said. “When I was here, they treated me well and just things didn’t go as planned.”