Julian Phillips

Injury Notes: Giannis, Celtics, Butler, Jovic, Phillips

The Bucks are getting Khris Middleton back on Sunday for the first time since February 6, but they won’t quite be whole yet. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the afternoon showdown vs. the Suns in Milwaukee due to left hamstring soreness.

Head coach Doc Rivers initially said he expected Antetokounmpo to play, notes Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Bucks star had been listed as questionable before being ruled out less than an hour before tip-off, so it doesn’t like an issue that will sideline him for an extended period. Milwaukee will be back in action on Wednesday in Boston, so Giannis will get a couple extra days to rest the injury.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • The Celtics announced that Jayson Tatum (right ankle impingement) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Wizards after having being listed as questionable, but said Jaylen Brown (right ankle sprain) has been ruled out (Twitter link). It’s the second game in Boston’s last three that Brown has missed, though his absence on Tuesday was due to a separate ailment.
  • The banged-up Heat will be missing another key player on Sunday in Detroit, with Jimmy Butler listed as out due to a right foot contusion, tweets Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Nikola Jovic (right hamstring strain) will also be unavailable, joining a group of injured players that also includes Tyler Herro, Kevin Love, and Josh Richardson.
  • Julian Phillips‘ right foot sprain, which the Bulls announced earlier in the week, will sideline the rookie for at least two weeks, head coach Billy Donovan said on Saturday (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). “He had been dealing with the foot issue on and off for a little bit of time,” Donovan told reporters, including Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I think it got to the point where it flared up and was really bothering him. They were hopeful that maybe in a two-week timetable we’ll find out.”

Central Notes: Pistons, Giannis, Lopez, Craig, Phillips

The Pistons entered this season hoping to push for a spot in the postseason. They currently have the NBA’s second-worst record (12-53), so they’ll fall well short of that preseason goal. Still, they’ve won as many times (six) in their past 16 games as they did in their first 49 contests, and have shown real signs of growth as of late, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com and Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press.

During their past 16 games, the Pistons rank 20th in the NBA in net rating (-3.0) and 16th in defensive rating (113.0). Their pieces also seem to fit together in a way that they didn’t before their trade deadline overhaul, Langlois observes.

“We’re coming together as a team,” center Jalen Duren said, per Sankofa. “We’re all feeling good playing, I feel like everyone is catching their rhythm. You see (Marcus Sasser) coming in and doing his thing, Big Wise (James Wiseman) coming in and doing his thing. … Everyone’s contributing in their own way. That’s helping us.

“… We talk about running through the tape as a team and finishing the year strong, so that’s kinda been my mindset these last whatever games it’s been since All-Star break. Just running through the tape.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a conversation with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo offered some interesting thoughts on the integration of Damian Lillard, the team’s multiple recent coaching changes, and the MVP race, among other topics. Antetokounmpo admitted this might be “the hardest season” of his career due to the adjustments to the personnel and coaching changes, as well as the procedure he underwent on his knee last summer.
  • Bucks center Brook Lopez tells Mark Medina of Sportskeeda that he believes the ups and downs of the season have made the team more resilient, adding that Doc Rivers‘ impact on the club has been “incredibly noticeable” since he replaced Adrian Griffin. “He’s given us a great energy and a great confidence,” Lopez said. “Things have been simplified. We have a lot of people on the same page right now.”
  • Torrey Craig made his ninth start of the season on Thursday, replacing injured Bulls guard Coby White. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details, Craig made a strong impression, knocking down four three-pointers and serving as the primary defender on Kawhi Leonard.
  • The Bulls announced today in a press release that rookie forward Julian Phillips has been diagnosed with a right foot sprain. The team didn’t offer any sort of recovery timeline for Phillips, simply stating that he’s wearing a walking boot and that his status will be updated as appropriate.

Bulls Notes: Bitim, White, Phillips

Bulls rookie Onuralp Bitim has been a pleasant surprise, emerging in the rotation after having his contract converted from a two-way to a standard deal. He stood out with 10 points and six rebounds against Cleveland on Feb. 28 and scored 17 against Dallas on Monday. In a conversation with Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, Bitim said he tries to emulate the game of Manu Ginobili.

He’s a very rare talent, definitely,” Bitim said of Ginobili. “But I love his basketball IQ on offense, on defense, how he passed the ball, shot the ball, drove the ball. But, yeah, like you said, he’s definitely a rare talent.

Bitim is primarily known as a shooter, but he’s trying to stick in the league by showcasing other aspects of his game.

I was a very good scoring player in Europe and also a good pick-and-roll player,” Bitim said. “I know how to read defenses because that’s what they have been teaching us since a young age. That’s why I think a lot of European players in the NBA know how to read defenses and how to read the games because they’re teaching us at a young age. But right now, I’m trying to just help my team. Whatever they need. If I need to defend, I need to defend. If I need to shoot, I need to shoot. If I need to take a rebound, I need to do that.

Mayberry goes over a handful of other topics with Bitim, including his transition from Europe to the NBA and his early playing days.

We have more from the Bulls:

  • Coby White went through a tumultuous start to his career after being selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2019 draft, averaging 12.6 points per game through the first four years of his career, including a career-low 9.7 points last season. In need of a breakout season, White has delivered, increasing his scoring average to 19.5 PPG in his fifth year and becoming a frontrunner for Most Improved Player. SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell explores how White attacked this past summer, detailing his close work with trainer Johnny Stephene.
  • An MRI on White revealed a left hip strain, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and the injury wasn’t as serious as it initially looked. According to Wojnarowski, White missed Thursday’s game, but could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson details how White, the NBA’s leader in minutes at 2,242, avoided a major injury and is day-to-day. “He was in some pretty significant pain right when it occurred and then he was in pain afterward,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “When you see a guy go down with that kind of force on top of him, you worry about this thing could be a lot worse. In some ways, we escaped a bullet there so to speak that it wasn’t something more significant or severe.
  • Rookie forward Julian Phillips missed Chicago’s Thursday game against the Clippers due to right foot soreness, according to Johnson (Twitter link). Phillips is averaging 4.1 points in his last eight games, including an 11-point outing against Dallas.

Bulls Notes: Dosunmu, Caruso, Terry, Phillips, DeRozan

After starting the season 5-14, the Bulls have been playing solid basketball over the past few months despite dealing with some major injuries. They’ve gone 22-16 over their past 38 games and currently hold a 27-30 record, good for the No. 9 seed in the East.

Coby White has — understandably — received plenty of recognition for helping the Bulls right the ship, but his backcourt mate Ayo Dosunmu has had an impressive season as well, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

As Johnson writes, Dosunmu has always been able to create an edge while driving, but defenders sagged off him in 2022/23, when his three-point percentage dipped to 31.2% after he shot 37.2% as a rookie. However, he’s in the midst of the most productive scoring stretch of his career because opposing defenses now have to respect his outside shot — he’s up to 41.7% from deep this season.

Over his first two seasons, Dosunmu scored 20-plus points five times. He’s matched that total since January 13 alone, Johnson notes. During that 17-game span, he has scored in double figures 16 times, averaging 15.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.9 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .565/.513/.792 shooting in 33.3 MPG.

Dosunmu re-signed with Chicago on a three-year, $21MM deal as a restricted free agent last summer, which is looking like a bargain considering his improved offense and solid defense, Johnson adds.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Head coach Billy Donovan has been relying on Alex Caruso to defend power forwards with Patrick Williams (season-ending foot surgery) and Torrey Craig (knee sprain) sidelined, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. While the All-Defensive First Team guard/forward is used to defending the opposing teams’ best players, he says it’ll be a team effort to make up for the size disadvantage. “I can makeshift for the majority of games,” Caruso said. “We’re going to have to do a better job covering up for each other. Maybe throw some more wrinkles into the game plan of coverages and giving different looks, a little more gimmicky stuff to buy us minutes here and there.”
  • In addition to Caruso, the Bulls have been getting rotation minutes at the small-ball four spot from Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips, a pair of young players eager to make their mark in the NBA, Cowley writes for The Sun-Times. “We know we’re short-handed right now, but the way the vets on this team talk to me, talk to Julian, they preach don’t be afraid of the challenge,” Terry said. “This is how you’re going to make your name in the league if you want to be here for a long time.” He had some rough patches in Sunday’s win over New Orleans, but Terry was also a team-high plus-17 in his 15 minutes, Cowley notes.
  • Chicago’s victory over the Pelicans was the latest evidence of DeMar DeRozan stepping up when the team needed him most, Cowley states in another story. The Bulls were down 12 points in the third quarter, but DeRozan responded by scoring 10 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth, including a three-pointer that sealed the victory with 30 seconds remaining. “It might not always be pretty for us, but they’re going to fight,” Donovan said. “I don’t think they’re in the business of: ‘OK, Patrick’s done, Torrey is down, we’re playing against a really big team, we have no chance. We’ll just go through the motions.’ I don’t think they have that mentality. I think DeMar thrives on that. I think he thrives on chaos. I think he thrives on uncertainty.”

Central Notes: Haliburton, Bulls Injuries, Phillips, Lillard

When Tyrese Haliburton returned on January 19 from a five-game absence due to a left hamstring strain, he played 35 minutes, then immediately returned to the inactive list. Following another five-game layoff due to that troublesome hamstring, the Pacers are taking a more cautious approach with their star point guard this time around, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

Haliburton played only 22 minutes in his return in Boston on Tuesday, including just six in the second half. Head coach Rick Carlisle confirmed after the game that the All-Star is on a minutes restriction, which will likely continue at least through the rest of this week.

“It frustrates me,” Haliburton said. “I want to be on the floor. But it’s this organization’s job to protect me from myself. I’m a competitor. I want to compete, but I understand it at the end of the day. … I think that everybody wants to be safe and keep me on the floor as much as they can.”

The Pacers’ goal for Haliburton is to keep him on the court for as many games as possible the rest of the way, not just to improve their odds of a playoff berth in the East, but to ensure that he has a chance to earn All-NBA honors, which would increase the value of his five-year, maximum-salary extension by more than $40MM. Players must appear in at least 65 regular season games to qualify for end-of-season awards such as All-NBA.

Haliburton has already missed 13 games this season and fell short of the required 15-minute minimum in a 14th, but he essentially earned a bonus game toward his required 65 when the Pacers qualified for the in-season tournament final. That game doesn’t count toward the regular season results, but it will count toward Haliburton’s game total, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files confirms. That means the 23-year-old could miss up to four more contests this season and still be eligible for an All-NBA spot.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times passes along some injury updates on the Bulls, writing that Zach LaVine continues to deal with foot discomfort, while Dalen Terry is receiving treatment on a sprained ankle that kept him out of Wednesday’s game in Charlotte. However, head coach Billy Donovan said the Bulls are optimistic Terry will be back “relatively soon” and believe Torrey Craig is also “very close” to returning from the right foot injury that has sidelined him since mid-December.
  • Even once Craig is available, the Bulls may continue relying on rookie forward Julian Phillips for rotation minutes, at least until Patrick Williams is ready to return from his own foot injury. Donovan is confident that Phillips, who has averaged 18.3 minutes in the past three games, can handle the increased responsibilities, per Annie Constabile of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I give him credit for keeping himself ready and giving us a really good boost off the bench,” Donovan said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in him in terms of the way he has worked to prepare himself to get in there. Anytime somebody scores and makes some shots, it always looks good, but I also thought his activity was really good, as well.”
  • While Damian Lillard didn’t pick up a win in his return to Portland on Wednesday night, the Bucks guard is getting more comfortable in Milwaukee after a relocation process he described as “unsettling.” Jamal Collier of ESPN has the story and the quotes from Lillard.

Bulls’ Patrick Williams Likely Out Through All-Star Break

Bulls forward Patrick Williams has been diagnosed with acute bone edema in his left foot, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Bulls, Williams will begin a period of “active rest” and will be reevaluated in approximately two weeks.

Noting that the Bulls’ last game before the All-Star break is on February 14, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago says a best-case scenario for Williams would see him return to action on Feb. 22 in the team’s first game after the break. However, there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to play at that time.

Williams was held out of Sunday’s game in Portland due to what the team referred to in the injury report as mid-foot soreness. He was wearing a walking boot that day, according to Johnson, who adds that acute bone edema means there has been fluid build-up in Williams’ bone marrow. The former lottery pick said on Sunday that the foot had been bothering him for some time.

“It was just gradual. It’s been a while,” Williams said. “I’ve been trying to do maintenance on it, do pregame work on it, postgame work on it. That Laker game (last Thursday) kind of hit the peak for me.”

A potential restricted free agent at the end of the 2023/24 season, Williams has averaged 10.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 27.3 minutes per game across 43 appearances (30 starts) for Chicago this season, posting a shooting line of .443/.399/.788.

With Williams and Torrey Craig both sidelined, Johnson expects rookie forward Julian Phillips to take on a larger rotation role. Ayo Dosunmu, who replaced Williams in the starting five on Sunday, is another player who could see more minutes with the fourth-year forward on the shelf.

Bulls Notes: Williams, Terry, Carter, Phillips, LaVine

The right ankle pain that has been affecting Bulls forward Patrick Williams might linger for the rest of the season, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Soreness in the ankle has forced Williams to sit out a couple of recent games, and there’s no indication that it’s getting better. Williams talked to Cowley about his condition after playing nearly 27 minutes in tonight’s win over Memphis.

‘‘To be honest, I haven’t had many good days,’’ Williams said. ‘‘It’s just more of, ‘Can I play through it? Is this a feeling that I can play through or not? Can I cut? Can I jump?’ That’s pretty much the feel I’m trying to get, whether it’s pregame, practice or whatever the case may be. ‘Can I cut? Can I move?’ Hopefully the answer is always yes, but there’s times where [it’s], ‘Ah, I can’t really move and cut and jump the way I’m used to.’’’

Williams is getting used to managing an injury again after playing in all 82 games last season. Cowley observes that Williams sometimes doesn’t have his usual explosiveness, which is the result of limitations from the ankle. Cowley adds that next month’s All-Star break should provide some relief, but the ankle pain could be something Williams will have to deal with as long as the Bulls’ season lasts.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • With Zach LaVine sidelined for another week or two with an ankle sprain, Dalen Terry and Jevon Carter both saw an increased role in Saturday’s game, Cowley adds. Terry recently surpassed Carter in the rotation, but it appears coach Billy Donovan will be leaning on both of them until LaVine returns. ‘‘During the course of an NBA season, you’re going to have guys out,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘It gives an opportunity for someone that hadn’t had those number of minutes. The injuries are just a part of it. I think our guys should have confidence. Not every guy is going to be in the rotation when we’re whole. I’m pleased with the way the group has responded with injuries. I think we’ve responded well. It’s not to say we’ve always won, but I think the guys that have gotten the opportunity have kept themselves ready when it was time to play.’’ Rookie forward Julian Phillips was recalled from the G League and could join the rotation if Donovan wants to expand it to 10 players, Cowley notes.
  • Imaging on LaVine’s right ankle revealed swelling, but he will accompany the team on a three-game Western trip next week, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Tonight’s win improved the Bulls to 11-7 without LaVine in the lineup as they’re learning to adjust without one of their main offensive weapons, Cowley states in a separate story. “I think naturally it’s a next-guy-up mentality with this team,” Williams said. “We’ve shown that really over the years, but especially this year. We’ve done a good job of knowing what works, and I think that’s the sign of a good team.”

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Vucevic, Williams, Phillips

While Bulls guard Zach LaVine has been officially listed as questionable to return on Friday vs. Charlotte, he’s on track to play, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Barring a setback that delays his return, it will be LaVine’s first game since November 28.

As Johnson notes in a full story for NBC Sports Chicago, the Bulls have posted a 10-7 record without LaVine, but recent losses to Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New York showed that the team could use the sort of scoring, play-making, and floor-spacing that the two-time All-Star can provide.

“We could’ve used that extra 20 to 25 to 30 points (on Tuesday),” DeMar DeRozan said after the Bulls mustered just 97 points in a loss to the Sixers. “Give another dynamic focal point of scoring, play-making. At the end of the day, it’s still Zach LaVine. And teams have to prepare for that. When we have him on the court, there are so many more options for us to execute.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, who has missed the past five games due to a left adductor strain, appears to be nearing a return as well. He’s currently listed as questionable to play on Friday, Johnson notes (via Twitter). Big man Andre Drummond has averaged 14.0 points and an incredible 19.4 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per night during Vucevic’s absence.
  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams hasn’t missed a game this season, but he was limited to 11 minutes on Tuesday due to a right ankle issue that he has been playing through for weeks, Johnson writes for NBC Sports Chicago. “It had been feeling stiff or sore,” Williams said. “A lot of times when I feel that way, I try to play through it and with the adrenaline of the game or when your body gets going, it starts to loosen up.” The former fourth overall pick was able to play 27 minutes on Wednesday in New York and is listed as probable for Friday’s game.
  • Bulls rookie Julian Phillips played a season-high 17 minutes on Tuesday vs. the Sixers and was a plus-10 in the 13-point loss, with seven points and three blocks. Phillips saw just two minutes on Wednesday and has only logged more than 10 minutes in a game twice this season, but he’s unfazed by his inconsistent role and is determined to “go hard” whenever he gets the opportunity to play, he tells Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “Just trying to approach every game the same way,” Phillips said. “With the mindset of, I think Coach said, ‘If you play four minutes or you play 40 minutes, if you go into shootaround with that mindset you’ll be ready for whenever the opportunity is.’ So I try to adapt to that and stay ready at all times.”

Bulls Notes: Hot Streak, LaVine, White, Terry, Phillips

There are no more calls to break up the Bulls, who improved to 7-3 in their last 10 games by beating the Lakers on Wednesday night, writes Jon Greenberg of The Athletic. Chicago has moved back into the race for a play-in spot with its recent hot streak after stumbling out of the gate with a 5-14 start.

The improvement coincides with the foot inflammation that knocked Zach LaVine out of the lineup, although no one connected with the team wants to say that directly. As Greenberg notes, there are several reasons for the success, such as DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic serving as the foundation of the offense, Alex Caruso becoming team MVP with his all-around play, and Coby White emerging as the star point guard the organization has been lacking since Lonzo Ball‘s injury.

L.A. is considered one of the prime landing spots for LaVine, and Greenberg suggests both teams might benefit from a trade. However, coach Billy Donovan dismissed the idea that the Bulls are better without LaVine and said he still has a role on the team.

“I think the biggest thing for us collectively is we get down the floor and flatten the defense out with everybody,” Donovan said. “I think that’s one of the things we’ve been preaching all along. I think Zach can play any style. For us, with him coming back in, I think he fits into how we’re trying to play.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • With White shooting a career-high 42.6% from long distance this season, Caruso is campaigning for him to be invited to the three-point contest at All-Star Weekend, adds Greenberg, who states that White’s recent play may put him in the All-Star conversation as well. “Yeah, I mean, I don’t like all the attention,” White said. “And that’s probably part of the reason why (Caruso) did it. Because he knows it makes me kind of uncomfortable.”
  • The Bulls’ success is a result of playing at a faster tempo, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Whether it’s related to LaVine’s absence or not, the players have been more aggressive about pushing the ball upcourt over their last 10 games and creating more scoring opportunities in transition. “We’re all super unselfish guys. I feel like the ball is moving at a high rate,” White said. “The main thing we’ve been doing these last however many games is just playing a lot faster. Even on made baskets, we’re getting the ball out quick and trying to get up the floor, making us hard to guard so we can play less in the halfcourt.”
  • Donovan expects Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips to have increased roles in the wake of Torrey Craig‘s plantar fascia injury, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Terry has been the main beneficiary so far, playing 21 minutes against the Lakers.

Bulls Forward Torrey Craig Sidelined For Extended Period

Bulls forward Torrey Craig has been diagnosed with an acute sprain of his right plantar fascia and won’t return to action until sometime after the All-Star break, according to a team press release.

Craig will be immobilized for approximately four weeks, followed by a period of rehabilitation projected to require an additional four-to-six weeks. The injury, which he suffered in the second quarter at Miami on Saturday, was revealed following an MRI on Tuesday.

It’s a significant blow to the team’s frontcourt. Craig was signed during free agency to a two-year contract that included a player option for next season. He’s been a major part of Billy Donovan‘s rotation.

Craig, noted for his defense, is averaging 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per night through 27 games, including seven starts. Craig, who turned 33 on Tuesday, played the last two-and-a-half seasons with Phoenix.

Craig had been backing up Patrick Williams at power forward. Terry Taylor, who has only appeared in six games, and second-round pick Julian Phillips could see a significant rise in playing time. The Bulls could also go with a number of smaller lineups to make up for Craig’s absence.