With no Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, opportunity available for younger Bulls

With no Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, opportunity available for younger Bulls

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Absence often creates opportunity, which means there will be a lot of opportunity for a few Bulls Tuesday night with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade out against the Washington Wizards.

The Bulls’ two leading scorers will be out, with Butler still recovering from the flu and Wade on a scheduled rest.

“Coach said I’m out tomorrow,” Wade said at his locker following the Bulls’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night at the United Center.

With two more sets of back-to-backs this month, Wade and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg have agreed to a plan for his usage. Sitting Wade for the second night in this first set — while also having a game Thursday night in New York for a three-game, four-night set — seems to be the prudent approach for a man who turns 35 this month.

It just so happens to coincide with Butler being all but useless against the Thunder Monday, barely able to muster up much of an athletic effort while fighting off illness. Butler didn’t make the trip to the nation’s capital but the Bulls hope he’ll join the team in New York.

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“When you see guys fighting through stuff, you really appreciate it,” Wade said. “’Be smart’, that’s my message to him. We need him to be healthy. We need him to take care of himself.”

While the Bulls are without 43 percent of their scoring, it means Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Isaiah Canaan will see opportunity against a Wizards team that used strong second halves from John Wall and Bradley Beal to beat the Bulls by 10 in Chicago.

“I’ve been telling the young guys, just be ready,” Taj Gibson said. “Next man up. Just giving them as much encouragement as you can. Jimmy played his heart out, tried his best. But we have to be better.”

As for Rajon Rondo, Hoiberg didn’t dismiss the possibility of playing him but never really dismisses the possibility of playing him — but Rondo hasn’t played in the last six games, with the Bulls going 4-2 in that stretch.

The front office has a lot invested in some of the younger players, so it wouldn’t be surprising for them to get an extended look.

“That’s the first thing when young guys look at me,” Gibson said. “We have more than enough to win. We always thugged it out. If you go in with the right mindset, first you’ll learn from it and then confidence will come.”

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Wizards tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Wizards tonight on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Washington Wizards tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Michael Carter-Williams. With Jimmy Butler not travelling, Dwyane Wade scheduled to rest and Rajon Rondo benched, the Bulls will likely rely on Carter-Williams against the Wizards. MCW is averaging 7.5 field goal attempts per game this season, but the Bulls may need him to channel his Rookie of the Year self – when he put up 15.1 shots and 16.7 points per game – to get a win.

2. Cool down Bradley Beal. In January, Beal is putting up 25 points per game on 48 percent shooting. With the Bulls’ best defender, Jimmy Butler, out with an illness, team defense on Beal and three-time All-Star John Wall will be key. Slow down the Wizards’ guards and the Bulls have a chance to pick up a shorthanded win.

3. Which bench player steps up? The Bulls’ bench didn’t exactly put together an inspiring performance in Monday’s 109-94 loss to the Thunder. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined on 3-for-10 shooting, 10 points and a rough minus-29. The Bulls are going to need one (maybe both) of those guys to have a monster game tonight.

4. A Rondo return? Fred Hoiberg left the door open after Monday’s loss, saying “we’ll see” if the embattled point guard gets a chance against the Wizards. Rondo has racked up five DNPs in a row, but he could be called upon with two guards sitting. In two games against the Wizards this season, Rondo is averaging 1.5 points per game on 6.3 percent shooting. Ouch.

5. Home-court advantage. The Wizards boast a 14-6 record at the Verizon Center, which is the third highest home winning percentage in the Eastern Conference. Role players tend to play better with a favorable crowd, and that is surely the case for the Wiz. Otto Porter, Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton and Kelly Oubre, Jr. all shoot at least 5 percent higher at home.

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Dwyane Wade game-time decision vs. Lakers; Doug McDermott still out with concussion

Dwyane Wade game-time decision vs. Lakers; Doug McDermott still out with concussion

Dwyane Wade is a game-time decision for Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers and Doug McDermott’s lack of progress from his concussion will force him to miss his seventh straight game.

Wade has a fractured root of a tooth that had to be extracted Tuesday and wasn’t present at shootaround, as Fred Hoiberg said he’ll be evaluated before game time. Apparently it occurred Tuesday and Wade had the procedure shortly thereafter.

As for McDermott, he’s been cleared for non-contact but not much else and it appears this concussion — his second in a young season — is taking longer than his first concussion.

His face hit the floor on a dunk attempt Nov. 12 against the Wizards and he hasn’t returned to action since. Hoiberg said there isn’t a model for the team to follow as far as when it can expect McDermott back.

“I don’t think so. Every case is individualized,” Hoiberg said. “You look at it based on what their symptoms are and Doug unfortunately has had two of them in the early portion of this season. So he’s not quite ready yet. Talking to our team doctor, he’ll continue to get treatments and continue to get evaluated on a daily basis. Hopefully we get him back soon.”

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Hoiberg said McDermott will go through another workout before the game and perhaps there will be an update about when he can take contact again.

“I think the important thing is making progress,” Hoiberg said. “He’s passed steps of the concussion protocol, he just hasn’t passed all of them. Until he completes the protocol he will not be cleared for contact. The hope is he continues to get better and makes progress on a daily basis. In his mind he wants to get out there. In our doctors’ opinion he’s just not ready.”

McDermott suffered his first concussion against Brooklyn on Oct. 31, causing him to miss the next game against Boston on Nov. 2. Hoiberg said he doesn’t think the events surrounding the first concussion is playing a part on how this one is being handled, but two in a span of two weeks is nothing to overlook.

The NBA’s handling of concussions dictate a player must pass a battery of tests to display competency before being allowed to return to various forms of action. McDermott was seen shooting around after practice Monday and Tuesday and Hoiberg said his spirits have been better since the team has returned from the circus trip.

Hoiberg has had experiences with concussions but said even he can’t impart his experiences onto the small forward, because of the protocol that’s been in place the past five years.

“It is important to communicate with Doug but it’s a different era,” Hoiberg said. “It’s hard to compare what I went through or Randy Brown or Pete. The protocol is different. It’s about keeping him positive.”