Kornet, Hutchison showing welcome progress for Bulls

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison (15) dunks against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The Bulls won 117-110.

    Chicago Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison (15) dunks against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The Bulls won 117-110.

 
 
Updated 1/23/2020 5:46 PM

In the fourth quarter of the Bulls' victory over Minnesota on Wednesday, Chandler Hutchison tried to save a loose ball and ended up crashing into a front-row chair.

"Flying knee straight on the metal bar on the bottom," Hutchison said Thursday at the Advocate Center. "It felt like I got shot in the knee at first, but I was like, "I know if I lay down here (on the floor) too much longer, I'm coming out of the game.' So I had to just get up and just try to suck it up and play through it and do what I can."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls haven't lived up to their big-picture goal of making the playoffs this season. So they'll appreciate whatever minor victories they can get. The recent play of guys like Hutchison and center Luke Kornet has been encouraging, because a few weeks ago neither one seemed to have much of a future in the NBA.

Kornet has been a pleasant surprise as the starting center in the last four games. Signed as a free agent this summer, Kornet got off to a dreadfully slow start. Looking back now, he can say with confidence the sinus surgery he had in November turned things around.

"Honestly, it sounds really dumb, but that nose thing was affecting me really significantly," Kornet said. "You're not really sure what the reason is, why your body doesn't feel good, it feels tight. You have no energy and have trouble sleeping. But it ended up being because of that. Now with some time and separation, my body does feel way better. It was one of those things where you didn't know how bad it was until you got it done."

Kornet broke his nose in December 2018 while playing for the Knicks. When Bulls training camp began, he didn't think his sinus issues were going to be such a problem.

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"I had been living with it for six to eight months at that point," he said. "I ended up having a really bad deviated septum and nasal valve collapse. So I couldn't really breathe through my nose and it ended up affecting all the muscles in my body, really. It's like my neck got tight, then shoulders and hips. It was strange. It kind of revealed itself at it got colder.

"I wasn't playing like myself and I was really frustrated with it. It was kind of a weird thing, it took time to figure out what was causing it and ended up tracing it back to that. I'm really glad we got it done."

Kornet has averaged 11.3 points in the last four games and has the potential to do better if he knocks down more 3-pointers or can stay out of foul trouble. His defense against Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo early in Monday's game was surprisingly effective.

In Hutchison's case, injuries have held him back. He missed the final 33 games last season with a broken toe, then 27 games this season with three different injuries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the last five games, he's started to look like the versatile wing the Bulls envisioned. He has 11 steals in those five games and coach Jim Boylen has used him in the closing lineup a few times as an undersized power forward.

Hutchison talked about when he was sidelined with the injuries, there was plenty of time to think about how he wanted things to go.

"I just made a deal with myself that I was going to be aggressive and be myself, be the guy that got me here, because I believe that guy is pretty dang good, is going to be a pretty good player," Hutchison said. "So when I have the opportunity, just go out there and play and show what I can do."

There was a play in the third quarter against Minnesota that showed Hutchison's ability on the break. He grabbed a loose ball in the lane, took off downcourt, wove around Gorgui Dieng and beat Andrew Wiggins to the rim, throwing down a one-hand dunk.

"Everyone's been telling me to use my athleticism, my finishing at the basket to get to the rim," Hutchison said. "I've got guys just telling me to go and that's helped me be able to focus and be how I am."

There was another example of a player stepping forward against the Timberwolves with backup center Cristiano Felicio finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his first double-double in nearly two years.

"It's a conscious decision to stay ready and to work," Boylen said. "I think it says a lot about their character and wanting to be ready for that moment to help the team."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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