Bulls' Young back in familiar role with Markkanen out
When the surprising news arrived Friday afternoon that Lauri Markkanen would be sidelined 4-6 weeks with a stress reaction in his pelvis, the person most effected -- besides Markkanen himself -- was probably Thaddeus Young, who moved into the starting lineup until further notice.
"My first thing was like, 'Shoot, when it rains it pours, right?' All our bigs going down, and obviously we've got Otto (Porter) down also," Young said before Friday's game. "It's an unfortunate situation, but we have to treat it as a next-man-up situation where I have to step up and fill some of the things he does on the court for us."
This is a role Young is accustomed to. Before joining the Bulls as a free agent this summer, Young had started every game he played in for the previous four seasons with Indiana and Brooklyn.
He was asked if, in some ways, this is an exciting opportunity to be able to contribute more.
"I'm excited for any opportunity I get out there on the court," Young said. "It's not about starting or anything with me, it's about getting as much playing time as possible and being able to help your teammates. This does give me a chance to do that, but it's at the expense of one of my teammates, and I'm not one of those types of guys that piggybacks off the expense of my teammates.
"I want everyone to be together, I want everyone to be fully healthy and I want us to all be at full strength so we can win basketball games together. You know, it's a family affair with me at all times and it's not something that makes me happy. Yes, I'm happy that I'm starting but I'm not happy that it was at the expense of Lau going down."
The Bulls should be fine with Thaddeus Young filling in for Lauri Markkanen at power forward. It's the depth and the second unit that will probably suffer the most with Young moving into the starting lineup.
The first player to get the call to join the rotation was guard Shaq Harrison. He had an eventful six-minute stint in the first half, which included 2 points, 2 turnovers and 2 assists. He tried driving to the basket for a monster dunk, but was rejected soundly by Sacramento's Harry Giles at the rim.
Denzel Valentine also saw action in the first half for the first time since Jan. 2. He played just 2½ minutes and missed 1 shot before coming back out. Coach Jim Boylen tried a really small lineup, sending Valentine in for center Cristiano Felicio late in the second quarter, and it didn't work.
Valentine got another chance in the third quarter. The Bulls also brought 6-5 guard Adam Mokoka up from the Windy City Bulls.
No help in sight:
The Bulls are probably at least a week or so from getting either Daniel Gafford (thumb) or Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) back from injury.
"(Gafford) was going to have his stitches out in the next day or two," coach Jim Boylen said. "They're monitoring the wound. That was a dislocation with a cut, broke through the skin. So they're just monitoring when they can take those stitches out. We'll see."