McGraw: White's 88-game playing streak makes him ironman of injury-prone Bulls
Whether the Bulls actually show some promise this season or devolve into another injury-riddled mess, can we at least pause before the next game and hand Coby White some sort of longevity award?
Ironman of the Rebuild would be an appropriate statuette, an honor to be commemorated in the Bulls media guide forever.
Who really cares if White didn't score in the first half of the Bulls' sloppy, disappointing loss to Washington on Monday? At least he showed up.
Since joining the Bulls in the 2019 draft, White hasn't missed a single game. Digging through the archives, there was at least one game, against the Knicks last season, where he was listed as questionable with a back injury. He ended up playing 28 minutes that day, and his ironman streak now stands at 88.
On this team, that's big news. There's been a never-ending series of injuries since the rebuild began in 2017. Whenever this young group starts to show improvement or build momentum, someone is sidelined. Or often it's been several players on the shelf.
The Bulls thought former coach Tom Thibodeau caused injuries, since he notoriously played guys heavy minutes. But nothing changed after he left. The new front office switched out the trainer, but the hurt goes on. The Bulls lost to Washington on Monday without Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison.
Obviously, no one tries to get injured. Whether you're an NBA player or someone who hits the gym a few times a week, injuries are annoying and frustrating.
But as the Bulls try to become a respectable team, they'll need to know who they can count on moving forward and right now it's hardly anyone, besides White and Zach LaVine, who has been relatively healthy since recovering from a 2017 ACL injury.
Markkanen talked Tuesday about his shoulder injury. It happened during a collision in Friday's game at Orlando, and looked similar to what happened to Hutchison last year when he ran into a screen at Golden State.
"I try to look at the positives," Markkanen said. "With a shoulder, it could've always been worse. Obviously, when it happened, I was frustrated and disappointed. I did everything on my part to not have this happen. That's part of the game unfortunately."
To get an idea of how the injuries have added up, look at the percentage of games played since players joined the Bulls. White's obviously at 100 percent. Markkanen has played in 73 percent, Carter 59.4, Hutchison 47.1 and Porter, the team's highest-paid player, has appeared in just 38.8 percent of possible games since arriving in a trade from Washington in 2019.
These numbers tried to ignore games missed when a player was healthy, but didn't play because of coach's decision.
Markkanen was asked if he's concerned about being labeled injury-prone. He played in 68 games as a rookie, suffered an elbow injury in training camp his second year and missed time with a stress fracture last season.
"I don't worry about that," he said. "I think people obviously talk about it. But if you really watch the game, they're all weird actions. Denzel (Valentine's) knee hits Wendell's quad and that happens. My shoulder, I bump into someone. You can't really control that. That's part of the game unfortunately."
After many years of watching NBA games from the front row (until this season), I can say this: It's amazing there isn't a serious injury in every game. There are brutal collisions, hard falls and rough landings in most every possession of an NBA game.
Normal-sized guys like Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich show remarkable courage by driving into the lane, knowing some 7-footer might deliver a hard foul just to send a message.
It's a rough game. And the Bulls have been consistently losing.
"Certainly with Wendell and Lauri, I totally get the line of questioning because they have been prone to be out for periods of time," coach Billy Donovan said. "I respect the guys that have been able to go through that for a long, long period of time (and) they've been extremely durable. And then there's other guys that have had these kinds of injuries.
"I feel bad for them, and I hope certainly that's not the case for their careers. I can tell you it kills those guys that they can't be out there playing."