The ups and downs of 2022 for the Chicago Bulls, including a return to the NBA playoffs and Lonzo Ball’s lingering injury – The Denver Post

With one season ending and another beginning, 2022 has been a year of ups and downs for the Chicago Bulls.

Despite a few key injuries, a first-round playoff exit and a slow start to the season, the year also offered plenty of reason to celebrate.

Here are five highlights – and lowlights – of the calendar year.

High: The Bulls returned to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

The Bulls have achieved their main goal after hiring coach Billy Donovan in 2020 and revamping their roster around Zach LaVine: reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2017. A 46-36 finish for the 2021-22 season has earned the Bulls the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Being knocked out in five games by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round ended the season on a somewhat sour note — especially after LaVine was sidelined with COVID-19 for the series finale — but the importance of this step should not go unnoticed. The Bulls set a goal and achieved it in two years.

Low: Lonzo Ball’s injury has caused confusion and concern throughout the organization.

Misfortune only struck two weeks into the new year when Ball suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee on January 14. The point guard’s injury ultimately defined 2022 for the Bulls.

At the time, the Bulls expected Ball to return in six to eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery. Instead, a confusing 11 and a half months of stagnant recovery followed as Ball continued to experience pain and discomfort despite undergoing a second surgery on September 28.

Ball’s absence caused an immediate drop in the Bulls’ performance at both ends of the field, as they could not replicate his dynamic play and smart defense. And his return remains a mystery.

Donovan said Friday that Ball had started jogging and light jumping while filming for the past few weeks. But Ball hasn’t played basketball since last January, and the likelihood of a return this season is diminishing as the anniversary of his injury approaches.

High: DeMar DeRozan cemented the best season of his career.

It was 2021 when the Bulls signed forward DeMar DeRozan to a three-year, $81.9 million deal, but 2022 was the year he proved he was worth it – and more again.

DeRozan averaged a career-high 27.9 points in his first season in Chicago, earning his fifth All-Star selection and his first since 2018. He broke an NBA record set by Wilt Chamberlain with eight consecutive games of at least 35 points and 50% shooting. .

On the field, DeRozan delivered everything the Bulls could ask of him, carrying the offense while LaVine struggled with finger and knee injuries. DeRozan’s presence in the locker room has also provided valuable mentorship to young players such as Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu.

Bottom: The Bulls ended 2022 with a losing record.

The Bulls left the 2021-22 season with a plan of what worked — and what didn’t. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas and Donovan identified key areas for improvement: 3-point shooting and rim protection.

But the Bulls did little to address either issue in the offseason, adding only veteran reserves Goran Dragić and Andre Drummond without significantly altering the base rotation. The ball did not improve and the Bulls entered the season uncertain at point guard, alternating between Dosunmu and Alex Caruso.

It is therefore not surprising that the weaknesses of last season have reappeared with more severity.

The Bulls finished 2022 tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 16-20 record. Although they are only 3½ games from sixth in the East – where they finished last season – their start to the 2022-23 season represents a setback.

High: Ayo Dosunmu became a breakout sensation in his hometown team.

Chicago native and Illinois alum Ayo Dosunmu was applauded every time he stepped onto the court as a rotational player at the start of last season. But 2022 has seen Dosunmu grow from a brave rookie to an important member of the main rotation, stepping in as a starting point guard following Ball’s season-ending injury.

Dosunmu averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 assists as a rookie and was named to the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. He continues to build on that early success, retaining a spot in the starting lineup this season and winning his first NBA game two weeks ago against the Miami Heat.

The Bulls have always been excited about Dosunmu’s potential as a second-round draft pick. After a meteoric start to his career in Chicago, expectations will continue to rise.


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