Zach LaVine out? Bulls-Bucks was hopeless enough already

You know what’s fun? Watching sports teams that aren’t cracked, splintered, hollowed-out shells of what they might have been or were supposed to be.

Then again, how would we know?

Welcome to Chicago, where the baseball is inferior, the hockey is revolting and the basketball is 48 minutes from merciful oblivion.

In the time you’ve taken to read this far, the White Sox have committed three more errors and lost another key player to a ruptured something-or-other. The Cubs — hey, how about that 21-0 romp against the Pirates! — still haven’t won a series since the first one of the season. The Blackhawks are rumored to be not quite finished with their lost season, but it would take a deeply deranged, twisted individual to tune in and find out.

And then there are the Bulls, who have found more ways to suffer than any pretty good team should. Unofficial season motto: “There’s no business like woe business.” For one more night — a Game 5 in Milwaukee on Wednesday that they almost certainly can’t win — the no-show must go on.

We’ll never know how the Bulls would have fared against the mighty Bucks had they been at full strength, Lonzo Ball and all. We do know they didn’t come close to measuring up with all other hands on deck, as losses by 30 and 24 points in Games 3 and 4 at the United Center made abundantly clear. As it was, a team that played sub-.500 basketball since the All-Star break, got manhandled by all the true contenders and withstood more injuries than most was already staggering to the finish line.

But then came Tuesday’s news that All-Star Zach LaVine had been placed in the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, unable to travel to Milwaukee with the team and in doubt for Game 5. With fellow starting guard Alex Caruso in concussion protocol and unlikely to be available, a series the Bulls weren’t going to win anyway has devolved into kind of a meaningless exercise.

Even setting aside the possibility that free-agent-to-be LaVine’s Bulls career is over — what’s a couple hundred mil between friends, anyway? — the postseason has been one big bummer. LaVine not getting to go down with a fight in his first time in the playoffs is the rotten cherry atop the whole mess.

“It sucks,” Nikola Vucevic said.

And not only that.

“It’s frustrating and it sucks,” DeMar DeRozan said.

Billy Donovan, as steady as they come and rarely one to complain, sounded after Tuesday’s practice like a coach who has had just about enough.

“This has been going on for us all year long,” he said. “I mean, this is not anything that’s new to us. Whether it’s been Patrick Williams breaking his wrist, whether it’s been Coby [White] being out with a shoulder, then out with Covid, Zach being out with Covid, ‘Vooch’ being out with Covid, DeMar being out with Covid, Alex having a hamstring issue, a foot issue, I mean, it’s gone on the whole, entire year.”

There’s plenty he left out, too. And now he has to break out the JV squad in a win-or-go-home game against the NBA’s defending champions? It can’t be much fun. No offense, of course, to White, Ayo Dosunmu or anyone else.

Where are Adam Mokoka, Shaquille Harrison and Walt Lemon Jr. when you really need them, right?

Hey, here’s a fun fact: Bulls end-of-the-bencher Matt Thomas scored a career-high 25 points on his Senior Day at Iowa State. He also hit the final 28 free throws of his college career. So what if it was way back in 2017? This guy clearly has the clutch gene. Could it be that the answer to all the Bulls’ problems is right under Donovan’s nose?

No, it wasn’t a serious question. Get ready, though, for a heavy dose of Javonte Green. Did you know Green is the first Radford alum to make it to the NBA? You probably did considering it gets mentioned whenever the Bulls are on national television and Green is in the game. Come to think of it, does anyone know a single other thing about the man?

It doesn’t matter. This will all be over soon enough.

For this Bulls team — tired, gasping, its best work far behind it — there are no solutions. It’s not the end of the world, but it is too bad it’s ending like this.

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