Aussies in NBA: Bairstow missing opportunities with injury-ravaged Bulls

Cameron Bairstow has not played since March 2nd.

Reports from ESPN Chicago continue to characterise the nagging injury as 'lower back stiffness', and it appears he still has no timetable for a return to the Bulls lineup. Unfortunately for Bairstow, this injury could not have come at a worse time for him or the Bulls.

Whilst Bairstow has been out, big time Bulls players including Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have all missed time due to injuries of their own.

The Bulls have managed to keep themselves afloat, but their playoff window is fast closing. They just dropped back-to-back games against the lowly Knicks, and are looking less and less like a team many thought could challenge the Cavaliers in the East at the start of the season.

Bairstow has not been travelling with the team, who have gone 6 and 5 since the Australian big man's last game. In his last appearance against the Magic, Bairstow impressed with 8 points in a 5 minute run on 4 of 5 shooting.

Cristiano Felicio --the only Chicago big man who has averaged less minutes than Bairstow-- has benefited from the Bulls' run of poor health. Felicio has seen the floor more this month than any other time this season, even starting at center in the return game in New York and playing 21 minutes. Minutes that would likely have belonged to Bairstow.

The Bulls are set to face the Magic once again on March 26 in Orlando. Every game is now a must win for the 36-35 Bulls, and their final 11 games include facing the Hawks, Pacers, Pistons, Heat and Cavaliers.

Gasol is expected to return next game. Gibson is back and healthy, whilst Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic have been playing consistent minutes. Even if Bairstow can get healthy, the Bulls aren't likely to take a chance on playing him - not while they still have a sniff at the playoffs.

Bairstow, like all Australians currently playing in the NBA, is going to be a key factor in the Boomers' medal hopes in Rio. His jump shooting alone will do wonders helping the Boomers spread the floor in the international game.

Let's just hope that regardless of his fortunes in the pros, Bear is ready to go when it really counts - in Brazil this August.