Robin Lopez

The Bulls are switching course after getting chided by NBA


The Bulls are switching course after getting chided by NBA

Mum’s the word at Bulls shootaround Wednesday, aside from the revelation Justin Holiday will start against the Memphis Grizzlies while Robin Lopez will be inactive before the plan shifts for weekend road games in Detroit and Atlanta.

A good talking-to from the NBA league office put this plan in motion for the Bulls to modify their route of sitting Holiday and Lopez to evaluate their younger players for the rest of the season.

Whether it was the NBA trying to prevent the appearance of tanking or other teams complaining about the Bulls — believing the aim is to improve lottery positioning — the Bulls are switching course.

“I just know they said, 'Justin you're playing today,' and that's what I'm here to do. Just stay ready and do what I'm supposed to do,” Holiday said. “I know we're still trying to play the young guys, I understand that. I'm pretty sure I'm not playing 35 minutes.”

The rest guidelines were put in place with the intention to stop marquee teams from resting star players on nationally televised games, stipulating teams could only rest one healthy starter for a home game but not on the road.

As an unintended consequence, it’s affected the Bulls and it seems like they’ll proceed with playing Holiday and Lopez on the road but rest one for home games the rest of the season.

“We have a plan in place for minutes and rotations,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We plan on having both those guys start on the road trip. And then we’ll take it day by day.”

It becomes tricky because the guidelines don’t mandate how many minutes players should play and what consequences, if any, will be levied by the NBA. After all, they weren’t issued any official warning despite the initial report.

Holiday will start both halves, but Hoiberg wouldn’t elaborate on anything more. Holiday has been a vocal leader when things could’ve gone haywire early in the season and couldn’t help but laugh when bombarded with questions about league procedures affecting him being bounced around the lineup.

“The one thing I've learned about the NBA and things, you're not gonna understand everything,” Holiday said. “Just control what you can control. That goes from playing time to if you make a team or not to situations like that. It's all part of the business. I'm just here and what I'm paid for is to do my job.”

NBC Sports Chicago is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago


Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting Lopez and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

NBA trade talks shift into high gear

NBA trade talks shift into high gear

With just over two weeks to go until the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 8, a number of contending teams are looking to add that one piece that could give them a chance to get to the Finals.

Here in Chicago, we know John Paxson and Gar Forman have been burning up the phone lines for weeks, trying to find out if any team is willing to offer a first round draft pick for Niko Mirotic or Robin Lopez. Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine also could be available for the right price. After all, it’s Year 1 of the rebuild, and the Bulls are trying to put together a roster that can eventually challenge for a championship, not merely compete for a seventh or eighth seed next season.

Meanwhile, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Cavs are going through their annual mid-season slump, but this time their defensive issues might be beyond repair with the current roster. The Cavs have been rumored to be in pursuit of veteran help, including the Clippers’ duo of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams. Problem is, Cavs rookie GM Koby Altman doesn’t have a lot to offer in return beyond that unprotected first-round Brooklyn pick acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal last summer.

Will the Cavs deal a potential Top 3 pick to get LeBron James the help he needs to make an eighth straight trip to the Finals? We’ll all find out over the next two and a half weeks.