The Bulls returned home from a two-game road trip and practiced on Friday after a day off before hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Here are my thoughts from practice...
1. What’s the Temperature?
There may have been snow falling on the Advocate Health Center Thursday, but the “black clouds” appear to be in the distance, for now. Despite the Bulls' 3-9 record and what will likely be another month before the Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Kris Dunn reinforcements hit the floor, the “next men up” seem to be engaged and still buying in to the growing process.
When asked about frustrations or the wear of being short-handed for so long, coach Fred Hoiberg said: “It’s my job to keep the morale up right now and I have been pleased with the effort. Our guys are going out there and playing extremely hard. And, as short-handed as we are, to still be in games as much as we have been, is a credit to our guys that they aren’t getting down.”
That being said, the next two games will be a big indication of where this team is as they welcome the LeBron-less Cavs (1-10) and the 3-win Mavericks to town. Basically, must win games for Lavine & Co. before hitting the road to face the East’s three strongest squads.
2. Six Weeks & Counting:
Suited up in practice gear, Lauri Markkanen emerged from the training room and headed over to the far basket where he proceeded to work on his range of motion from about 8-10 feet out, with his RIGHT hand. That’s in all caps because until this morning, #24 was playfully tossing up shots with his left hand whenever we saw him on the court.
Although small, still a positive sign of progress for Markkanen who is now six weeks in, to the 6-8 week recovery time frame. Strongly suggesting the backend of that window being much more realistic at this point.
Zach Lavine admitted “he’s been working his butt off,” and is looking forward to picking up where they left off in training camp. “Lauri is such a good shooter. He almost makes the defender drop off and go into a help position. That helps spacing-wise. If they drop off too much, you can pass to him. I’m excited to get him back out there. That’s a good player, man.”
But, before getting ahead of yourselves Bulls fans, let Fred remind you “we’re still so far away from that happening, we’re focusing on the present.”
T- minus two weeks, maybe? We’ll see…
3. Starting Lineup Shakeup?
As mentioned on twitter by KC Johnson: “This isn’t confirmed by Fred Hoiberg but Ryan Arcidiacono is taking reps with starters as Bulls practice begins.”
This on the heels of Arcidiacono playing 33 minutes against New Orleans versus Cam Payne’s 14. Maybe more telling, Arcidiacono played the entire fourth quarter and provided stability through the Bulls push to pull within six. He continues to be an outside threat, hitting 3-of-4 from behind the arc in an 11-point effort against the Pelicans.
Arcidiacono did mention to me in an interview on NBC Sports that it’s getting harder to control the hair the more minutes he plays…..can we get this guy a hair/product endorsement yet, or what?
Speaking of hair, Collin Sexton has an impressive coiffure as well…..which will be the assignment for Hoiberg’s starting point guard as Sexton took over for George Hill, who remains sidelined with a sprained right shoulder. We’ll follow up with Hoiberg before shoot-around Saturday regarding his starting lineup, but it looks like Kendall Gill may get his wish, as the Cam Payne experiment could be coming to an end.