Bulls

Bulls: Noah '50-50' to return Saturday as Hoiberg's lineup shuffling continues

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Bulls: Noah '50-50' to return Saturday as Hoiberg's lineup shuffling continues

Joakim Noah was going through extra shooting after the Bulls’ morning shootaround, and it seems to appear likely he’ll return next week from his shoulder strain that’s caused him to miss the last seven games.

Noah will miss Thursday night’s game against the Boston Celtics, but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is optimistic that when the schedule gets more strenuous over the next couple of weeks, he’ll have Noah ready.

“He’s out tonight and then Saturday, right now, he’s 50-50 at best I’d say,” said Hoiberg, referring to Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks. “Hopefully, we’ll get him for next week for sure, back for that four-in-five-nights stretch.”

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Starting next Monday, the Bulls have a four-game in five-night stretch and later, starting Jan. 20 with a home game against the Golden State Warriors, starts a three-game in four-night stretch that ends in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

And when Noah returns, it leaves Hoiberg with the same quandary he started the season with: finding minutes for rookie Bobby Portis. But in this instance, Portis won’t be going back to the bench, as he’s earned his increased playing time.

“Obviously, Bobby is still going to play. There’s no doubt about that,” Hoiberg said. “He’s too important for us right now to go back to the way it was. A big part of that is getting Niko (Mirotic) some experience at the small forward spot. He looks pretty good with that lineup. So we’ll stick with that starting group.”

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Hoiberg will go back to mixing and matching with the second group, as one wonders how much time will be available for the likes of Mirotic, who’s now starting, along with Tony Snell and Doug McDermott—each of whom have had his moments in this impressive five-game stretch.

But keeping the energetic Portis on the floor along with a defensive force and offensive initiator like Noah gives Hoiberg comfort, and plenty of options.

“Pretty good. Jo with his role as a playmaker with that second group, being our second leading assist player, you can run things through Jo,” Hoiberg said. “Bobby is versatile enough where he can score from the outside if Jo gets by his man, even dribble-handoff type actions.

“It’s just a little different dynamic when Jo is out there because he’s such a unique player because you can put the ball in his hands.”

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He’s had to fiddle with his rotation all season based on matchups, and hasn’t had to worry much about players griping—with the rotation, at least. Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore can have big roles in wins one night, and sit the next game with the understanding their time will come again.

“It’s just being ready. I talked to them. They understand,” Hoiberg said. “They’re ready to go when their name is called upon. I almost put Cam (Bairstow) in the game when I took Taj (Gibson) out early and Pau (Gasol) picked up his second. I’m confident if Cam is called upon, he’s going to go to do a good job for us. It’s the reality of the situation with our group. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play.”

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”