Bulls: Pau Gasol (knee) likely to return next week


Bulls: Pau Gasol (knee) likely to return next week

Drenched in sweat, Pau Gasol sauntered over to the light media contingent with a smile having just finished his first shooting workout after injuring his knee a couple weeks ago.

“Moving better, feeling better,” Gasol said.

In a season full of injuries for the Bulls, Gasol’s right knee acting up proved virtually no one is exempt from the bug that has ravaged the Bulls like a slow-moving flu. Try as he might, Gasol fought it off as long as he could before the knee swelled heavily enough that he could no longer give it a go.

“I was feeling some discomfort, soreness, pain to a certain degree,” Gasol said. “Trying to play through it, manage it for awhile actually. But after the Miami game the knee gave out and had that reaction.

“The alarms went off and we tried to find out what’s going on and we did, now we’re managing it. Hopefully it won’t get worse and we won’t have an episode like we did after the Miami game.”

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Barring any episode, Gasol could return as early as Monday depending on how he does Sunday and after Monday’s shootaround before the Bulls go for three straight wins against the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg seemed cautiously optimistic about the possibility, although it appears Wednesday against the New York Knicks looks to be the more prudent assumption.

“He’s doing better, it’s his first day on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “Maybe (Monday). I don’t want to rule anything out at this point. He’s going to have a couple good days if we wanted him to play Monday.”

It almost seemed the Bulls had become too reliant on Gasol offensively, especially without Joakim Noah out for the season and Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose having absences due to injury.

The near triple-doubles began piling up as Gasol was used more and more as a hub, which could’ve taken its toll. At age 35, the Bulls have watched Gasol’s minutes as much as possible, given the attrition.

“Couldn’t bend my knee to a certain degree. Then it pinched,” Gasol said. “That was a big part of it. Now the pounding of play with the fluid and the games and the schedule and the minutes, I don’t know. A little bit of everything I guess.”

Assuming he makes it back without a setback, it gives the Bulls yet another chance to establish some consistency.

[MORE: Bulls' consistency, Derrick Rose leads to win over surging Jazz]

“We’re all healthier and in a better situation,” Gasol said. “You might think about resting for a game or two at times but we don’t have that luxury with the situation we’re in, so we have to push it and to the limit.”

Other injury updates

The Bulls will be without E’Twaun Moore for at least the next week, Hoiberg announced at Saturday’s shootaround. Moore strained his left hamstring early in Thursday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, resulting in him having an MRI.

Whether he gets back fully in seven days remains to be seen but he won’t be able to do anything for at least four games. Moore has averaged in double figures since the All-Star break, scoring 11.1 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 49 percent from 3 in 15 games (12 starts).

“We’ll evaluate him from there,” Hoiberg said. “It’s something he’ll have to stay off of for awhile, try to keep it loose and stretched out. Get it back in a week and see.”

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games


Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East


Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.