Bulls treating Mike Dunleavy return as a trade acquisition


Bulls treating Mike Dunleavy return as a trade acquisition

SANTA MONICA, CALIF -- It’s probably not the news radical Bulls fans want to hear, but the team is certainly treating the insertion of Mike Dunleavy from his lower back surgery and subsequent setback as if it’s a trade acquisition as opposed to an actual personnel move.

With Joakim Noah’s season-ending injury and Nikola Mirotic’s acute appendicitis putting him on the shelf until after the All-Star break, the Bulls have been stripped of their depth and limiting the resources they have to actively engage in serious talks.

“I don’t know if handcuff is the word or what it is. But there’s nothing out there right now as far as I know,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at the team’s practice at Santa Monica High School. “Hopefully we can build off a couple good road performances of late. Bobby (Portis) is going to be forced into a role obviously where he’s playing a lot of minutes now. And there are going to be times where we play smaller lineups. We’re comfortable with this group and anticipate this is the team we’ll have.”

Some of the moves other teams have approached the Bulls with has been with the thought of tearing the team down as opposed to remaining competitive in the interim, a thought the front office bristles at.

Whenever Dunleavy comes back, it’s likely the finished product for this season and the franchise will regroup come July as the salary cap rises and the trade market could open up.

“Unless something earth-shattering comes up, I don’t anticipate anything happening,” Hoiberg said. “I know those guys are working the phones, as are the other 29 teams in the league.”

As Hoiberg was talking, Dunleavy was going through his battery of shots after practice, calling himself “close” to returning. He’ll spend a couple days in Santa Cruz, California with the Bulls’ D-League affiliate to practice with them as the Bulls move onto Utah and Sacramento to start the next week.

The final hurdle, he said, is just about comfort level with his conditioning and rhythm.

“I’m getting there. I feel good. I’m getting real close,” Dunleavy said. “I’m going to spend some time down there next week with the D League team, some practices. Try to get a little more rhythm and repetition because obviously our team is playing too many games. Gotta get that done and then see where we’re at.”

After previously stating he would return to play “sometime in February”, he wouldn’t hold himself to that, leaving open the possibility of coming back this trip, which will have six more games on it in the next 10 days, starting Sunday.

“Anything’s possible. The big thing for me is getting through these two practices down there  with those guys and see where I’m at and how I feel and go from there,” Dunleavy said. “Yeah, there won’t be any of that (waiting). If I’m not ready, I’m not ready. But if I’m ready, it’s not like, ‘Let’s take an extra week.’ I’ve been out long enough. It’s time to roll.”

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Hoiberg hasn’t stated how he’ll insert Dunleavy into play, but one has to believe starting E’Twaun Moore on Thursday was done, in part, to get Tony Snell and Doug McDermott acclimated to being back to lesser roles.

Picking up the nuances of the offense and Hoiberg’s system hasn’t been too difficult, as having an able bodied veteran as opposed to the underwhelming performances from Snell and McDermott, could provide some kind of boost.

“Yeah, he picks things up very quickly,” Hoiberg said. “He’s been watching every day on the sidelines. We’ve had him running plays with the second group after practice for the last week and a half. So I anticipate Mike picking things up very quickly.”

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.