Bulls

Bulls will experiment with lineups in preseason; Gasol, Mirotic keys

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Bulls will experiment with lineups in preseason; Gasol, Mirotic keys

Despite the Bulls being a relatively stable team in terms of personnel, when they step on the floor for the preseason some unique player combinations will be used.

After all, preseason is the time for experimentation and Fred Hoiberg has to work this Rubik’s Cube to make the product more diverse and less predictable than previous seasons.

“I try to split up the groups pretty even. We mix and match,” Hoiberg said. “We had three separate scrimmages where we put a lot of combinations of guys together.”

Hoiberg revealed Pau Gasol only played the first few minutes in a couple scrimmages before completely sitting out the third, likely part of the “Saving Gasol’s Gas” plan considering his age and the fact he played for the Spanish National Team over the summer.

[MORE: Jimmy Butler setting tone in camp with his play and his mouth]

Gasol and fellow Spaniard Nikola Mirotic will be key pieces in the diversity of the Bulls offense this season, as the Bulls will employ the popular “four-out, one-in” offensive set many teams use to maximize floor spacing for drivers and open 3-pointers for shooters.

“We’ll run some four out and one in,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll run some four out and one in with two bigs on the floor, especially with Pau out there. He has proven he can make shots and he can also make plays. If you swing it to him and he doesn’t shoot it, you can get into a second side action.”

Mirotic, in theory and form, is a good 3-point shooter but the numbers say he’s a 31.6 percent shooter. Teams won’t be so quick to run out and defend a shooter with those numbers, no matter his skill set.

Apparently it’s been a point of emphasis in camp, as the Bulls hope to improve on their 35 percent efficiency last season, but they were middle in the pack in terms of attempts.

[RELATED: Joakim Noah wants another shot at pairing with Pau Gasol]

“His three-pointers are much more consistent this year,” said Bulls forward Taj Gibson, who’s had to guard Mirotic on occasion in camp. “He's been doing a lot better as far as taking the pressure, knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot. We've been trying to get him to shoot a lot more, and he's been playing well.”

Hoiberg said Mirotic is more comfortable at the power forward than small forward, so he doesn’t appear to be a prime candidate to take Mike Dunleavy’s place in the first five.

But nothing is decided yet for the long-term, hence Hoiberg’s desire to see different starting lineups all through the preseason.

He hasn’t ruled out starting Gasol and Joakim Noah together, and is noncommittal on just about anything so early in camp.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It was good to see different combinations, to start that process,” Hoiberg said. “As for who’ll be our starter for opening night, I don’t think we’ll probably start the same lineups for all the preseason games. We’ll see. We still have a few days before that first preseason game on Tuesday.”

And they have a long way before the regular season begins against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so all of this is in the embryonic stage.

“(Today’s a) very good teaching segment,” Hoiberg said. “Never been part of any staff, roster, player, coach where we walk out after our first scrimmage and say ‘all right guys, we got it all figured out’. We got a lot of things to work on and a lot of things to get cleaned up and work on.”

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

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USA TODAY

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, the Bulls Outsiders team of Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine join Kevin Anderson to talk about the series premier of ‘Bulls Outsiders’ Thursday night. Hear about how the show came together and what they are hoping to bring to the Bulls fanbase this season. They’ll also share their bold predictions for the season including two potential end-of-season award winners from this roster.

0:15- Introduction to the Bulls Outsiders

3:15- The process of casting the show

9:45- John Sabine's Improv background and comedy's connection to basketball

11:20- What the Outsiders hope to accomplish with the show

13:00- What's great about Bulls fans

14:20- Who is their favorite Bull of all time, outside of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

26:20- Bold on the court predcitions for the season

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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