Bulls

Celtics shake up starting lineup, going small with Gerald Green vs. Bulls

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USA TODAY

Celtics shake up starting lineup, going small with Gerald Green vs. Bulls

The Bulls were forced to change their starting lineup when point guard Rajon Rondo was revealed to have fractured his right thumb in Game 2.

The Celtics are also changing their lineup heading in Game 3, but head coach Brad Stevens is doing it on his own.

The Celtics will go small Friday night at the United Center, replacing power forward Amir Johnson with guard Gerald Green. Small forward Jae Crowder will shift to power forward as the Celtics attempt to add length, athleticism and speed to a starting lineup that has been soundly outplayed through two games.

"We want to be able to spread them on offense and shoot the ball. And then we want to, on defense, is we’re gonna not play two bigs, we’ve got to be long and athletic on the perimeter and we’ve got to help each other rebound," Stevens said.

The Celtics have been badly beaten on the glass in the first two games of the series, allowing the eighth-seeded Bulls an unlikely 2-0 lead. Green played sparingly in the first two games of the series, logging just 6 minutes in Game 1 before a DNP-CD in Game 2.

Green has only played 16 minutes with the rest of the Boston starters this season (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Crowder and Al Horford), and before the game he spoke to the media about how he won't try to do too much in his new role.

"Honestly I feel like I play really good with (Thomas). Feel like I’ve always played really good with him. I’m not going to try to do anything out of my character," he said. "Just gonna go out there and focus on rebounding, defense, and just try to be the most athletic player on the court. Try to make plays on both ends of the floor."

Johnson has been ineffective in slowing down the crashing Bulls, who have 31 offensive rebounds through two games in the series. Johnson has tallied a combined nine points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.

Jerian Grant will start in place of Rondo. But it's the Celtics who blinked first in this first-round staring contest.

As Bulls prepare for workouts, new management regime headed to Chicago

As Bulls prepare for workouts, new management regime headed to Chicago

For two men who refer to themselves as gym rats, this has been an odd time for Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley.

Hired as the respective executive vice president and general manager to lead the Bulls out of their rebuild and into a more modern NBA, they haven’t even been able to travel to Chicago because of the global pandemic.

That’s about to change.

Karnisovas and Eversley, who have been working remotely daily and diving deep into evaluation of all things Bulls, are scheduled to travel to Chicago in the near future, according to a team spokesperson. Their arrival coincides with a phased re-opening of the Advocate Center, which the Bulls have advanced in conjunction with state and local government officials and infectious disease specialists at Rush University Medical Center.

In compliance with NBA guidelines, the Bulls opened the Advocate Center for players seeking treatment and medical issues. Lauri Markkanen, who recently from a pelvis ailment four games before the league's hiatus, and Kris Dunn, who sprained his MCL Feb. 1, have utilized the facility for treatment purposes.

Voluntary, socially distanced workouts with coaches are scheduled to begin Wednesday, which is when Mayor Lightfoot has said Chicago will enter “Phase 3” of a five-stage plan to re-open the city.

Gov. Pritzker moved the state of Illinois to “Phase 3” on Friday. The Bulls have been in talks with officials at both the state and local levels to follow safety guidelines.

“We are supportive of the Mayor’s decision and are aligning our plans with the directive of her office,” a team spokesperson said.

Few players are currently in the Chicago area. With the league set to have a conference call with team owners on Friday to continue discussing return-to-play plans, the Bulls could have clarity next week on whether they’ll be invited to the league’s restart in Orlando.

Either way, those players who want to will be able to work out with coaches at the Advocate Center starting Wednesday. The Advocate Center remains closed to non-essential staff and media until further notice.

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Why the Bulls are better off not being invited to the NBA bubble

Why the Bulls are better off not being invited to the NBA bubble

Coby White could deliver some mojo again. Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen could continue their progress after returning from injuries. Zach LaVine, well, could be Zach LaVine.

There would certainly be basketball-related benefits if the Bulls wind up one of the teams invited to conclude the NBA’s 2019-20 season in Orlando, Fla.

Having the new management regime watch players in live action and avoiding a nine-month layoff between games should the league begin the 2020-21 season on Christmas Day (as the current scuttlebutt says), represent a few.

But all those positives pale to one significant potential drawback, safety concerns (of which there are many) aside: jeopardizing the Bulls’ draft lottery position.

With the league set for another Board of Governors call on Friday as it nears proposing a suggested return-to-play policy, finalizing the format for the draft lottery is one of many fluid situations. Nothing is yet guaranteed other than — bad joke alert — the Bulls drafting seventh.

Indeed, when COVID-19 shut down the sports world in mid-March, the Bulls ranked seventh in the draft lottery standings. That translates to a 32 percent chance at a top-four pick and a 7.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick. 

And while that doesn’t translate to a 100 percent chance at the seventh pick… Man. That the Bulls currently sit No. 7 — where they have drafted White, Wendell Carter Jr. and acquired the rights to Markkanen over the last three drafts — feels twistedly poetic.

Simply put, weak draft or not, a higher pick is more beneficial to the new front office regime than some fluky playoff run. Sorry, Jim Boylen.

Think about it: Say the league invites the top 24 teams to Orlando and the Bulls, currently 12th in the Eastern Conference, make the trip. The best case scenario? The Bulls get hot, build up a bit of good will and, who knows, maybe even advance a round. But their long-term fates don’t change. And if the NBA eventually models a revised lottery formula for this season in a manner similar to the NHL — which awards lottery odds to teams excluded from their play-in round, and teams that are eliminated in the play-in round, regardless of regular season standing — it could hurt their chances at a higher pick significantly, if not erase them entirely.

To be clear, there is currently no indication of the NBA molding its own lottery formula after the NHL’s. In fact, there is nothing concrete on that front to report at all. 

Still, for a team mired in a rebuild that needs to maximize its assets, the above would not be a good development.

And all of that’s without mentioning the flipside of a potential trip to Disney World for the Bulls. What if more than a month of potentially high-risk travel and training to retake the floor results in a quick flameout — or merely a handful of meaningless regular season games? Any evaluation that could be conducted over that period, which would be colored by the unprecedented circumstances at hand, simply isn’t worth the cost.

So be careful what you wish for, Bulls fans. Yes, everybody is starved for basketball. And, yes, the Bulls were supposed to be done tanking a while ago.

But this is one time when not getting invited to the party could be a good thing.

RELATED: Where the Bulls stand in each of the NBA’s reported resumption plans 

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