Bulls

Mike Dunleavy's setback also a setback for Bulls

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Mike Dunleavy's setback also a setback for Bulls

Nobody’s confusing Mike Dunleavy with being the savior for this Bulls’ team, but the news about the setback with his back injury is clearly a huge blow.

Dunleavy went to see specialists on the west coast this week after suffering a setback at a time when it appeared like he would be rounding closer to game action after he underwent lower back surgery right before training camp.

He’ll have to undergo four to six weeks of rehab before being re-evaluated again to see if he can go back to on-court action, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports.

“We're just going to put him back on the rehab schedule,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We don't have a time frame yet at this point. He's just got to continue to get better, make progress every day and hopefully we'll get him back out there on the floor.”

Another six weeks leads well into the new calendar year, which brings more doubt into whether Dunleavy will actually play this season. He’s advancing in age and back injuries are nothing to trifle with.

Dunleavy, 35, has been a consistent performer in his two years in Chicago, adding an element of toughness and savvy in addition to his actual production. Tony Snell and Doug McDermott have shown flashes in his absence but the consistency from a night-to-night basis hasn’t been there.

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Snell and McDermott have each shot 24 of 52 from 3-point range, ranking seventh in the NBA in terms of accuracy.

“Well, he is a valuable piece. He's a veteran influence for our guys,” Hoiberg said. “I'm really pleased with what Tony and Doug have done in Mike's absence up to this point. E'Twaun (Moore) has also filled in. We've had some different lineups just based on the different injuries we've had. Kirk (Hinrich) has obviously given us great minutes when he's been out there.

“So the guys have obviously filled in very well, and filled the role that Mike would give our team. So, again, we'll take a cautious approach with Mike and I'm confident the guys filling in will continue to play well.”

Hoiberg isn’t exactly sure what happened to cause Dunleavy’s setback, and it came as a bit of a surprise considering he traveled with the team on its west coast swing right before thanksgiving, a trek that required him to sleep in foreign hotel rooms and beds, a tricky prospect considering it’s his lower back.

Hoiberg said he doesn’t think it’ll change anything with the organization’s plans not to make any personnel moves to absorb his absence.

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There was no update for Nikola Mirotic, who suffered a concussion early in Wednesday’s game against Denver and didn’t return. His status for Saturday’s game against Charlotte is still in the air and will be determined by the medical staff.

“We held him out today, per the concussion protocol,” Hoiberg said. “He's got to go through some tests. He feels better, feels a lot better than he did yesterday so he'll continue to go through tests throughout the day. It'll be a decision they make on Niko's status tomorrow.”

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Joakim Noah stepped up in Mirotic’s absence, but Hoiberg didn’t indicate whether Noah would automatically become a starter or even if rookie Bobby Portis will get some valuable playing time.

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

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USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."