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 announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.