Bulls

Sources: Bulls will either trade or waive point guard Rajon Rondo

Sources: Bulls will either trade or waive point guard Rajon Rondo

The Rajon Rondo era in Chicago is coming to an end. Multiple sources told CSN Insider Vincent Goodwill that the Bulls will either trade or release last year's starting point guard prior to the start of free agency on Friday night.

The Bulls currently hold a team option to use on Rondo that would pay him $13.4 million next season. Waiving Rondo would cost the team $3 million. Another team looking to free up cap space could conceivably trade for Rondo and then waive him, although it seems unlikely that happens before free agency starts at 11:01 p.m.

Rondo was a surprising addition last year to a Bulls team that was trying to get "younger and more athletic," as general manager Gar Forman told the media after trading Derrick Rose.

Rondo, 30, had just completed a 2015-16 campaign with the Kings in which he led the NBA in assists per game (11.7) and shot a career-best 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. But question marks surrounding his defense and chemistry issues with head coaches - he played for three teams in as many seasons before joining the Bulls - remained.

Rondo was benched in January after a particularly poor stretch in December, although injuries thrust him back into the starting lineup after a five-game DNP streak. He clashed with stars Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade through an Instagram post, questioning their leadership, in February. He ended the regular season on a tear, averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 assists in 21 games after the All-Star break. He shot 46 percent from deep, 47 percent from the field and had the Bulls playing some of their best basketball during that stretch.

That play continued into the playoffs when Rondo shocked the top-seeded Celtics, averaging 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists in a pair of wins in Boston. But Rondo suffered a broken thumb in practice and missed the rest of the series, with the Celtics ultimately winning in six games.

Gar Forman and John Paxson told the media at the end of the year they expected to bring Rondo back, but that was  before they decided on draft night to deal Jimmy Butler and begin the rebuilding process. That traded netted them 23-year-old Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine, and the team already has Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant at the position.

What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

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USA Today

What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

In a matchup of two stumbling squads, the Bulls look to begin the process of righting the ship against the Pistons. The game tips off at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

In spite of it all, a winnable game

The Bulls enter this game with a bad, no-good, rotten 4-10 record. Lucky for them, their opponent is 4-9, and has lost five of their last six.

En route to their own disappointing start to the season, the Pistons have dealt with injuries to key players in Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose, devolved into one of the lowest rated defenses in the league and struggled mightily with turnovers. They’re actually a pretty good shooting team, but play at such a slow pace (99.96 possessions per 48 minutes, 25th in the NBA), that they haven’t been able to fully maximize that efficiency in the way many modern offenses do.

Oh, man. They’re kind of the anti-Bulls.

In that vein, the area in which Detroit struggles the most could play directly into the Bulls’ hands. Literally. The Pistons are currently tied for 27th in the league in turnovers (17.5) per game and 28th in opponent points off turnovers (28th) per game, while the Bulls rank first in both opponent turnovers (18.9) and points off turnovers (21.9) per game. 

In the first meeting of the season between the two teams — a six-point Bulls win on Nov. 1 — the turnover battle was largely even. But tonight, look for that and the Bulls’ ability to turn takeaways into fast break opportunities to be a factor.

Holding ground in the paint and on the wing

Sure, the Bulls have already beaten these Pistons. But much has changed for both teams since their first meeting — chiefly: Blake Griffin is back for Detroit, and both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are missing for Chicago. (Hutchison was inactive for their first matchup, too, but Porter started and notched 22 points and six rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from three.)

Andre Drummond beat the Bulls up on the glass en route to 24 rebounds and Detroit dominated the points-in-the-paint battle 66-40 on Nov. 1. And while not yet at full strength, the addition of Griffin to Detroit’s rotation should only exacerbate those disparities — especially considering the struggles the Bulls have had rebounding, protecting the rim and scoring around the basket. Losing the long, solid and athletic Hutchison just hours before the contest doesn’t help, either.

Boylen may choose to counter with another dose of Daniel Gafford, a strategy many Bulls fans — and players — would certainly endorse. Monday night, the Bulls both outrebounded and won the points-in-the-paint battle against the Bucks, a great rebounding and interior scoring squad. It’s hard to credit all of that to Gafford, but he remains an intriguing option in spurts in this matchup.

On the wing, it’s worth monitoring what buttons Boylen pushes with his rotations. He’ll likely have to call upon Denzel Valentine and/or Shaq Harrison to eat minutes out there (something he’s shied away from doing early in the season), and don’t be surprised to see three-guard lineups — a configuration Boylen has demonstrated an affinity for — galore.

Can Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen bounce back?

Of late, the cornerstones of the rebuild have looked anything but. In Monday’s game against Milwaukee, LaVine and Markkanen combined to shoot 6-for-28, and spearheaded a crunch-time unit that failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.

Their struggles go deeper than that one game, but a Detroit defense that has had issues defending on the perimeter presents an opportunity for each of them to bounce back. In the aforementioned Nov. 1 matchup, LaVine notched 26 points, five rebounds and three assists on 8-for-20 shooting. Markkanen tallied 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals (3-for-7 from three), but took only nine shots. Neither of those lines are stamping them tickets to All-Star weekend, but any hint of improvement would be a welcome development. 

Right now, the hope — especially for Markkanen — is that things can only go up from here.

Derrick Rose returns (again)

Last season, there were ‘MVP’ chants. This year, a standing ovation. What will another Derrick Rose return to the UC hold? No one can say for certain, but at the very least, a reunion with an old friend:

 

And, of course, there’s a game to be played, too. As mentioned, Rose has been in and out of the Pistons rotation early in the season with a nagging hamstring injury. When he’s played, he’s been excellent, averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists in 24.5 minutes per game with 54.1/37.5/89.7 (all career-bests) shooting splits. 

And he always shows out in Chicago. In three games as a visitor against the Bulls, Rose has averaged 20.7 points, 8.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and two steals per game on 25-for-48 (52.1%) shooting.

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Chandler Hutchison (sore shins) inactive against Pistons, with no timetable on return

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USA Today

Chandler Hutchison (sore shins) inactive against Pistons, with no timetable on return

If you thought the Bulls were strapped on the wing before, buckle up.

In the run-up to the Bulls' matchup with the Pistons, head coach Jim Boylen announced that Chandler Hutchison, who has started the last five games in place of an injured Otto Porter Jr., will not play against Detroit after experiencing soreness in his sins. 

"Hutch is out. He has very sore shins, and doesn't feel comfortable going," Boylen said after Wednesday's shootaround. "He came in yesterday and it flared up for him, and today it was very sore. We held him out of shootaround, he did a couple things and those things bothered him. So, I'm not gonna put anybody in jeopardy of hurting something else because something's hurt. I'm not doing that."

Boylen wasn't ready to commit to a decision on who will start in Hutchison's place, though he confirmed Shaq Harrison, Denzel Valentine and Ryan Arcidiacono will all be considered. He did rule out the possibility of sliding Thad Young into the starting lineup.

Meanwhile, Porter suffered a setback in his rehab after a return MRI revealed additional bone bruising in his left foot. He'll be re-evaluated by the team in two weeks.

As for a timetable on Hutchison's return? For the moment, it's unclear, but Boylen didn't speak of the injury as a minor setback.

"He's out tonight, and that's about as much as I can tell you," Boylen said. "It doesn't seem to be a quick fix, I don't want to give you a timetable there... We hope he's back as soon as possible."

Boylen also said they've considered calling up reinforcements from Hoffman Estates, but didn't offer anything concrete. 

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