The big story surrounding the Bulls right now is the benching of Rajon Rondo, and it appears the point guard is going to remain out of the rotation as Chicago tries to end a two-game losing streak when the Hornets visit the United Center on Monday night.
Michael Carter-Williams will again get the start with Jerian Grant coming off the bench, continuing an alignment we’ve seen the last game-and-a-half. The results of those games show the Bulls have much larger problems than only Rondo, but as I mentioned last night I’m fine giving the younger guys the minutes. Although perhaps Grant should get a look with the starters?
(UPDATE: Dwyane Wade has swelling in his knee and is out. Doug gets the start. Welp.)
Anyway, there were some more interesting quotes to come out of Bulls shootaround today. Fred Hoiberg again lauded Rondo’s professionalism, but he also admitted that he hasn’t had a conversation with the point guard about coming off the bench. Hoiberg allowed that he “potentially” would be comfortable having Rondo come off the bench, but if that’s something that hasn’t even been discussed yet, that leads me to believe there’s no real intention of it happening.
Taj Gibson also spoke about the benching:
Taj Gibson on Rajon Rondo benching: "I asked. I haven't gotten any word yet, so I'm still waiting."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 2, 2017
So that’s fun.
In addition, Gibson claimed the Bulls are still optimistic about where they are, which may be a lie but what else is he going to say? And even with the Bulls being awful over the last month or so, they remain only a half-game behind the eighth-seeded Pacers (and ninth-seeded Knicks) and three games behind the fourth-seeded Hornets.
Charlotte is a good but not great team that’s struggled against the best teams in the East (0-6 against the Cavaliers/Raptors/Celtics). The Hornets’ offense, led by a career year from Kemba Walker, isn’t anything special (14th), but they’re sixth in defensive efficiency and second in defensive rebound percentage, per NBA.com.
That stellar rebounding should come in handy against a Bulls team that misses a lot of shots and grabs a lot of their own misses, although key frontcourt contributor Cody Zeller has just been placed in the concussion protocol.
In the first meeting between the Bulls and Hornets in Charlotte, Chicago started strong only to taper off and lose by 12. The Bulls shot under 40 percent but did grab 17 offensive rebounds, with Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic combining for nine of those. Jimmy Butler had 26/4/4 in 39 minutes, while Nicolas Batum recorded his first triple-double of the season with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
This game is the first of three against top East opponents for the Bulls this week, with the Cavaliers coming up on Wednesday and then the Raptors this weekend. The Bulls seem to be on the verge of a collapse, but because they’re the Bulls they’ll probably go 2-1 this week to continue the trip down Mediocrity Lane.