After a long and painful offseason, it’s time for some Chicago Bulls basketball. It may not be officially “tanking season” cause pre-season games don’t exactly matter in terms of wins and losses, but it’s basketball nonetheless. It’s going to be a season of pain, so let’s get started with back to back games.
The preseason opener will be in New Orleans against the Pelicans. They will be playing against some familiar faces in former 3-Alpha Rajon Rondo plus E’Twaun Moore. Of course the frontcourt is more famous: DeMarcus Cousins and Chicago native Anthony Davis. Both Cousins and Davis are exceptional, versatile big men who can beat defenses in any number of ways. We don’t exactly how much they will play (or if they will play at all) but seeing two dominant bigs on the same team is a rare sight in the league these days and will be interesting to watch (especially offensively) as the season progresses in year 2 of this experiment. Along with the duo, Jrue Holiday will look to start his season off strong and will test Chicago’s young guards. Dante Cunningham is expected to be the 5th starter even though he’s coming into this game listed as probable with a right hip flexor.
While the Pelicans do have their share of talent, they do also have a fair share of injured players as well. New Orleans released their injury report and had four players out, including two big men in Alex Ajinca and (another former Bull) Omer Asik. Those injuries sort of leaves a hole in the Pelicans frontcourt rotation for this game at least.
As for the Bulls, their biggest injury concern is Lauri Markkanen, who was ruled out of today and tomorrow’s game with back spasms. Although it doesn’t seem to be a serious issue, hopefully Markkanen can come back onto the court quickly. He was the big draft pick acquisition in the Jimmy Butler trade and will have to prove he can be a future building block for this team. Another injury will keep out former Pelican and now current Bull (in case you didn’t know) Quincy Pondexter, who hurt his left hamstring in practice over the weekend and is also out for the first two preseason games. So look for some guys like Antonio Blakeney or a guy like Jarrell Eddie to possibly get some minutes due to a lack of depth.
Fred Hoiberg announced the Bulls starting lineup this afternoon, and it’s a bit weird. The first surprise is Jerian Grant starting over Kris Dunn. Given Chicago’s defensive issues and how much they value Dunn, it would make sense to see him start. Instead, Hoiberg is going to alternate with Dunn starting tomorrow against Dallas. Bobby Portis starting over Nikola Mirotic is another obvious surprise, as there’s no word on Nikola Mirotic not being healthy.
It’s the first game of the year so there’s a bit of intrigue. What will be the point guard rotation? How will the minutes be split in the front court? Will any of the possible G-League guys get any time, and how will Fred Hoiberg’s pace and space system be integrated in this young team? So many questions to be answered and although we certainly won’t have a clear answer at the end of the first preseason game, it will be giving us Bulls basketball again.
Gametime: 7pm CST, NBC Sports Chicago (formerly CSN Chicago)