Game Time: 7PM CST
After a long All-Star break, Chicago Bulls basketball is back and it’s clear they have an objective in mind. It’s
player development and evaluation to try and get as high of a draft pick as they possibly can. Chicago is making sure they are taking the necessary measures to achieve this as they announced the benching of both Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez in favor of David Nwaba and Cristiano Felicio. They also announced that Jerian Grant is not going to be the backup point guard anymore and in his place they will play... **drum roll**.... Cameron Payne in his role moving forward.
To top it all off, Fred Hoiberg announced today that not only will Lopez be benched, he’s going to get a DNP-CD for this game. Even with the organization tanking, this is a tough pill to swallow for any Bulls fan and you have to feel sorry for Lopez. He’s a fan favorite and to go from being a starter to being benched then DNP’d all in quick succession is rough to see.
The changes to the lineup also means we could be in store for some very bad basketball. Like some really, really, bad basketball. If you thought the Bulls were bad before this, it might get a whole lot worse.
Tonight they’re facing a team who was in a similar timeline to them just a couple of years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers. After seeing the seeds of “The Process” sprout up, Philly is having a solid season with a record of 30-25 which is good enough for 7th in the East. They also headed into the All-Star break on a 4 game winning streak, beating Miami 104-102 in their most recent game. Behind the likes of Joel Embiid and ROY candidate Ben Simmons, Philly is looking like a team on the rise.
The last time these two teams met was in Philadelphia on January 24th. It was a pretty much one sided affair as Simmons racked up a triple double in 3 quarters as the Sixers stomped the Bulls 115-105. He was a matchup problem all night then, and expect him to give both Kris Dunn and Nwaba trouble. Meanwhile, Embiid will be up against Felicio...a matchup he can take advantage of.
In terms of injuries, both teams look to be at full strength outside of guys who’ve been out a while or getting healthy scratches like Lopez. This game will serve Chicago a chance to get an extended look at guys like Felicio, Payne, and Noah Vonleh in game action, plus this another game to see how Chicago’s trio of youngsters in Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen all play with each other.
As it stands right now, Chicago sits 3 games ahead of the 1st overall selection. However, that is only good enough for 8th right now so Chicago has some serious catching up to do. They are 2 games behind the Nets for the 7th spot, but we also have to be weary of the Knicks who are 2 games back of the Bulls and are tanking after the injury to Kristaps Porzingis.