After an eight month hiatus, it’s time for the return of Chicago Bulls basketball!
Tonight will be the first official game in the Arturas Karnisovas era, and also the first for Billy Donovan as the new head coach of the Bulls.
While there are new people in charge of making basketball decisions, the roster has mostly stayed the same. The same core group is still here in Zach LaVine, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., and Lauri Markkanen. The additions, first-round pick Patrick Williams and veteran Garrett Temple are on the back-end of the rotation.
Tonight is the first of four preseason games for Chicago as they look to warm up before the regular season tips off December 23rd against Atlanta. This will be the first game in the United Center since early March and it will obviously take place without the presence of fans.
Given it’s the preseason, and the first real game action many of these players have had in a long while, Donovan said we shouldn’t expect many a lot of heavy minutes from Chicago’s starters. He also noted that he would like to have his rotation go 9 or 10 players deep but doesn’t know for certain yet. Luckily he’ll have the preseason to figure it out.
Donovan also mentioned he didn’t have his starting five set in stone, which makes sense given he still wants to make tweaks to the rotation overall. This morning, he revealed his starting lineup for this particular game and it’s the five players everyone expected.
Bulls starting lineup vs. HOU, per Billy Donovan: White, LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) December 11, 2020
Donovan said he plans for a 9-man rotation in first half, will expand in second half
Despite Thad Young being listed as the starting small forward via the Bulls game notes, Otto Porter Jr. will be the starter at the three tonight. Coby White was expected to grab the lead point guard role at the start of this season given he was named the starter right before the 2019-20 campaign was shutdown. LaVine, Markkanen, and Carter Jr. were all penciled in starters.
On the injury report, the Bulls will be missing Temple as he still is isolating and recovering after a positive COVID-19 test. And news broke earlier in the week that Denzel Valentine came into camp injured with a left hamstring strain and won’t play these first two games. Two-way player Adam Mokoka is also listed on the official injury report with the reason saying “Not with Team”.
The opponent for the first two games, first Friday night and then again on Sunday night, iw the Houston Rockets. It’s been an offseason of change for them as well with a new coach (Stephen Silas) and general manager (Rafael Stone) coming into replace both Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey. They also recently moved Russell Westbrook to Washington in exchange for John Wall. Then there are the rumors of a potential James Harden trade which has picked up the last month.
Harden hasn’t returned to group workouts with the team as he just returned to Houston this week, so he won’t be active in this game and the next one as well. However Houston will have Wall and free agent signing Christian Wood active and everyone else looks ready to go.
Game Time: 7 PM CT
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: 670 The Score
Odds: The Rockets are listed as a 1 point favorite (via the Action Network).