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Bulls vs. Rockets game preview and open thread: Vucevic is back

Vuc returns tonight after a 7-game absence

Dallas Mavericks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bulls still only received one day of rest after their latest back-to-back saw a dud performance against the Pacers. But at least critical players are looking to re-join the team.

Nikola Vucevic is expected to return tonight, announced today at shootaround. He hasn’t played since November 10th versus Dallas after contracting COVID and being placed in protocols.

(was Joe Cowley the only one to report this because he’s the only beat writer who knows everyone hates him and wants him away for the holiday?).

Vuc hasn’t been good when he played so far this year, but his mere presence still means a lot on both ends of the court. The Bulls were able to adjust by playing smaller, but it’ll be nice to be in a situation where they don’t have to.

It’s also looking like Alex Caruso is off the injury report as well, so maybe the Vuc-and-four-big-guards lineup will be what Billy Donovan goes with tonight.

They can afford to experiment, because they face a Rockets team on a 15 game losing streak and have only won a single game all year. Granted, Houston was designed to be bad in year 2 post-Harden, but maybe not this bad? They perhaps they are surprised internally as there whispers of a coaching problem.

That coach, Stephen Silas, is of course pointing out they have young players, including 2nd overall pick Jalen Green, a fellow 19 year old in Alperen Sengun, and a 21 year old in Kevin Porter. There are a couple decent veterans in there too (old friends Daniel Theis and D.J. Augustin, and Eric Gordon). Christian Wood hasn’t followed through on his breakout campaign last season though, his PER has dropped from 20 to 14.5 in his age-26 season.

So, while a team can’t lose every game forever, there are few excuses for the Bulls not to put this Rockets team away quickly and fiercely.

Injury Report

The aforementioned Kevin Porter is questionable tonight for the Rockets, which perhaps is bad news for the Bulls if it means a more veteran player that’s immediately capable takes his spot.

Bulls injury report is clean outside of Patrick Williams

Game Time: 7pm Central, NBC Sports Chicago