With no Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, opportunity available for younger Bulls

With no Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, opportunity available for younger Bulls

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Absence often creates opportunity, which means there will be a lot of opportunity for a few Bulls Tuesday night with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade out against the Washington Wizards.

The Bulls’ two leading scorers will be out, with Butler still recovering from the flu and Wade on a scheduled rest.

“Coach said I’m out tomorrow,” Wade said at his locker following the Bulls’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night at the United Center.

With two more sets of back-to-backs this month, Wade and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg have agreed to a plan for his usage. Sitting Wade for the second night in this first set — while also having a game Thursday night in New York for a three-game, four-night set — seems to be the prudent approach for a man who turns 35 this month.

It just so happens to coincide with Butler being all but useless against the Thunder Monday, barely able to muster up much of an athletic effort while fighting off illness. Butler didn’t make the trip to the nation’s capital but the Bulls hope he’ll join the team in New York.

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“When you see guys fighting through stuff, you really appreciate it,” Wade said. “’Be smart’, that’s my message to him. We need him to be healthy. We need him to take care of himself.”

While the Bulls are without 43 percent of their scoring, it means Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Isaiah Canaan will see opportunity against a Wizards team that used strong second halves from John Wall and Bradley Beal to beat the Bulls by 10 in Chicago.

“I’ve been telling the young guys, just be ready,” Taj Gibson said. “Next man up. Just giving them as much encouragement as you can. Jimmy played his heart out, tried his best. But we have to be better.”

As for Rajon Rondo, Hoiberg didn’t dismiss the possibility of playing him but never really dismisses the possibility of playing him — but Rondo hasn’t played in the last six games, with the Bulls going 4-2 in that stretch.

The front office has a lot invested in some of the younger players, so it wouldn’t be surprising for them to get an extended look.

“That’s the first thing when young guys look at me,” Gibson said. “We have more than enough to win. We always thugged it out. If you go in with the right mindset, first you’ll learn from it and then confidence will come.”

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Bucks

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Bucks

Watch as the Bulls take on the Bucks tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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1. Rotations may change again. Thursday night saw Denzel Valentine (19 minutes) and Bobby Portis (23 minutes) enter the rotation, while Nikola Mirotic logged a DNP-CD. The results was an ugly, ugly loss. Will we see more rotation changes on Friday? Perhaps second-round pick Paul Zipser?

2. Slowing down Jabari/Giannis. The Bucks' two franchise players were electric on Thursday. Parker went for 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting and five rebounds, while Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds. In all they tallied 58 points on 46 shots, and made 5 of 9 triples. The Bulls need to find an answer quickly.

3. The back-to-back. The Bulls are 2-3 this year on the second half of back-to-backs, while the Bucks are 0-4 in such situations. Having a more veteran group knowing how to deal with back-to-backs will help. But right now the Bucks appear to be the more athletic and deeper team, which will work in their favor.

4. Build on that momentum. This one might be a stretch, but the Bulls were able to pull within eight of the Bucks in the fourth quarter. They won the final period, 31-20, which admittedly masked just how bad the performance was. But maybe that strong fourth quarter will give the team a boost out of the gates on Friday.

5. Tony Snell returns. OK, so the wing probably won't receive the kind of ovation Tom Thibodeau did on Tuesday. But it will be Snell's first trip back since being dealt for Michael Carter-Williams in the offseason. Snell had nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes on Thursday.

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Fred Hoiberg hints at more changes on horizon for Bulls lineup

Fred Hoiberg hints at more changes on horizon for Bulls lineup

More changes are on the horizon for the Bulls, still smarting after a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that feels like more than just one on the ledger.

It doesn’t seem like Fred Hoiberg can do much more aside from playing his last two first-round picks, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis, who both went with the dreaded “DNP-Coach’s Decision” on the scoring sheet Tuesday night as the Bulls coughed up a 21-point lead — the biggest giveaway in the NBA this season.

Valentine looks like he’ll get more of a look, perhaps in place of the struggling Isaiah Canaan, who didn’t play Saturday against Miami and hasn't been much of an offensive factor when he has played in the last week or so, as he’s shooting 13 percent from 3-point range this month.

Valentine played 22 minutes against Portland after playing 25 in the blowout loss to Dallas earlier this month, but hasn’t seen much time since. Even though Rajon Rondo (ankle) is expected to be back, it appears Valentine will get a bit of an extended look.

“We'll continue to work at things as we move forward as far as possibly changing some things up with guys coming off the bench,” Hoiberg said. “We've tried to change our substitution patterns to where we have at least one, more often than not two, starters out there on the floor at all times.”

Second-round pick Paul Zipser, a player who’s seen more time in the D-League than on the floor, will get a look as well. It doesn’t feel quite like desperation but one has to wonder if Hoiberg’s patience with some of his young players is starting to run thin.

“Paul Zipser will get an opportunity at some point from what he has shown,” Hoiberg said. “Even that game he played for Windy City, he showed a lot of promise and has a bright future. We’ll continue to keep those guys ready and hopefully they’ll help us win some games and produce.”

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Valentine hasn’t found his groove since returning from an ankle injury he suffered in the first preseason game, which cost him a lot of time. Also, he seems to struggle finding his way without being a playmaker, which was his specialty at Michigan State.

Here, he would have more value as a shot maker than creator considering he plays more with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Either there’s not much trust in him running the show or they simply don’t need him to at this point.

“Denzel will see more time as we move forward. There’s no doubt about that,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of it has been based on what he’s doing out here, the amount of time and effort and work he’s putting into it. There will be a time again when Bobby gets that opportunity.”

What the Bulls need is some form of perimeter shooting and even more pressing is the need to be settled when other teams make runs, such as the Timberwolves coming back from a 19-point deficit in the last four minutes of the first half to cut it to a manageable four-point game at the half.

“The biggest thing that I looked at as I watched it a couple times and laid awake thinking about it was just the lead we gave up,” Hoiberg said. “A 21-point lead in your home building, you have to find a way to win those games. That was the focus for me.”

Calling the collapse “inexcusable”, Hoiberg noticed a few other basic tenets being abandoned in the afternoon film session before his team’s back-to-back set against the young and athletic Milwaukee Bucks Thursday and Friday: Terrible transition defense and inconsistent rebounding.

Robin Lopez said the Bulls have shown the foundation of being a good defensive team that rebounds well, but it slipped for a night.

“I think we're a very strong defensive team, honestly,” Lopez said. “We've been successful, we've been very good at that. We've rebounded well, we've defended well, especially in transition we've guarded pretty well. When we give up offensive rebounds, when we let teams get easy buckets off the glass, we're not quite as good.”

And when those things sprout up, it puts Hoiberg in the unenviable position of more shuffling, even though nobody appears ready to step forward with each opportunity.