Jerian Grant is the latest point guard to lose his starting job

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Fred Hoiberg swears the Bulls have a plan.

But that would be a tough sell for all the point guards on the roster these days.

For the third time this season, Hoiberg changed starting point guards. Jerian Grant became the latest fall guy as Rajon Rondo returned to the starting lineup.

“The biggest reason, I just want to try to get a little bit more pace out of the gate,’’ Hoiberg said Monday. “We’re struggling to get easy baskets right now, obviously, with that first group. So if we can get a little pace injected into that lineup, try to get some throw-ahead opportunities to create situations where we can score before the defense gets set, that’s pretty much what it came down to.’’

It was the same explanation he gave Grant, but Grant was a bit perplexed.

“I felt like that was my calling card into the starting lineup, to shoot the three,’’ Grant said. “I felt like I did that pretty well. The last couple of games, the minutes have been down and the shots haven’t been going in. So they needed to make a change.’’

Grant saw the writing on the wall after he had a solid second half in the loss to the Magic, but then got a quick hook in the next game against the Rockets.

“That was a tough one, for sure, to understand,’’ Grant said. “Don’t really completely understand it, but it’s Coach’s decision. Can’t really go against that.

“I think I felt it coming. Obviously, the last two games, I’ve probably played a combined 15 minutes, if that. I kind of felt like something was coming, and it’s been the point-guard spot. When you get taken out of the lineup, it’s going to be tough.’’

Rondo began the season as the starting point guard but lost the job to Michael Carter-Williams at the end of December. That lasted a few weeks before Grant got the nod.

The front office did little to clear the air, adding a fifth point guard — Cameron Payne from the Thunder — at the trade deadline.

With Rondo as the starter, Payne has been promoted to the No. 2 point guard, at least against the Hornets.

Grant said it’s difficult to play in this situation, especially when minutes come and go without a clear explanation.

“It’s hard to play when you’re looking over your shoulder after every play,’’ Grant said. “But when you’re out there, you’re playing to win. Whoever he puts out there, that’s what you have to do.

“You have to be mentally tough. But when there are four other guys fighting for that same position you’re in, it’s hard not to look over your shoulder. The strong survive.’’

Oh, Niko
How volatile is the Bulls’ rotation these days?

After Nikola Mirotic sounded like a player left for dead Sunday — he was inactive and had not played in three consecutive games — the free agent-to-be came off the bench in the first quarter against the Hornets and scored nine quick points on three three-pointers. He finished with 24 points.

The Bulls, however, still have no long-term plans to keep Mirotic in Chicago.

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com