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The new ‘Bench Mob?’ Not even close, as the Bulls bench still looking for identity

TORONTO – No nickname necessary just yet.

As far as Doug McDermott was concerned on Sunday, he and his fellow bench mates haven’t earned that. They definitely didn’t against Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, as the group had an off night.

In other words, “The Bench Mob’’ from the 2010-11 season is still safe.

“We all feed off each other,’’ McDermott said, when asked about the Bulls bench trying to carve out an identity this season. “There’s a certain energy on that bench that we haven’t had in the past, so it’s fun to be a part of. I think different guys step up each night, which is fun to see. Good for us.’’

And it’s no mystery why this group has been playing at a high level the last six games. That’s about the same time that first-year coach Fred Hoiberg finally started giving rookie Bobby Portis heavy minutes in the wake of the Joakim Noah shoulder injury.

“Bobby has obviously brought a whole different dimension for us, and we’re all kind feeding off his energy on the bench and on the floor,’’ McDermott said.

Really not just the bench when it comes to Portis, but the entire team.

“I think the big thing is [the bench has] developed a very nice chemistry,’’ Hoiberg said. “With Joakim Noah out of the lineup now that’s given some other guys some opportunities, specifically Bobby Portis, and he’s been really good for us in that bench role.

“He comes out and plays with great energy, has intensity, can score it. Just a really versatile basketball player, and I think he’s just scratching the surface of who he’s going to be.’’

Along with Portis and McDermott, Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell have also had big moments this season off the bench, and according to McDermott, it doesn’t hurt that Brooks and Portis each have “a little crazy in them.’’

“It keeps the rest of us loose,’’ McDermott said of the intense personalities of both Brooks and Portis. “It keeps me real lose, knowing those guys are giving it their all, have tons of energy, and they have your back, too. It’s a fun group to be a part of, but no nicknames yet.’’

Dunleavy update

Mike Dunleavy has missed the entire season so far after undergoing back surgery right before the start of training camp, and then having a setback in November, but there is now some optimism that Dunleavy could start some basic basketball activity.

According to Hoiberg, the veteran forward will start cutting and making basketball moves in the next two-to-three weeks.

“He feels really good,’’ Hoiberg said. “That’s been a positive. He’s been getting some shots on the floor. Not a lot of movement at this point. He’s getting on the treadmill – the Ultra-G – anti-gravity thing. The big thing is he’s doesn’t have any type of pain after his workout, so as far as a specific timeframe I think it’s a little early for that.

“Hope to get him back out there moving and cutting probably in the next two-to-three weeks.’’