LOS ANGELES – The company line still isn’t budging since training camp.
It was back in October that general manager Gar Forman called the Bulls roster championship caliber, and with the trade deadline less than three weeks away, it sounded like Forman hasn’t changed that opinion.
At least it hasn’t changed in his discussions with his coach.
“We talk about that kind of stuff all the time,’’ Fred Hoiberg said on Saturday. “I know those guys are working the phones, as are the other 29 teams in the league. Unless something earth-shattering comes up, I don’t anticipate anything happening.’’
Then again, the wiggle room to make a deal kind of thinned out when Joakim Noah was lost for the year with left shoulder surgery. Before Noah went down, multiple sources indicated that the Bulls were actively shopping the free agent-to-be, looking to get more athletic at the forward spot.
Hoiberg was asked if the Noah injury “handcuffed’’ the flexibility to make a deal, and thought “handcuffed’’ wasn’t the right description.
“I don’t know if handcuff is the word or what it is,’’ Hoiberg said. “But there’s nothing out there right now as far as I know. Hopefully we can build off a couple good road performances of late. Bobby [Portis] is going to be forced into a role obviously where he’s playing a lot of minutes now. And there are going to be times where we play smaller lineups. We’re comfortable with this group and anticipate this is the team we’ll have.’’
Well, not really.
There is an addition coming, and a veteran addition at that.
Mike Dunleavy continued to move closer to making his season debut, as the forward has spent the last four-plus months recovering from back surgery.
Dunleavy has been practicing with the team on this west coast trip, and will head to Santa Cruz to practice with the D-League team there on Tuesday, according to Dunleavy. While the talk last week had Dunleavy waiting until after the All-Star Break to make a return, that might not be the case.
“Anything’s possible,’’ Dunleavy said. “The big thing for me is getting through these two practices down there with those guys and see where I’m at and how I feel and go from there.
“Yeah, there won’t be any of that. If I’m not ready, I’m not ready. But if I’m ready, it’s not like, ‘Let’s take an extra week.’ I’ve been out long enough. It’s time to roll.’’
Dunleavy would be brought back on a minutes restriction, and would also stretch out the rotation at the forward spot.
“My main thing right now is just getting ready,’’ Dunleavy said. “Just to be able to provide whatever I can provide. The one thing I’m sure is there will be a little bit of a minutes restriction. Otherwise, wherever they want me to play I’ll play.’’
Until Dunleavy is ready, however, Hoiberg seems content to stay with a three-guard starting lineup that will include Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and E’Twaun Moore. The group looked very good against the Lakers, and will get the chance to repeat that against the Clippers on Sunday.
“It gives us another ball handler with that first group,’’ Hoiberg said of Moore’s addition. “He’s got a toughness factor. There are going to be nights he’s giving up inches, but he’s going to battle. He’s a very smart defender. I thought he gave us very solid minutes.’’