Gasol’s return gives Bulls rare ideal starting lineup

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Derrick Rose, the Kings’ Rajon Rondo (9) and Jimmy Butler battle for a rebound Monday at the United Center. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

With Pau Gasol back, Fred Hoiberg had his preferred starting lineup in place for only the second time this season Monday against the Kings.

Gasol joined Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.

“It’s a good feeling to have the guys back and to have different options,’’ Hoiberg said. “We’ve still got a couple of them with minutes plans in place. Once we get rid of that, it’ll be a great feeling. But just to have Pau back out there … he’s had a lot of energy the last few days. He’s chomping at the bit to get back out on the floor. We flow better when he’s out there.’’

The urgency to make the playoffs won’t influence the minutes restrictions, Hoiberg said.

“It won’t affect anything,’’ he said. “We want to make sure we have these guys, protect them for the long haul. If we are fortunate to get in, we want to have these guys ready to play. As of right now, we’ll keep it the way it is and hopefully gradually take the limits off.’’

The Bulls have used 20 different starting lineups, with 14 players used as starters. They have not gone more than six games with the same first five.

Cyclone alert

Hoiberg is excited that Iowa State will be playing in the

Sweet 16 on Friday at the United Center. The only thing is that he won’t be able to watch the game.

“Unfortunately, we’ll be on the road,’’ said Hoiberg, who returned to coach the Cyclones after a solid playing career. “I hope I get a chance to come in on Wednesday to see them a little bit. But I’m confident we’re going to win that game on Friday and get a chance to see them go to the Final Four on Sunday.’’

Hoiberg called his successor, Steve Prohm, to offer congratulations.

“I told him to tell the guys how proud I am of them and to keep it going,’’ he said.

Hoiberg made no secret of where he placed Iowa State on his bracket: “That little championship box.”

And he did not deny that he misses not being immersed in the NCAA tournament.

“Watching those games was unbelievable,’’ Hoiberg said. “For a basketball man, it’s the greatest sporting event there is. You look at that first round, with Middle Tennessee knocking off Michigan State. You look at these upsets. Northern Iowa, I just feel sick for those guys. Ben Jacobson is a good friend of mine. It’s the greatest time of year.’’

Moore won’t travel

E’Twaun Moore remains out with a left hamstring injury.

“He won’t travel on this trip,’’ Hoiberg said, referring to the Bulls’ games in New York on Thursday and Orlando on Saturday. “We’ll re-evaluate him when we get back from Orlando.’’

Cameron Bairstow is still out with a back problem.

Follow me on Twitter @HerbGould.

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