Lauri Markkanen is cleared to make his preseason debut on Sunday

SHARE Lauri Markkanen is cleared to make his preseason debut on Sunday
SHARE Lauri Markkanen is cleared to make his preseason debut on Sunday

The rebuild isn’t going as smoothly as hoped.

At the start of camp, Bulls general manager Gar Forman described the transition from mediocrity to rebuilding as having “a leg up’’ compared to normal rebuilds.

“There are situations where it’s been much quicker,’’ Forman said. “And that goes back to the point we mentioned at the start: In our opinion, I think we have a leg up. We’re not starting at ground zero because of the three young core pieces we got in the trade and some of the young players we have here. We need them to grow and develop. But we have our draft assets as far as first-round picks into the future. And then having [financial] flexibility.

“So we would never put a timeline on it. But those things have set the course and given us a head start as we head down that road.’’

That road has gotten rocky. The three “core pieces’’ acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade haven’t played one minute together and won’t for some time.

The good news Saturday was first-round pick Lauri Markkanen made it through practice without any setbacks with his injured back. Coach Fred Hoiberg said Markkanen will make his preseason debut Sunday against the Pelicans.

“Bored isn’t the right word,’’ Markkanen said of his time on the sideline. “But it’s not fun.’’

It’s still unknown how the highly touted rookie will be used. He was drafted as a stretch four but has shown he can play in the middle, as well.

“He’ll play some four, he’ll play a little bit of five,’’ Hoiberg said. “The plan hasn’t really been put into place as far as how many minutes he could play. We’ll try to gradually get him back in there. But it’s important for him to learn both spots, the four and the five.’’

The good news ends there.

Guard Zach LaVine (torn anterior cruciate ligament) still has no clear timetable for his return. The best guess for when he might start practicing is mid-November.

Then there’s guard Kris Dunn, who suffered an open dislocation on his left index finger and will see a hand specialist Monday. The Bulls originally expected Dunn to miss two to four weeks, but they hope the specialist will provide more clarity.

“Obviously, I think everybody at this time is thankful for the initial diagnosis,’’ Hoiberg said. “Right now, it’s not a fracture. It seems like everything is intact. We’ll know more after he sees the specialist on Monday, but the important thing is he’s in good spirits.’’

Dunn should be, and that’s why the timing couldn’t be worse. In the Bulls’ 114-101 win over the Bucks on Friday, Dunn looked like the No. 5 overall pick in the 2016 draft.

He was athletic and confident, scoring 11 points, shooting 5-for-7 from the field and even hitting a three-pointer.

“He played a great game, he played with some swagger, he’s got some confidence,’’ Hoiberg said. “The important thing is keeping him confident as he recovers, and hopefully we’ll get him back out here before too long.’’

That would be nice because this rebuild doesn’t need to take any more hits.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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