Time for young Bulls to step up and show some consistency

SHARE Time for young Bulls to step up and show some consistency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Coach Fred Hoiberg said Sunday he has confidence in his young players.

With Jimmy Butler (bruised right heel) and Cristiano Felicio (sprained right leg) unable to practice and their status uncertain for the rest of the six-game trip, the young guys will need to step up.

Felicio, who was injured Friday against the Rockets, likely is out for the rest of the week.

The Bulls hope Butler’s recovery is much quicker. Hoiberg call-ed him day-to-day.

“I sat my [butt] on this bench right here,’’ Butler said when asked what he was able to do during practice.

Butler had a similar injury last season but didn’t miss any games. He said there isn’t much he can do to recover, so he might just rest.

“It’s crazy because that probably is what’s best for it,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re gonna do that just yet. But it’s all about how I feel. I’ll wake up and try to do more on it [Monday] and see how it holds up.

“Right now it’s not really pain because there ain’t no weight on it, but when you get out there, I’d rate it a six or a seven [on a pain scale]. [It] hurts.’’

Hoiberg has options, but they depend on the day and the game.

Michael Carter-Williams, who started in Butler’s place against the Rockets, played one of his better games with the Bulls, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out six assists.

Carter-Williams, who lost his starting job two weeks ago, hinted at the time that he might be better somewhere else. He went four games without even getting off the bench but now has resurfaced.

Then there’s first-round pick Denzel Valentine, who has had quite the roller-coaster season. He spent the first two games of the trip playing in the D-League for the Windy City Bulls.

Jerian Grant and Paul Zipser also have caught Hoiberg’s attention of late.

“They’ve all had moments,’’ Hoiberg said. “Made the change putting Jerian with that first unit because of his ability to space the floor, [and] he’s shot the ball much better the last few games. Michael gives you a lot of versatility with that spot. Another guy that can make plays. A good slasher, can attack the basket really well. He gives you a really good defensive presence out there. It’s figuring out the best fit for the lineups out there.’’

At least on Sunday, the youngsters were even passing the Dwyane Wade test. Wade was critical of the younger players a couple of weeks ago. Not now.

“Guys have to be willing to step up,’’ Wade said. “Guys have been working very hard around here of late. So I think everyone is looking forward to their opportunity if they get it. You gotta go play your game. You can’t replace players like Jimmy. But bring whatever you bring to the game.’’

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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