Big man Cristiano Felicio remains a costly enigma for the Bulls

SHARE Big man Cristiano Felicio remains a costly enigma for the Bulls
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DALLAS — As far as rebuilds go, Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman haven’t had many missteps since trading Jimmy Butler.

Giving Cristiano Felicio a four-year, $32 million deal might be the exception, at least the most glaring one.

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Felicio has gotten in only six games since Dec. 1 and last played mop-up minutes Dec. 23 in a blowout victory against the Magic.

The Bulls sent the 6-9 big man to the G League Windy City Bulls on Friday to work on his timing in a live game.

Felicio had 18 points and 15 rebounds in a loss to Fort Wayne and is planning to meet his NBA teammates in Indianapolis for the game Saturday night. That doesn’t mean he’s promised anything once he returns.

“Cris obviously played early for us, and he struggled,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I think he’ll be the first one to admit that. Now it’s about continuing to keep his timing and stay in shape as much as he can. The Windy City option is a good one for him.

“It’s about when he does get his opportunity, taking advantage of it, which there will be time for Cris this year. There’s no doubt about it.

‘‘Everyone that’s on the roster will get their opportunity, based on the length of the season and different types of things that come up, different circumstances, injuries and that type of thing.

‘‘The important thing is for Cris to keep himself ready, and he’s done a good job with that, with practices, individual workouts and now going down and playing for Windy City.’’

But he just hasn’t gotten the job done for the Bulls. A Forman find, Felicio has seen his skills seemingly erode since the middle of last season. That’s why his extension appeared to be excessive.

Of the five bigs on the roster, Felicio is a clear fifth. That could change if Nikola Mirotic is traded, but expect the DNP-CDs to pile up until then for Felicio.

“I do have confidence in Cris,’’ Hoiberg said, “when his number is called to go out there and do what he can control, which is to play hard and do the things that we know he’s good at.’’

The daily LaVine update

Zach LaVine made it through the six consecutive practices with no setbacks, had a light workout with the team Friday and will get an intense workout in before the game against the Pacers, Hoiberg said.

Then the Bulls will gather with trainers, doctors and LaVine and map out his return from surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

“We’ll have a lot more to say after we all get together next week,’’ Hoiberg said. “Like we’ve been talking about all along, he’s been making great strides, he’s making great progress. He’s passed every test.

‘‘[LaVine] did the six straight days of contact, passed with flying colors, so now it’s just a matter of sitting down and trying to find the optimal day to get him back in uniform.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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