LOS ANGELES — The hair was still disheveled and unkempt.
Gone, however, were the beard and mustache that Robin Lopez had been sporting most of the season in what appeared to be a change of identity.
Now, the veteran big man could be facing a change of address.
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In what could be best described as a bizarre Sunday practice for the Bulls on the campus of USC, Jameer Nelson was suddenly made off limits to the media, feeding the momentum that another trade could be in the works.
Nelson was acquired Thursday from the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic trade, along with Tony Allen, Omer Asik and a first-round pick. Allen wasn’t even required to join the Bulls on this trip, with vice president of basketball operations John Paxson admitting that the team was looking to flip the expiring contracts of Nelson and Allen before the trade deadline Feb. 8.
If not, one or both could be waived.
With Nelson suddenly pulled away, despite going through practice, talks obviously were active.
Although one Bulls source said that nothing was imminent, a league source said that talks for a deal involving Lopez were heating up.
Coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t deny that it has been a less-than-normal few weeks for the Bulls, who have been enveloped by trade rumors during a six-game losing streak.
“As a player, my mindset was to always go out and worry about the things I can control, and that’s to continue to try and get better, keep working on my game and continue to play with the team I was on,’’ Hoiberg said. “That’s where I think our guys have done a good job because there have been so many rumors this year. They’ve kept a professional attitude about everything, and I do think for the most part we are going out and competing. I really do.’’
Going out on the floor? Yes. Always competing? For a team that has been consistently short-handed on this trip, competing isn’t always easy to do.
Even before Mirotic was traded, Lauri Markkanen (birth of his child) and Kris Dunn (concussion protocol) were sidelined for the start of this trip.
Markkanen was expected to rejoin the team Sunday night in Sacramento, but his flight was cancelled because of the weather. The team decided to keep him in Chicago rather than try to get him out on a flight Monday morning and play that night.
Dunn still was trying to get through the early steps of the concussion protocol, but an illness set him back.
That’s a lot of offense to replace, and it will only get tougher if Lopez is dealt.
The one positive is Asik is healthy, and he insisted that he’d be ready to step in for whatever the team needs him to do. If Lopez is dealt, Asik and Cristiano Felicio would have to take those minutes.
“I’m just going to help any way I can,’’ Asik said. “As much as they need me, I’ll be ready.’’
While Hoiberg insisted that he wasn’t thinking about that scenario yet, he likes what Asik brings to the table.
“I’ve always like Omer,’’ Hoiberg said. “He’s a big, strong, physical body, and he’s a great screener, one of the better screeners in the league. Defensively, he’s really good. The other thing about it is he’s a great person, and I think he’ll be a great member of our young club.’’
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