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Rookie Marko Simonovic’s game is not ready for prime-time Bulls

After a solid showing in Summer League, the big man entered camp hoping to grab a rotation spot. That obviously didn’t happen, and that’s why coach Billy Donovan was talking on Wednesday about Simonovic learning the game in some G League stints.

“I wouldn’t say he’s behind or ahead,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of Marko Simonovic, who was a draft-and-stash pick in the second round of the 2020 draft. “I think he’s got to learn the NBA game, the physicality. He’s got to get stronger.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s behind or ahead,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of Marko Simonovic, who was a draft-and-stash pick in the second round of the 2020 draft. “I think he’s got to learn the NBA game, the physicality. He’s got to get stronger.”
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

DETROIT — Marko Simonovic got plenty of run at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday, just not the run he was hoping for.

After the morning shootaround, Simonovic and the other bench players played a five-on-five scrimmage to make sure they kept their conditioning up and stayed in rhythm.

That will come in handy for the big man and the Windy City Bulls once the G League gets underway in November.

The starters and rotation players looked good in the unbeaten preseason the last few weeks, and Simonovic’s minutes came in mop-up time, so it was clear he wasn’t in the plans for a rotation spot.

That’s why it’s fair to call this his redshirt year.

“I wouldn’t say he’s behind or ahead,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of Simonovic, who was a draft-and-stash pick in the second round of the 2020 draft. “I think he’s got to learn the NBA game, the physicality. He’s got to get stronger.

“This is probably going to be a year where he’s going to have to go G League, us, back and forth, but I do think for a lot of those young guys, that’s the opportunity to play. One of his challenges is he’s been a center pretty much his whole life, and he’ll be fine there. I think the physicality and the speed and the athleticism of the game are probably a lot different. Him catching up to the quickness of it will take a little bit of time.’’

And that’s the problem with the 6-11 big man from Montenegro. He’s a tweener.

Simonovic, 22, is not athletic enough to keep up with most NBA power forwards, and he’s not physical enough to deal with many of the centers in the paint.

“He’s just going to need to catch up to the game a little bit,’’ Donovan said.

Staying back

Coby White had more than his share of left-out moments this summer, rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder while his teammates were working out and preparing for the season.

While White didn’t make the trip for the opener, Donovan did say that it was important to keep him engaged as much as possible when there are drills he can participate in.

“When we’re doing 5-on-0 stuff or we’re scripting or running up and down where there’s no contact, we have him involved,’’ Donovan said. “For the summer, it was a very isolating experience for him. Us putting our arms around him and keeping him involved in things he can actually do physically is important for him.’’

White is expected to be re-evaluated in mid-to-late November, then a better timetable for his return should be known.

Head-scratcher

Alex Caruso isn’t 100% sure why he always has been a fan favorite, but it was like that in Los Angeles, and Bulls fans already are lavishing him with raucous applause whenever he enters the game.

He’s eager to see if it will stay that way all year, starting Friday in the home opener.

“I just know that the way I play, fans tend to like it,’’ Caruso said. “I play hard. I play to win. I play for my teammates. Those are things that usually translate to success, and I think that kind of comes with winning a championship in L.A. They’re going to love you forever regardless of what happens.

“Hopefully the things I mentioned about my game can translate here and bring some more success to the Bulls.’’