Bulls hope their new-look big-man combo can help them start racking up wins
Luke Kornet came off the bench Saturday to be the ultimate change-of-pace center from rookie Daniel Gafford.
DETROIT — At 7-2, Bulls backup center Luke Kornet usually isn’t sneaking up on anybody.
On Saturday against the Pistons, however, the lightly used big man came off the bench to contribute 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks in just more than 25 minutes in the Bulls’ 108-99 victory.
Kornet, whom the Bulls signed as a free agent in July, is the player who was so bad at the start of the season that the front office was advising the coaching staff to stop playing him.
It soon was learned that Kornet needed sinus surgery to relieve a lot of sleepless nights. Even when he was ready to return, though, he was buried deep on the Bulls’ depth chart.
But with Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle) out for at least the next month and rookie Daniel Gafford still finding his way as a starter, Kornet was dusted off and unleashed against the Pistons.
‘‘We got a little jolt as far as something different, and a lot of times that can help, especially against a team like that,’’ Kornet said.
In the end, Gafford and Kornet proved to be a nice one-two punch.
‘‘[Kornet] was just waiting for his time to come back and show what he can do, and that’s what he did [Saturday],’’ said Gafford, who scored 14 points. ‘‘The rotation we were in [against the Pistons] was perfect.’’
Now the question is whether it has staying power.
The Bulls’ rotation hasn’t featured much consistency this season. The team had a solid rotation going in December and, coincidentally, played .500 ball that month. But since the calendar flipped to 2020, the rotation has resembled a fire drill.
Maybe the duo of Gafford and Kornet can add some juice.
‘‘Honestly, the beginning of the season was really disappointing and difficult, going through some stuff, so it was just nice to help the team because that’s what I was brought here to do,’’ Kornet said.
That’s nice to hear, but there’s still one major problem with the Bulls: At some point, they have to start beating teams .500 or better. They are 1-15 this season against winning teams.
Three of the Bulls’ next five games are against winning teams. By the time that stretch is over, it will be Jan. 20 — just weeks from the trade deadline.
‘‘Our guys were talking about it after the game [against the Pistons],’’ coach Jim Boylen said when he was asked about needing to win games against good teams. ‘‘Got to continue to play that way. The ball moved. I thought we had some guys that looked more comfortable, I liked our [substitution] pattern and I thought our guys played well.’’
The Bulls did, but they have all season against the Pistons. Of the Bulls’ 14 victories, nine have come against the Pistons, Hawks and Grizzlies. But they won’t see those teams again this season.
‘‘Those better teams are really disciplined and really efficient offensively, so you’ve just got to be really sharp with what you’re doing,’’ Kornet said. ‘‘Hopefully this next little period gives us something different, catch teams off-guard and give them a different vibe to what we do offensively. There’s not really an answer to that besides working hard and playing well.’’