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Cristiano Felicio winning battle for time over Bobby Portis

Cristiano Felicio only joined the Bulls as a free agent after impressing in the summer league and didn’t get much playing time until the end of the lost 2015-16 season following an injury to Joakim Noah. Bobby Portis is a former first-round pick from a school in a power conference, and came with hopes and expectations.

But right now, the unheralded Felicio is the one earning the minutes.

Entering Saturday’s game against the Miami Heat, Felicio has played 33 minutes over the last two contests. Portis hasn’t gotten off the bench in those games, and his progress seems to have halted, but the Bulls haven’t given up on him yet.

“We’re still confident in Bobby and believe that he’s got a heck of a future in front of him,” coach Fred Hoiberg said at Saturday’s shootaround. “He’s a young kid, still learning his way out there. He’s had some really good moments for us in the year-plus that we’ve had him.”

Bobby Portis has seen his playing time drop recently. | Associated Press

Felicio, meanwhile, has impressed with his movement and energy and size. And that’s partly what’s gotten him into the rotation.

“Right now, with the way with the matches have been, Cris has gotten more of an opportunity,” Hoiberg said. “He obviously started out the year in the rotation. Bobby came in for a good stretch of games and now we’re getting Cris back out there. Some of it will depend on rotation, some of it will depend on how they’re playing and you’ve got to make those decisions accordingly.”

Robin Lopez has also been impressed with Felicio’s play and preparedness.

“Cris is a fantastic player,” Lopez said. “I know at that point, when you’re young, getting that opportunity, getting some consistent minutes, it can be difficult to perform when you don’t know if your next couple minutes on the court are coming. He’s done a great job of just staying ready.”

On Saturday, Felicio played 17:24 and had six points and seven rebounds. Portis didn’t play.

Back from the D-League
Early Saturday, the Bulls recalled Jerian Grant and Paul Zipser from the D-League Windy City Bulls. In Windy City’s 96-94 victory Friday over Canton in Hoffman Estates, Grant scored 20 points and added nine assists, hitting the game-winning shot with no time remaining. Zipser had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

For Zipser, the D-League has represented the bulk of his playing time. The second-round pick has appeared in six games but played just 30 minutes. On Friday alone, he played 42.

“We’re confident in Paul and it’s just a matter of time before he gets a chance,” Hoiberg said.

Three-for-none
The Bulls went 1 for 8 from behind the arc but still won. According to Basketball Reference, the Bulls made just one three-pointer and won for the first time since Feb. 26, 2010 against Portland.

MCW update
Hoiberg said Michael Carter-Williams, who hasn’t played since Oct. 31 because of a left knee and left wrist injury, is doing well and has “pretty much full activity on his legs.” Carter-Williams will get re-checked soon, but Hoiberg couldn’t say whether he’ll be back by the end of the month.

“He’s just got to make sure we get that wrist right,” Hoiberg said. “It’s going to take him a little time once he gets that cast off to get some flexion in there to get the mobility and get it feeling where it needs to be for him to be back in the rotation. He’s doing very well. Hopefully get him back here soon.”

Money
Superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather was in attendance and sat near the Miami bench. He was shown on the United Center scoreboard during the third quarter.

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