Jerian Grant hopes locking arms during the anthem is only the start

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NEW ORLEANS — Locking arms as a show of unity during the national anthem Tuesday was just a first step for the Bulls.

They also are in the early stages of setting up a fund that will help the community. Details still are being figured out, but the wheels are in motion.

‘‘I think [locking arms] was an easy decision for us to come up with,’’’ guard Jerian Grant said before the preseason opener against the Pelicans. ‘‘We just want to show unity. We’ve been putting together a fund to also help things, so we just want to show that we’re trying to help make this world a better place.

‘‘There’s a lot of things going on in the community, stuff that we can help with. I think by shining a light on it and then doing something about it, I think we’re moving in that direction as athletes.’’

Athletes and the anthem have been a hot-button topic, enough so that NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week that he expected players to stand for the anthem. The Bulls will fulfill that request, saying they understand where Silver is coming from.

‘‘At the same time, our players and our union expressed to [Silver] where we’re coming from, too,’’ Grant said. ‘‘I feel like whatever teams decide to do, they’ll figure it out.’’

Coach Fred Hoiberg said he had no problem with his players’ decision regarding the anthem. He also said he didn’t think it was his place to push his opinion on them one way or the other.

‘‘Different guys talked,’’ Hoiberg said of the meeting. ‘‘The veteran guys were most vocal, with Robin [Lopez] and Quincy [Pondexter] and Justin [Holiday]. The important thing is everybody came out together.

‘‘The biggest thing was the players getting in there and making sure we talked it over before 7:10 [tipoff] hit.’’

Back-to-back-to-back

Rookie Lauri Markkanen’s back issue is going on five days and showing no signs of dissipating.

Markkanen, the No. 7 pick in the draft who was acquired from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade, began having back spasms Friday. The Bulls hoped to have him back Tuesday. Now they don’t think he’ll be available for their first preseason home game Friday.

‘‘He feels a lot better,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘He was on the floor getting some work in [Tuesday], but he still has stiffness with that back. We want to get him a couple of practices before we throw him on the floor, just to make sure this doesn’t turn into a long-term issue. As of right now, he won’t play [Wednesday in Dallas], and I’d say he’s probably doubtful for Friday’s game versus Milwaukee, as well.’’

Expect the Bulls to be cautious with injuries, especially when it concerns Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, the three players the team views as building blocks for its rebuild.

LaVine is continuing his rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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