Paul Zipser has gone from last season’s surprise to this season’s MIA

PHOENIX — During one training-camp media gathering in October, Bulls general manager Gar Forman strolled through the scrum and asked why there weren’t more preseason stories on forward Paul Zipser.

Whether it was out of curiosity or an instance of Forman tooting his own horn for grabbing a then-potential starter in the second round (48th overall) of the 2016 draft was unclear, but bet on the latter.

It’s safe to say that Forman isn’t looking to push Zipser stories these days.

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“Paul is staying positive,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said Sunday. “I had a good talk with him [Saturday]. He’s still going to get his opportunities.’’

But there’s no disguising the fact that the 6-8 former German League star has regressed in his second season.

Confidence is a big problem for him these days, as he seems to be carrying his offensive woes to the defensive side of his game.

He still has trouble putting the ball on the floor and beating his man to the rim, and even his three-point shooting has betrayed him, dipping from 33 percent as a rookie to 25 percent entering the four-game West Coast trip.

Zipser, 23, has gone from starter to the end of the rotation. In the victory Friday against the Hornets, Zipser played seven seconds.

“He was such an important part, especially late in the year, for what we were doing,’’ Hoiberg said. “We still have confidence in Paul.’’

But there’s no doubt that Zipser has moved to the back of the line for a wing spot, and that line is about to get longer.

David Nwaba had a setback with his right ankle, but he could be back on this road trip, and Zach LaVine (left-knee rehab) is about to be cleared by doctors and will start taking full contact in practice.

Then there’s Quincy Pondexter, who has jumped Zipser, as well as new starter Denzel Valentine.

If Zipser has plans to regain heavy minutes anytime soon, he has a lot to prove and a lot of bodies in front of him.

“The big thing is keeping things positive,’’ Hoiberg said.

Low maintenance

Hoiberg already has had his share of drama to deal with, specifically Bobby Portis punching out Nikola Mirotic.

So Lauri Markkanen, a rookie starter who doesn’t need hand-holding, has been a pleasant surprise.

“[Markkanen] is very low-maintenance,’’ Hoiberg said. “I don’t know if it’s atypical. I guess for a guy who has only been in the States for a year and is a 20-year-old kid, the way he picks things up shows he has a tremendous basketball IQ.

“He just does a lot of little things for this team. He’s starting to add a pull-up.

‘‘He continues to do things that sometimes you don’t even know he can do.’’

Niko news

Mirotic is not with the team on this trip, but he continues to ramp up his activity on the court, Hoiberg said.

He’s still not taking any contact because of the two broken bones in his face, but Hoiberg did say that he has been fitted for a mask.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com