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Bulls’ front office remains active in talks with trade deadline nearing

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wanted to concentrate on the players on his roster Wednesday. He did his best to bob and weave when he was asked about trade rumors.

With the NBA trade deadline set for 2 p.m. Thursday, Hoiberg said vice president of basketball John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have remained busy working the phones, but details of what was being discussed weren’t trickling down to him.

That seemed just fine with Hoiberg.

‘‘There’s always a sense of relief when the trade deadline passes, especially when you hear as many rumors as there are, most of which are false,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘You just try to do what you can control and worry about what you can control, and that’s playing hard and keeping yourself prepared and keeping yourself ready. Our guys have done a good job with that.’’

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A source reiterated that the Bulls, who have lost seven games in a row, have remained active in their effort to land more draft assets. That’s why guard Jameer Nelson, who was acquired in the Nikola Mirotic deal last Thursday, remained off-limits to the media. The Bulls hope they can package his expiring contract with a player such as center Robin Lopez or guard Jerian Grant in a deal.

Hoiberg, who was an assistant GM with the Timberwolves before starting his coaching career, knows a little bit about how the trade deadline works.

‘‘Everybody lies up until the last 24 hours, then things start to get serious,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Every team in the league right now, they’re doing their due diligence. They’re making calls to see if there’s something they can do to help the team as far as the future is concerned. Everybody’s making calls right now, but usually what happens is nothing ends up going through.

‘‘Still, from all perspectives — being a player in this situation, being in the front office, now as a coach — just go out and worry about what you can control. At the end of the day, when that day does pass, it really is a sense of relief.’’

That’s not the only relief Hoiberg will get. Rookie big man Lauri Markkanen, who missed the Bulls’ recent three-game road trip for the birth of his son, will be back in the starting lineup Friday against Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves.

‘‘I’m really excited to play basketball again,’’ Markkanen said. ‘‘When was the last game I played? It’s been awhile, so I’m glad.’’

Guard Kris Dunn, who is wearing braces after falling on his face Jan. 17 against the Warriors, is still in the final stages of the concussion protocol. He said he hopes to return sometime next week.

‘‘I have to talk to the coaching staff and trainers, see how it goes,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘Try to get my conditioning back. Went [Tuesday] a little bit with the [G]-League team. Didn’t do physical contact, but I can tell you one thing: My legs are dead. I didn’t get to do too much.

‘‘When you have certain injuries, like a sprained ankle or anything, you can do activities. But with a concussion, you can’t. So [Tuesday] was kind of like my first time actually touching the floor. We’ll see how these next couple of days go and if I get back on the court before the [All-Star] break.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com