Bulls’ rebuild is off to a slow start — and that’s not a bad thing

Point guard Kris Dunn will be out for at least another week with an injured finger.

Shooting guard Zach LaVine is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but his timetable to start full practices remains mid-November.

Rookie big man Lauri Markkanen is up and running after a back injury sidelined him for the Bulls’ first three preseason games, but he didn’t have time to show enough to win a starting job.

So is the Bulls’ rebuild half-full or half-empty and stuck in mud?

Coach Fred Hoiberg said he doesn’t see it as a bad thing, even though the three key pieces of the rebuild won’t be in the starting lineup when the Bulls open the regular season Thursday in Toronto.

‘‘The important thing is Kris was really starting to come along,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘I thought his minutes in the game he got hurt [Friday] were the best it’s been since he’s been here. We’re all thankful that the [finger] injury is not a long-term thing, and we hope to get him back out there shortly after the beginning of the season.

‘‘Zach is coming along great. He’s ahead of schedule. He’s not cleared for contact yet, but he’s moving around in unpredictable movements now, which is important. We’ll stick with the initial time frame from what the doctors gave.

‘‘And then what Lauri showed in that last game [Tuesday] was great for him. It was good for his confidence to see that ball go through the net. It’s something he can build on. But I’ve loved everything he’s been about since he’s been back from back spasms.’’

Still, the front office is unlikely to be too upset if losses pile up early on. After all, a member of the front office told the Sun-Times in July how important getting a top pick in the 2018 draft will be, so exercising extreme patience in injury recovery and development is a must.

Even Dunn isn’t losing sleep over the idea that he, LaVine and Markkanen might not be playing together until December.

‘‘I think it’s just about being patient,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘Lauri, he was in Finland, so there was a lot of strain on his back from all the games they played [in the European Basketball Championship]. Zach, with his injury, you try to take it slow with him because he’s a big piece to this team. And me, I’m just slowly trying to get back. So it’s just a slow thing.

‘‘And we’ve got enough good guys, guys that work hard all summer. I think we’re doing a good job competing in the preseason. . . . It’s a rebuild for the whole team, not just us three guys. We’re a group of guys who are all rebuilding together.’’

The injuries have allowed Hoiberg to form a clear picture of his starting five. He said last week that Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Paul Zipser and Robin Lopez will be his starting five to open the regular season.

But that doesn’t mean they’re going to keep those spots as the season goes on.

‘‘The great thing about this group is that there is always going to be competition, trying to go out and get rotation spots, starting spots and spots in the fourth quarter and down the stretch,’’ Hoiberg said.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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