A road curtain call for Bulls big man Robin Lopez? Trade rumors continue
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Center Robin Lopez was still a member of the Bulls late Monday.
That was good news for his teammates and bad news for a folding chair in the hallway of the Golden 1 Center.
Lopez was a plus-15 and helped the Bulls open a 21-point lead in the second quarter against the Kings. Then he seemingly lost his mind after he was ejected for two quick technicals with 4:21 left in the quarter and had to be restrained by the entire coaching staff on his way out.
Heading down the tunnel toward the visitors’ locker room, Lopez picked up a nearby folding chair and threw it in anger. Add him to the list of NBA players who think the officials are hurting the game with quick triggers this season.
‘‘I was a little surprised by the technical,’’ Lopez said after the Bulls’ seventh loss in a row, a 104-98 defeat at the hands of the Kings, despite 27 points from Zach LaVine. ‘‘I think I’ve had grander gestures that haven’t resulted in a technical. I didn’t think it was warranted at all. I thought it was terrible.
‘‘It’s bizarre. You’re just trying to get a feel for the game. We’re invested in the game; we’re passionate about it. I think [it’s bad for the NBA]. I think if your giving players technicals . . . you’re taking players out of the equation.’’
Lopez undoubtedly will be fined by the NBA, but the question is whether he still will be playing for the Bulls when it’s handed down. Trade rumors continued swirling around the team, and uncertainty has become the new normal for them on the road trip.
‘‘Trades are part of the business,’’ Lopez said before the game. ‘‘Guys are used to it. At the end of the day, it’s just us and the other team and basketball. I don’t think anybody is focused on anything else.’’
That has been Lopez’s attitude since the start of the season, and little has changed for him. But coach Fred Hoiberg still made it a point to talk with Lopez before the game, just to make sure his head was in the right place.
‘‘I’ve talked to Robin,’’ Hoiberg said, referring to the trade talk that has been swirling around Lopez lately. ‘‘He understands. He’s been in this business a long time. He’s been a part of a lot of rumors. That’s generally what most of these are.
‘‘Robin is a pro. He’s going to play hard for us, I know that. He’ll be a great mentor for our team and be a leader. That’s who he is and who he’ll continue to be.’’
What Hoiberg didn’t deny is that vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman still are trying to land more assets, either a young player they think can be part of the Bulls’ rebuild or a draft pick.
The Bulls on Thursday traded forward Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans for center Omer Asik, the expiring contracts of guard Jameer Nelson and swingman Tony Allen and a protected first-round draft pick. If they can flip the contracts of Nelson and Allen and trade Lopez, that would fit the long-term plans they have for the roster.
And it’s not just Lopez hearing his name in trade rumors. Guard Jerian Grant also might be on the move. Expect those talks to increase as the trade deadline Thursday nears.
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.