With Zach LaVine nearly back, who will become the next sitting Bull?
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It could be another two weeks, or three on the far side, but we’ll be seeing Zach LaVine on the court in a Bulls uniform soon. The ACL tear in his left knee is in the rearview. The back spasms that lately have limited his practice time have subsided. Next time the Bulls practice, coach Fred Hoiberg said Wednesday, LaVine will get after it with his teammates like a guy who’s debut is fast approaching.
So: What’ll it mean for LaVine’s teammates if — no, when — the smooth-scoring, high-flying guard claims a spot in the starting lineup?
“I have some ideas,” Hoiberg said, divulging little else.
It would seem the candidates to grab some bench are perimeter players Justin Holiday, who has started 29 of 30 games this season, and Denzel Valentine, who has started the last 18 contests.
“Everybody has goals they set for themselves,” Holiday said, “and being a starter one day was always a goal I had. To attain that now is great for me, but it’s something I want to keep. And when [LaVine] does come back, I do believe I’ll start. But if not? That’s life.”
Perhaps more important than who starts is who finishes. Pre-LaVine, Hoiberg is sold on his perimeter finishing trio of Holiday and David Nwaba with point guard Kris Dunn. The frontcourt twosome could be any combination among Lauri Markkanen, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and Robin Lopez depending on who has the hot hands.
Hoiberg is high on Dunn’s “confidence and swagger.” He called Nwaba “phenomenal.” And the more rookie 7-footer Markkanen keeps himself on the floor when the stakes are high, the better.
“Lauri is showing he has no fear being in the game at crunch time,” Hoiberg said.
On your marks, get set …
Seemingly at odds are Hoiberg’s emphasis on fast starts by his team and Dunn’s point of view when it comes to the early goings of games.
“When you’re a starter, you get to find your groove within the game,” Dunn said, “whereas if you come off the bench, you have to be ready to go, you’ve got to be sharp. For me, I’m a player who likes to let the game come to him a little bit. I need a few minutes to catch a flow of the game.”
It was no issue at all Wednesday against the Magic at the United Center. The Bulls scored the first 12 points of the game and also opened the second quarter with nine unanswered points.
Holiday was still being asked about his 20-point first half Monday against the 76ers, which included a (not quite) Reggie Miller-like spurt of 10 points in 1:14 of the second quarter. Hey, why not just score at that pace all the time?
“I’ll try,” he said. “I would if I could. I’d do it all the time. We’ll see. I’ll probably do it again at some point.”
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.