Bulls

Zach LaVine needs his back to play nice in order to clear final hurdle

MILWAUKEE — Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen wasn’t alone in his back problems Friday. According to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, guard Zach LaVine also has been dealing with recent soreness in his back, but not enough to slow down his rehab process from knee surgery in February.

The good news is LaVine now seems to have a more detailed finish planned in his recovery, starting with consecutive practice days beginning Monday.

“[The soreness is] not unexpected with how much he’s increased his workload,” Hoiberg said. “When we go on the trip to Cleveland and Boston [next week], he will stay back and get practices with [G-League] Windy City. There’s a good chance he’ll meet the team out in Boston to get another practice with us, and then, after Christmas, we’ll have a better idea, a better timeframe, for when we’ll get him back. But that’s the next step in the process, to get him doing consecutive days of contact. That should happen here shortly. That should be the next week, and a lot of it will depend on how his back responds.”

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The Bulls are still deciding if LaVine will play a few games with Windy City, as well as exact minutes restrictions if he does.

Eventually he’ll move into the starting two-guard spot, meaning Justin Holiday will slide to small forward and Denzel Valentine back to the bench.

Early January is still the target date for his return, with the most logical date being Jan. 8 against the Rockets at the United Center. The Bulls also have a road game Jan.  5 in Dallas that would be a good spot, but the fact it’s the first of a back-to-back (with the Pacers on tap the next night) could red-flag it.

Dunn deal

Guard Kris Dunn is the first to admit he plays with emotion, and if that means his celebrations of big plays are balanced out by good, old-fashioned trash-talking of opponents, so be it.

Dunn first showed his saltier side in the Summer League.

“I think that’s just who I am, and the team accepts it,” he said of his antics. “They’ve seen it through training camp, they’ve seen it this summer, so they accept me. I’m very appreciative of that. The coaching staff, you know they like when I play with that energy, so that’s what I try to do, bring that energy.”

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com