Bulls guard David Nwaba received his third straight start on Saturday against New Orleans.
He paid dividends during the two games in Florida, producing 11 rebounds against Miami and 16 points in the victory at Orlando. He left the Pelicans game in the third quarter after rolling his right ankle.
It's safe to say Nwaba is the most explosive athlete on the Bulls' roster, which gave the starting lineup a boost.
"The biggest thing with David is he's really given us toughness factor with that first group," coach Fred Hoiberg said before the game. "His speed in the open court has been a one-man fast break on several occasions."
Nwaba is an interesting story. The Santa Monica, Calif., native wasn't drafted after four years at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, went to a D-League tryout camp and earned a spot on the Los Angeles D-Fenders' roster. He ended up playing 20 games for the Lakers late last season and when the Lakers needed cap space this summer, the Bulls claimed him off waivers.
"He's taken on the challenge of guarding the other team's best player," Hoiberg said. "He's rebounded at a high rate. So he's really given us a big spark and given us a physical presence out there on the perimeter."
The Lauri Effect:
Rookie Lauri Markkanen didn't have a great game in Orlando, finishing with 13 points and 9 rebounds. But coach Fred Hoiberg thought Markkanen's fast start this season helped the Bulls secure the 105-83 victory.
"They were not leaving him at all," Hoiberg said of Orlando's defenders. "They were hugging up on him. I think that opened up things for everyone else. So even though he only took 10 shots last night just because of the way they were playing him, other guys benefited from that. The way we're playing, we're going to try to take what the defense gives us."
Markkanen was still the team's third-leading scorer, after Justin Holiday (19 points) and David Nwaba (16). Finding more shots for Markkanen has been a theme since the season began.
"We're obviously still looking for him," Hoiberg said. "Robin (Lopez) has done a good job of trying to find his man (for a screen) in transition and I think our guards are doing a better job of getting him the ball when teams switch."
Mirotic keeps working:
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg provided this update about Nikola Mirotic's workout activity while the team was in Florida.
"He's been coming in every day and getting workouts, "Hoiberg said. "He's increasing his workload on the bike. He was able to get in the pool a little bit, still is not doing anything on the court. But the important thing is he's making progress and he's in good spirits."
Mirotic suffered facial fractures and a concussion in an Oct. 17 practice altercation. Bobby Portis will be eligible to play on Tuesday at Toronto after serving an eight-game suspension for throwing a punch that caused the injuries.
Rondo in recovery:
Former Bulls guard Rajon Rondo sat on the New Orleans bench wearing a suit during Saturday's game. Rondo has yet to play for his new team due to a core muscle injury. Coach Alvin Gentry mentioned Nov. 17 as a possible return date.
"I wake up and I feel pretty good every day," Rondo said in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "We take for granted that we can get out of bed on the regular, for the couple weeks I was down, I couldn't. I'm just happy I can get out of bed without having assistance or not having to roll over to my side and get up."