As the Chicago Bulls got off to another miserable start Monday night against Boston, falling behind 26-5, it seemed pretty clear that center Robin Lopez could solve many of their early-game issues.
Before the contest, coach Fred Hoiberg was asked about Lopez showing a good attitude after the Bulls decided to focus on young players and new lineups. Hoiberg endorsed the idea of Lopez staying around as part of the rebuilding project.
"He's been awesome. I think Robin does fit with our direction," Hoiberg said. "You need good veterans who are leaders, and Robin has been excellent in that role. He continues to be great even though he's not out there on the playing floor, not even in uniform.
"But he's still talking to our bigs anytime they come off the floor. He's yelling out coverages, he's staying engaged, he's continuing to practice."
Asked if Lopez and Justin Holiday can be counted out for the next five-game block, Hoiberg said they'll take it day by day. Lopez and Holiday did not dress for Monday's game against Boston.
A couple of changes Monday were Bobby Portis joining the starting lineup and 10-day contract recipient Jarell Eddie was in uniform for the first time.
Both Lopez and Holiday are under contract for this season, so it's too soon to assume either player will be moving on this summer. There's a decent chance both will be back on the roster when training camp begins in the fall.
"I do see Robin as a guy who can fit with us moving forward, as well as Justin, who's another rock star, great person," Hoiberg said. "He's all about the right thing. True professionals -- and you need that when you have a young team moving forward."
Irving sits out:
Celtics star Kyrie Irving sat out Monday with knee soreness. It was the second time in two visits this season Irving missed a game in Chicago. Before tipoff, he talked about the injury.
"I just want to make sure I'm as healthy as possible," Irving said. "At this point in the season, it's just about the big picture. So I'm just trying to stay smart and kind of get out of my own way and when it feels good, I'll be back out there."
Boston coach Brad Stevens decided to give Shane Larkin his first start of the season, saying he wanted to keep Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier coming off the bench together because they've played well in that role.
Blakeney on deck:
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the team will take another look at shooting guard Antonio Blakeney soon. Blakeney leads the G-League in scoring at 32.1 points and was just named player of the week.
"We'll call Antonio up in the next couple weeks," Hoiberg said. "He's another guy we want to get another look at. He showed some signs when he was up for that extended period (early in the season), and he's obviously been tearing it up in the D-League.
"When he gets back, he's going to have an opportunity to get out there. He's been working on his playmaking, but his role with Windy City is he's a shot-maker, and he's pretty darn good at it."