Hoiberg liked what Payne showed in D-League

Updated 3/24/2017 10:33 PM

Cameron Payne was back with the Bulls on Friday after playing twice for the Windy City Bulls. Payne averaged 18 points, 7 assists and 6.5 rebounds in two D-League contests.

"They were really impressed with Cam, it starts with his attitude. He went down there and really competed," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was positive, he led, which is what you look for in those type of situations. His control of the game, his pace were really good. He didn't shoot the ball as well last game but the previous game he did and he made big plays down the stretch."

The Bulls were hoping to get a good look at Payne as a potential point guard of the future after he was acquired from Oklahoma City on Feb. 23. Payne was knocked out of action last week with a sore right foot, which prompted the Bulls to give him a few days off, then ease him back into action with the Windy City Bulls.

Hoiberg on Niko's rise:

Before Friday's game, coach Fred Hoiberg rehashed the latest rise in the inconsistent saga of Nikola Mirotic. Benched for the third time this season a couple weeks ago, Mirotic played his best game of the season on Wednesday, scoring 28 points against Detroit.

"I think it says a lot about him," Hoiberg said. "He's got a lot of pride. He's been playing basketball at a very high level for a long time. He obviously started his pro career at a very young age.

"Obviously when he makes shots out there we're a much better team, a much more dangerous team. Just the fact of his floor spacing and the ball movement, the way it's been the last week, Niko's benefited from that. And again, he's had good shots because of the spacing and the way our guys have bought into moving it."

Ready to stretch:

The Bulls' offense looked good Wednesday without any centers. Starter Robin Lopez was suspended after throwing a punch at Toronto's Serge Ibaka the previous night, while Cristiano Felicio was sidelined with a back injury.

Lopez returned to the starting lineup Friday against Philadelphia, while Felicio remained inactive. Joffrey Lauvergne, the starter against Detroit, backed up Lopez on Friday.

Before the game, coach Fred Hoiberg talked about the importance of a big man who can stretch the offense, like Lauvergne or Nikola Mirotic.

"Well, it's huge. Anybody that has skilled front-line players, the game's easier," Hoiberg said. "You look at what Draymond Green does for Golden State. You get your best shooters in the action, you can split, you can curl, it puts the defense in a tough position. The more skilled guys you have on the floor, the more difficult you are to defend."

No Sixer centers:

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid had arthroscopic surgery Friday to repair a meniscus cartilage tear in his left knee. Embiid last played on Jan. 27. … Chicago native Jahlil Okafor didn't dress for Friday's game due to a sore right knee.

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