Markkanen sits out Chicago Bulls practice with sore back

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen smiles before posing for a portrait during media day for the NBA basketball team Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen smiles before posing for a portrait during media day for the NBA basketball team Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 9/30/2017 10:04 PM

The Chicago Bulls won't place a high priority on winning games this season, but it would be nice to keep their most important rebuilding blocks on the court.

Rookie big man Lauri Markkanen sat out Saturday's practice after leaving the court a day earlier due to back spasms. At this point, the Bulls don't believe the injury will be long term.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He's doing better," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He had some tightness in his lower back. He responded very well to the treatments, felt a lot better (Friday) night. Got another round of treatments today. We just feel the smart thing is to be patient with him.

"He's had a very busy and hectic summer with going from the summer league to playing in the EuroBasket tournament, not having a lot of time off. He had about a week where he didn't do much, so he's just really starting to ramp up his activity level."

Hoiberg said it's too soon to tell if Markkanen will be able to play in Tuesday's preseason opener at New Orleans.

In other injury news, forward Quincy Pondexter left Saturday's practice with a left-hamstring strain. He will be re-evaluated Sunday morning.

Nwaba defined:

Asked which of the young Bulls have been impressive so far, Justin Holiday said all of them, but he settled on Antonio Blakeney and David Nwaba. Blakeney is on a two-way contract and should spend most of the season with the Windy City Bulls.

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Nwaba played in the D-League last year before joining the Lakers late in the season. The Bulls claimed him off waivers this summer.

"David's been shooting the ball very, very well," Holiday said.

Some rosters have the 6-foot-4 Nwaba listed as a point guard, but coach Fred Hoiberg quickly put that notion to rest.

"That's a typo. He's a utility player," Hoiberg said. "Call him an H -- he's a hybrid. David is a guy that is a tough, hard-nosed, athletic. He's never backed down from a challenge. He's got an unbelievable body.

"The one thing he can do is rebound, and I am having him push the ball and initiate offense, but right now I would say if you just had to put him at one position, he's a small forward."

Dynasty coach passes:

Frank Hamblen, who was Phil Jackson's top assistant during the Bulls' second championship run, died Saturday at his home in San Diego after suffering a heart attack. He was 70.

The native of Terre Haute, Indiana, served briefly as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He left the Bulls in 1999 to join Jackson's staff in Los Angeles, where he coached until 2011.

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