Lopez disappointed to sit out, but thinks he has future with Bulls

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez leaves the court after being ejected from the game when he received two technical foul during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif.

    Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez leaves the court after being ejected from the game when he received two technical foul during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif.

 
 
Updated 2/22/2018 8:51 PM

Robin Lopez didn't play in a game Thursday for just the second time in his two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. The first happened last season when he was suspended for a scuffle with Toronto's Serge Ibaka.

Sitting on the bench in street clothes turned out to be a problem Lopez wasn't prepared for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets," the veteran center said before Thursday's contest. "And I only found two. I didn't realize this was an issue until about five minutes before I had to leave.

"So I've got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight, but hopefully I'll be better prepared in the games to come."

Lopez said his other option was a tuxedo jacket.

Last week before leaving for the all-star break, the Bulls told Lopez and Justin Holiday they would be sitting out some games so younger guys could get a chance to play. The Bulls obviously are building for the future and wouldn't mind losing their way to a higher draft pick.

But Lopez has rarely missed games throughout his 10-year career. He played in at least 81 during four of the previous five seasons. So sitting out isn't his preferred activity.

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"It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it," he said. "I always want to be out there playing on the court. That's what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I'm excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench. … Hopefully I won't get as many technicals."

Lopez is under contract for next season, so he thinks this situation is temporary, though it's not clear when he will play again. But at 29, Lopez thinks he can stay a part of the Bulls' rebuilding and remained in good humor.

"We've got a great group of guys right here," he said. "I'm healthy right now. I think this squad has a bright future, and I think I can be a part of that future. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?"

Looking for leaders:

One byproduct of the Bulls' lineup switch is the team didn't have its two veteran leaders, Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez, on the court.

"Somebody's got to emerge as the leader of this group," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I've talked to Zach LaVine and I've talked to Kris Dunn about that. Especially with Kris as a point guard, it's very important that he starts understanding the concept of being a leader because he's got the ball in his hands so much and he's an extension of the coach when he's out there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Two other guys I'll talk about that I think have the ability are Denzel (Valentine) and Bobby (Portis). Both those guys, I think, are very good leaders. They were both with that quality, and it's going to be important now."

Brand returns as boss:

Elton Brand, the Bulls' No. 1 overall draft pick in 1999, was at the United Center on Thursday.

Brand is general manager of the G-League's Delaware 87ers, who lost to the Windy City Bulls in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was a teammate during Brand's two years in Chicago. Brand shared rookie-of-the-years honors with Houston's Steve Francis, but the Bulls traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers for Tyson Chandler in 2001.

"I haven't seen Elton yet," Hoiberg said before the game. "He's a good man. He was a great teammate. For me, that was one of my best years because he got double-teamed the whole time. Not many rookies in this league average 20 and 10. He had a heck of a career."

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