Bulls continue to tinker with Lopez, Holiday usage

 
 
Updated 3/12/2018 7:05 PM
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  • The Chicago Bulls returned Justin Holiday, pictured, and Robin Lopez to the lineup last week after consulting with the league office, but Holiday didn't play Sunday in Atlanta.

    The Chicago Bulls returned Justin Holiday, pictured, and Robin Lopez to the lineup last week after consulting with the league office, but Holiday didn't play Sunday in Atlanta. Associated Press

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg declined to reveal the plan for who starts and who sits in Tuesday's home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

After being told by the NBA they had to abide by player-rest rules when it came to sitting veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, the Bulls returned both to the starting lineup on Friday in Detroit. Neither played beyond the first quarter.

On Sunday in Atlanta, Lopez started at center, while Holiday was in uniform, but did not play at all against the Hawks.

"You know, what we wanted to do was get a really good look at Antonio (Blakeney) and that's what it came down to in the flow of the game, to get Antonio some important minutes," Hoiberg said. "We really need to evaluate him down the stretch here. How that effects everything, I'm not exactly sure yet. We'll just continue to go game-by-game and go from there."

Some might say the Bulls are flaunting the rule by sitting Holiday, but it's not clear if the league equates sitting a healthy player with what could arguably be declared a coach's lineup decision. The Bulls won the game, after all.

With Sunday's win over the Hawks, the Bulls improved to 12-3 against the non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. They remain in danger of slipping ahead of New York to the league's ninth-worst record. A half-game separated those teams in the standings on Monday.

Payne makes gains:

Cameron Payne has shown signs of turning the corner as he returns from foot surgery. He scored a season-high 17 points against Detroit on Friday and has shot better than 50 percent from the field in the last four games.

"Cam has been great," coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday. "I loved the way Cameron's gone out and played. He's making the right plays. It's been simple. He hasn't put up huge numbers. Detroit, he put up a good line. But I really love the growth Cameron's made and the progress and you can tell he's getting in better shape. The best thing about Cam, he's going out and making the right play.

Bulls horns:

Paul Zipser returned to practice Monday, though it's not certain when he'll be ready to return to game action. He's missed eighth games with a sore left foot. … Coach Fred Hoiberg on Denzel Valentine sailing a behind-the-back pass out of bounds in the second half in Atlanta: "He knows better than to make that play. He's really confident in his ability … it's one of the things I love about him. At the same time, yeah, we can't have those behind the back plays."

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