As Chicago Bulls limp into Houston, Rockets plan to rest Harden
The Bulls are taking their depleted lineup to Texas for a game against the NBA's most dominant team.
There's no reason to expect the Bulls to be competitive with the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, but their healthy players are obligated to take the floor and give it a shot.
"The reality of it is, we've got to still lock in (with a) nine-game season left," Bobby Portis said Monday. "Go out there, play to the best of our abilities. Go out there and grind it out each and every day. Obviously, it's been tough the last two weeks, but in the NBA nobody feels sorry for you."
The Rockets announced Monday that James Harden and center Clint Capela would sit out this game. Harden, the runaway favorite to win MVP, also missed the Rockets' 116-107 win at the United Center on Jan. 8. Chris Paul is expected to return from a hamstring injury and Houston has already pulled away from injury-plagued Golden State for the NBA's best record.
"He's fun to watch as an NBA opponent," Portis said of Harden. "He's one of those guys, you play with him on 2K, he plays like that in real life. He's playing like he's in a video game."
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wouldn't even begin to guess what his starting lineup might look like in Houston.
Zach LaVine (sore knee) and Kris Dunn (toe) remain out and likely won't play on this road trip, which continues in Miami and Orlando. Hoiberg said Lauri Markkanen (back) would be a game-time decision. He returned Friday against Milwaukee after missing five games, then sat out the following night in Detroit.
Paul Zipser is still out with a sore foot, Antonio Blakeney was lost for the year with a broken wrist and now Denzel Valentine joined the injured list with a sore knee. He did not practice Monday.
A possible starting lineup is Cameron Payne, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday, Noah Vonleh and Cristiano Felicio, if Hoiberg decides to keep Portis in a reserve role. Jerian Grant and Ryan Arcidiacono were healthy as of Monday.
Robin Lopez has continued to practice with the team, even though he's not playing much, and Hoiberg said it's not out of the question to see center Omer Asik play short minutes.
Hoiberg said Dunn and LaVine were feeling significantly better, so it's possible both could return this season, but the Bulls are taking a draft position-centric approach to these final nine games.
Bulls add Kilpatrick:
The Bulls signed 6-4 shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick on Tuesday and say he will be available for Tuesday's game. Kilpatrick, 28, has played in 43 games this season for the Clippers, Bucks and Nets. He was with the Clippers on a 10-day contract that expired Saturday.
According to Yahoo sports, Kilpatrick signed a three-year deal with two team options. So the contract likely has no guarantees beyond this season, but that means he could join the Bulls in summer league or be packaged in a trade.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Rockets recorded their 60th victory of the season on Sunday against Atlanta. Houston has won nine in a row overall, 16 straight at home, and the Bulls have no plans to slow the roll. As of Monday morning, the Rockets had a 5½ game lead on Golden State for the best record in the NBA. SG James Harden sat out the 116-107 victory at the United Center on Jan. 8 and won't play Tuesday. He's a lock to win MVP, averaging 30.7 points, 8.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds. PG Chris Paul (18.8 points, 7.9 assists) has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, but coach Mike D'Antoni said Sunday he's confident Paul will return for this one. SG Eric Gordon (18.1 ppg) is third on the Rockets' scoring list, while C Clint Capela (14.1 points, 11.0 rebounds) will also sit out.
Next: Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw