Lopez continues to take role as mentor seriously
Robin Lopez was asked about helping mentor younger players who could end up taking his playing time.
That scenario played out quickly this season as the Chicago Bulls moved rookie Wendell Carter Jr. into the starting lineup ahead of Lopez after two preseason games. Lopez treated the idea that he would do anything else as preposterous.
"It's easy for me, honestly," Lopez said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. "I've had a lot of great veterans myself, but even if I hadn't I have a great joy playing with these guys, being around these guys. We have a great group of guys, a great group of teammates. I'd be a huge (jerk) if I weren't to do that, you know."
Lopez disappeared from the playing rotation for five games early in the season. But he's back now, helping against taller centers or when Carter gets in foul trouble. He played 18 and 22 minutes in the past two games and seemed a little rusty at times. He's coming off the best offensive performance of his career last season.
"I've played OK. It's nice to be back out there with the guys," Lopez said. "I'm trying to find myself defensively, trying to fit in that way. I think I'll get on the same page as everybody else offensively the more I'm out there."
Since he arrived in a trade from New York in 2016, the Bulls have praised Lopez's skills as a mentor and veteran leader. Now in the final year of his contract, it's possible he could be traded at some point, but there may not be much of a market for an old-school, defensive-minded 7-footer.
"Anytime you can show the guys the right way to approach that and be professional about it and still be a mentor throughout the tough times, it's a great example," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He's a great role model for our young players, specifically the bigs. He's really kind of taken Wendell under his wing."
The Boston Celtics have been one of the NBA's bigger mysteries so far. After getting Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injuries, the Celtics still are just 7-6 heading into Wednesday's game against the Bulls.
Irving shared a couple of thoughts after Boston's latest loss at Portland.
"Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it's a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint," Irving said, according to The Boston Globe.
"We come out and clearly we outmatch teams at dang near every position. We have a lot of good players. And when I say outmatch I mean in terms of the groups we have out there we pretty much have a mismatch every time out there down the floor."
Markkanen moving forward:
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg gave a detailed update on Lauri Markkanen, who should be the first player to return from injury. Markkanen is closing in on the seven-week mark since suffering a sprained right elbow with a recovery estimate of 6-8 weeks.
"He's still not shooting a lot. He's shooting short-range shots," Hoiberg said. "He's getting really good conditioning workouts in, so when he is cleared to start shooting and has no pain in that type of activity, hopefully he can get back soon.
"We need to make sure he's 100 percent before he goes back out there. You'd hate to have a setback that keeps him out for a longer stretch. Still the same time frame right now."