Dunn, Portis could be back for Chicago Bulls' difficult home stretch
Whether or not the Chicago Bulls are back to full strength this weekend, the task at hand will be difficult.
Jim Boylen will make his United Center debut as head coach Friday against Oklahoma City, which has gone 16-3 since starting the season 0-4. That's followed by a visit from the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center, 7 p.m.
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: Russell Westbrook and Paul George have made a good team this season. As of Thursday morning, the Thunder (16-7) had won four in a row and were a half-game behind Denver for first place in the West. … George scored 47 points Wednesday when OKC rallied from a 23-point deficit to defeat Brooklyn 114-112. Westbrook collected the 108th triple-double of his career, breaking a tie for third place with Jason Kidd. … George is averaging 24.3 ppg on the season, with Westbrook at 22.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.0 assists. Former Hawks PG Dennis Schroder has been a nice addition, averaging 16.4 points. … OKC has won the last two meetings in Chicago.
Next: Boston Celtics at the United Center. 7 p.m. Saturday
-- Mike McGraw
Boylen said it's possible Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis will return to game action Friday, but no decision had been made as of the end of practice Thursday.
"We almost had our full team (at practice), without Zelly (Denzel Valentine)," said Boylen, who took over for Fred Hoiberg on Monday. "That's a step forward. I thought we competed two days in a row, which I thought was a step forward.
"I thought we were treating each other with respect, but also competing, which I like, too. There's a million things, probably. We're just trying to build the first floor right now. There's a lot to build."
That's a line you haven't heard often from a Bulls head coach, that they treated each other with respect. Since there were no reports of facial fractures or cracked orbital bones, it sounds like good news.
Boylen said when Dunn and Portis do start playing, they likely will be on a minutes limit. So settling on a new rotation will take time. Both players suffered knee sprains during the opening week of the season.
"We've worked on different combinations when we've had those guys here," Boylen said. "I'd like to tell you I have it figured out. I don't and it's a work in progress."
Point guard will be an interesting spot to watch as Dunn comes back. Ryan Arcidiacono supplanted Cameron Payne as the starter on Nov. 10.
In Boylen's first game as head coach, he seemed to give Payne a nudge. The former Murray State star played 20 minutes and scored 10 points against Indiana, his first double-digit scoring night since Oct 29. Boylen continued the recent tradition of playing Payne at the two ahead of Antonio Blakeney, and Boylen still believes Payne can succeed.
"I think he's a big guard, he can get downhill. He has a little pop to him," Boylen said of Payne. "I think he has something to prove. He's been hurt a lot in his career. I think he wants to establish himself as an NBA player that can play for 10 years, and that's what I hope for him. I like guys with a little chip, a little edge, a little ax to grind."
Whether it's Payne, Arcidiacono, Dunn or Shaq Harrison, the guards will have their hands full. They'll see OKC's Russell Westbrook on Friday, Boston's Kyrie Irving on Saturday, followed by Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox on Monday.
Arcidiacono was asked if he looks at the schedule and starts thinking abut these challenging matchups.
"I try to take it day by day and just try to get better in practice," he said. "Having Jim coach, it's been great so far. Just try to get used to the offense and the commitment level to everything and every little detail.
"I'll take a look at the schedule like the day before or a couple days before, but I know it's in the back of my mind that you've got Russ, then Kyrie, then Fox. So it doesn't get any easier when you play in the NBA."
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