Bulls as close to full strength as they’ve been since the rebuild was initiated

Denzel Valentine wasn’t walking through that door to the Advocate Center anytime soon.

Limping? Maybe, but walking? Season-ending surgery made sure the former first-round pick was shut down for the year.

But besides Valentine, for the first time come Sunday, the Bulls will be as healthy as they have been since the rebuild was first decided on by the front office in the summer of 2017, and Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota.

Reserve forward Bobby Portis (right ankle) is available against the Nets, according to coach Jim Boylen, while newly acquired Wayne Selden will be active.

Considering the Bulls’ core three of Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine are coming off their best performance together in the overtime loss to Indiana, no wonder Boylen insisted on Saturday there are “a lot of positives.’’

Now there needs to be better results.

The 119-116 loss to the Pacers on Friday, just so happened to come on the same day as VP of basketball operations John Paxson said that there was a discussion with Boylen about opening the offense up, but Boylen had said that was going to happen once he saw his young team handle the basics.

So was it a coincidence?

“It’s the things we’ve been working on,’’ Boylen said of the more up-tempo look, and now sustaining it. “Obviously, we made some great shots. They did too. You don’t make those every night. But we were No. 1 in paint drives, which is something we talk about. Pass quality’s got to get better. We had three travels, those concern me. We had one step out of bounds. So four of our 18 [turnovers] were things I think we control. That’s what we’re coaching.’’

A point that didn’t escape Paxson.

“We’ve talked about [the offense] and the issue right now is we’ve got to get a little more pace to our game,’’ Paxson said. “Jim, [special advisor] Doug Collins, we all talk about it together. I don’t think you can necessarily pay attention to everything all at once. You make a change in season, it’s very hard for the coach. You didn’t have a training camp to establish things. Practice time is limited. This will be a good time for us to improve in that area. We’ve got a lot of games left.’’

It also helps to have a healthy roster to help improve in that area together.

Portis will return to his key role off the bench, and while he will likely be on minutes restrictions for the time being, his energy and defense will be welcomed with open arms.

Well, maybe not by Jabari Parker, who could go back to his role of warm-up model, sitting at the edge of the bench for the entire game and collecting yet another DNP [Did Not Play] Coach’s Decision. Parker did get in the Pacers game, but before that had not played in the previous nine games.

Then there’s Selden, who came over in the Justin Holiday trade with Memphis, and was looking forward to building a role with his new teammates.

“I can do different things,’’ Selden said. “I can shoot it, I can create off the dribble, try to be the best defender I can be, give all my effort on the defensive end and just trying to keep getting better. Athletic, I feel I can do different things on the court to help this team.’’

Brooks, who also came over from Memphis, will not report to the team, with the Bulls agreeing to move him elsewhere.

Besides that all systems should be a go.


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