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It’s bad enough the Bulls Friday dominated the Philadelphia 76ers in a 105-89 romp to close their 4-2 road trip. Now, a substantial portion of the Bulls bench is getting ready to take a shot at the 76ers’ D-league team, the Delaware 87ers.
Jerian Grant and Cristiano Felicio will make their debuts in Hoffman Estates at the Sears Centre 7 p.m. Saturday and be joined from the Bulls roster by R. J. Hunter, who played for the Windy City Bulls earlier this month. The three have been on the edge or out of the rotation for the Bulls on this road trip. So they’ll be able to get game condition playing time before rejoining the Bulls next week.
“With the way the NBA schedule broke, the team had off days and we felt like it was a good chance for these three guys to get some playing time,” said Bulls assistant general manager Brian Hagen, who is Windy City general manager. “It’s an ideal chance for some of our young guys to buzz out and play a game in the suburbs with the D-league team and be back and not miss any time with the big club. I think they’ll likely just play in this one, but no decision has been made.
“The plan now is to go out and get some good minutes in tonight with Windy City and then come back to the Bulls,” said Hagen. “They’ll start and play major minutes. After the game (Friday in Philadelphia, the coaching staff) talked to the three players and let them know they would be playing in the game the next night (in Hoffman Estates) and everyone was excited about it. Guys enjoy playing.”
It’s not only a good opportunity for the three players to enjoy competitive game conditions, but a chance for team management and fans to further examine the potential and possibilities with the young players.
Felicio has fallen out of the regular rotation of late as the Bulls have tried to use Bobby Portis more. Though Felicio had a solid start to the season, averaging five points and five rebounds in about 17 minutes and shooting 55 percent in the first three games.
Hunter played two games for Windy City after being picked up by the Bulls following his release from Boston. He only played eight minutes on the trip over two games with one shot and was scoreless.
Grant is the intriguing player. He was part of the Derrick Rose trade and was inconsistent in summer league and training camp. But he had an excellent game in the Bulls win in Portland with Rajon Rondo out with a sprained ankle. He is averaging 4.4 points per game for the season in about 13.3 minutes. He had 18 points and five steals against Portland with strong defense on star guard Damian Lillard. Grant had six points and five rebounds in 29 minutes against Utah the next game. He hasn’t played much the last three games. With Michael Carter-Williams out now with a wrist bone chip, Grant could be called upon more in upcoming games.
“It’s coming together well with the goal to develop our young players and staff for the parent club,” said Hagen. “The circus trip is unusual because the team is gone so long and so far away, but now with a more normal NBA schedule we’ll be able to work out more time for guys who need it out there.”
It’s possible Carter-Williams or Doug McDermott could play for Windy City when they are ready to return. But since they are veteran players with more than two years’ experience they would have to give their permission. Mike Dunleavy last season practiced in the D-league upon his return from back surgery, though he did not play games.
The Windy City Bulls are 2-3. They have been led by Spencer Dinwiddie, who is averaging 20 points, 16th in the league, and 8.6 assists, which is fourth. Chicagoan Alfonzo McKinnie is averaging 11.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, the latter seventh in the league. Aaron Thomas is averaging 16.8 points and J.J. Avila is shooting 37.5 percent on threes.
So 87ers? Yes, 1787 was the year of the Constitutional Convention. Delaware was the first state to ratify. It’s not exactly an official NBA back to back, but Grant, Felicio and Hunter are ready to offer some amendments to their game.