NBA preseason: How to watch Bulls-Pelicans, storylines to monitor

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NBA preseason: 3 things to watch when Bulls host Pelicans originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Days after a raucous rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls host the New Orleans Pelicans for their second of four 2021 preseason games.

Here are three things to watch for:

Starter’s minutes

Against Cleveland, five Bulls players saw between 20 and 26 minutes of game action — Lonzo Ball (26), DeMar DeRozan (25), Zach LaVine (24), Nikola Vučević (24) and Alex Caruso (20). The results were thrilling.

After Thursday’s practice, Billy Donovan estimated the starters’ playing time will climb into the 24-28-minute range for their second game. The Bulls are carefully plotting a ramp-up plan for their key guys based on conversations between the coaching staff, medical staff and players.

“I feel like you’re always walking that line of practice, preseason training camp versus load, rest and recovery,” Donovan said after Thursday’s practice. “I think there’s gotta be a balance between the fact that, yes, we’re intelligently ramping them up in a progressive way that makes sense. 

“I really rely on the medical staff a lot, and I don’t think that they feel medically it’s the best thing for those guys just to kind of keep sitting. Because they can’t figure out how to play with each other, they can’t figure out their rhythm playing with one another, and they need it to get ready and in condition. And sometimes you get into a place where a guy could get hurt because he then tried to do too much he hasn’t built up to.”

That should make for more exciting, and meaningful, viewing, given the Bulls’ breakneck pace and penchant for highlights against the Cavaliers — plus their desire to continue building chemistry.

Revenge game watch

Ball will face his old team for the first time since joining the Bulls via sign-and-trade in 2021 free agency, albeit in a preseason context. Though his New Orleans tenure ended unceremoniously, it also featured tremendous on-the-court growth, particularly as an outside shooter, and he said it left no hard feelings.

“Today’s just about us getting better,” Ball said after the team’s morning shootaround when asked about facing the Pelicans. “I don’t feel any type of way. I’m in a good situation right now. I'm blessed. I got no complaints."

On the other end of that sign-and-trade transaction were Tomáš Satoranský and Garrett Temple, who each return to the United Center for the first time. Satoranský signed with the Bulls as a free agent in the summer of 2019, while Temple marked the Bulls’ lone signing in the new front office’s first offseason.

Double debut

Derrick Jones Jr. and 2020 second-round pick Marko Simonović each missed the Bulls’ first preseason game, but were left off the team’s injury report for this one. So expect each of them to make their preseason debuts.

Donovan has spoken of Jones as a potential stopgap at the power forward spot throughout training camp as Patrick Williams’ absence continues to linger. Might Donovan switch up the starting lineup after rolling Javonte Green out with the first unit in game one? We’ll know closer to game time.

In any event, Jones’ length and activity will be a welcome presence on a team whose defensive identity appears to be predicated on both. The Bulls swiped 13 steals, swatted 11 blocks and produced 26 points off turnovers in their thumping of the Cavaliers. While their undersized nature projects to be ever-present, keeping up that intensity would be a welcome sign. 

And Jones, for his part, certainly has the bounce to make a couple highlight-reel plays on the break to boot.

Injury Report

Bulls

  • DOUBTFUL: Tony Bradley (lower back strain)

  • OUT: Coby White (left shoulder surgery); Patrick Williams (left ankle sprain)

Pelicans

  • QUESTIONABLE: Devonte’ Graham (left knee soreness); Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness)

  • OUT: Zion Williamson (right foot surgery); Jaxson Hayes (left ankle sprain)

How to watch

Date: Oct. 8, 2021Time: 7 p.m. CTTV: NBC Sports Chicago

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