It was just one game for Robin Lopez, but the Bulls these days don’t have many games to spare.
The NBA Wednesday announced that Bulls center Robin Lopez was suspended for one game, against Detroit, for his fight with Serge Ibaka in Toronto Tuesday. Ibaka also was suspended without pay for one game. It will cost Lopez about $160,000. Cristiano Felicio was out against Detroit with a back injury from a fall in Toronto. So Joffrey Lauvergne starts against the Pistons. Several players would thus be asked to also play some backup center.
Toronto assistant Jamaal Magloire was fined for engaging Nikola Mitotic during the melee instead of trying to stop the action.
“He’s a guy that goes out and approaches his job the same way every day. He goes to work. He never complains. He does what’s asked of him. Also if you asked them, they’d tell you he’s as passionate of a guy as we have on this team as well." Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said before the game. "He’s got a fire to him that you just don’t ever want to take away. This game gets very competitive obviously; it gets heated at times. That happened last night. It’s unfortunate what went down, but we’ve all got Robin’s back. I think everybody in this organization, from the players all the way to up top, has Robin’s back. We’ll deal with it and move on. We’ll be happy to have him in the lineup Friday.”
Lopez also will miss his first game this season.
Losing Lopez is a blow given the Bulls precarious place in the Eastern Conference outside the top eight. Detroit also was playing to get into the top eight.
“They’re all big heading down the stretch now,” agreed Hoiberg. “Unfortunately, you look at last night, we played 40 really good minutes of basketball. It was fun to watch; it was getting up and down the floor. It was moving the ball. Unfortunately, we went into a little stretch where we turned it over, I think three out of four possessions after we got up 14. Started with (DeMar) DeRozan kind of coming from behind and unfortunately we didn’t see him coming and that led to a three. Then two of the next three possessions, turn it over, and they got a two and another three with that cut it to six. Now you’re in a fight. It’s unfortunate the way that game went down, but you have to take the positives where you can. Again, we played a really good stretch of basketball for a lot of that night last night.”
Hoiberg conceded the suspension was warranted based on being involved in a fight, which is against league rules. But the Bulls privately were relieved the suspension wasn’t longer, perhaps two of three games.
“Robin's going to have our guys' backs as much as anybody in the locker room,” said Hoiberg. “It looked like it was a little hip check. They turned around and got squared off, and we all know what happened. There's always more going on (on the basketball court) than it appears. There's little jabs that happen in the course of the game and sometimes it reaches the boiling point. Robin is a guy that plays this game with a lot of passion, and you don't ever want to see something like that happen, but it did.
“It's the heat of the battle, it happens in this league going all the way back to when this league started,” Hoiberg added. “When you've got big, strong, physical guys out there competing against each other, these kind of things can happened, and it did, and again you move on.
“I talked to Robin this afternoon,” said Hoiberg. “Had a good talk with him. We’ll see him tomorrow. He’s going to come in the gym and get a workout tomorrow. I know that he talked to some of the players individually, but not right after the game was over. He was right there when everybody walked in, giving everybody a hug, and that’s who Robin is.’’