The Bulls finally are complete, or as close as they will be this season with Denzel Valentine out for the season.
So it's time to compete as Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis, both coming off the bench Monday against the Sacramento Kings, joined Lauri Markkanen in the lineup. Dunn and Portis came off the bench Monday with temporary playing time limitations.
"The team is excited, I'm excited," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said before Monday's game. "It's a great day for them. It's been a difficult process for everybody, but they battled through. I'm proud of them and it's an exciting opportunity at home.
"I just think that's the way to do it," Boylen said about continuing to start Ryan Arcidiacono at point guard. "If you miss two games and you come back, I'm not going to put parameters on it. But you're out this long, his juices are going to be flowing. He can sit there and watch it for a minute and then this is not a hamstring where maybe warmth is important. It's not that type of thing. I could see (starting again) happening, but I'm not going to (say) when. I don't know when that'll happen."
But for now, especially in the wake of the 56-point loss to Boston Saturday and subsequent player and team meetings, their return turns the focus back to basketball.
"You've got Bobby who plays with great emotion and passion," Boylen pointed out. "We're similar personalities. Competitive person and we love having him on this team. He has a soul, which is what I believe in in the game. He has things that you can pull out of him and I love that. Kris is a dynamic defender, a two-way player. There were times last year that he was a closer for us. Hopefully, he can get back to that confidence level as we go here. You got two of your top six, top seven coming back. You hope that it's a good thing for you. How quickly it takes them to come back and get acclimated, get comfortable, we'll see. They're coming off an injury into a new situation, so they're in adjustment mode not only with getting a feel of the game but playing for me as the head coach."
And Portis can't wait.
"Credit to our training staff and coaching staff for pushing me on a day to day basis to get back as soon as possible," Portis said before the game. Both he and Dunn were out with knee injuries. "Tough times happen. Last year we were 3-20 and went on a seven-game run and everything felt good. Adversity hits every team at some point in the season. 0urs is right now; every team goes through it. I feel like we are together, on the same page and ready to roll. You can't look behind. You can always look forward and grow together and come out and give a great effort and give the fans something to watch."
That's the obvious goal in the wake of the extraordinary two days since the horrific loss against Boston.
Obviously, events, mostly being wins and losses, will determine the ultimate result of the disruption.
"It's nice to start getting guys back," acknowledged Robin Lopez. "One thing I do wish is Fred (Hoiberg) had been given that opportunity. But we have Jim as our coach now. We're going to go out the way he wants us to play and do things the way he wants them done. We don't have those guys on our team where (giving up is) going to happen. As a group, that's not going to happen. Jim has gone about things the way he wants to go about it. He wanted to make an impression. I think we're better for it. They have different styles. And I think both styles can be effective."
Boylen before Monday's game reiterated that his message remains the same, to help guide the players toward excellence for themselves and the franchise.
"Nothing grows without some sun, some shade, some rain and I'm encouraged, they're encouraged and we're going to try to respond, play better than we did in the last game, play more together than we did in the last game and represent Bulls across our chest," said Boylen. "The theme has not changed. I don't think you can always control if the ball goes in the hoop. But I think you can control your focus, your effort, physicality, your competitiveness.
"My job is to try to push our guys to a place they can't take themselves," said Boylen. "That's pushing them outside their comfort zone. That's what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for. I explained that to them: ‘Hey guys, everybody wants it comfortable, everybody wants it safe. Well, I don't think you become great like that.' So it's going to be a little raw for a while, it's going to be a little rough for a while. And maybe there's a point where it gets not as rough, but all of a sudden it's got to be rough again. That's the way it is in the business. From the places I've been that have been successful, that's the way it is."