Cameron Payne starts in season opener with Kris Dunn out
I'm going to play as hard as I can and whatever falls in place falls in place. I've been waiting to play for a long time. - Cameron Payne
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg probably hopes the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night feel his Payne. Because with starting point guard Kris Dunn excused for personal reasons, the Bulls will start Cameron Payne in a lineup that also is without starting forward Lauri Markkanen.
Hoiberg at Bulls practice Thursday morning did his best to hide a look of pain.
"It's not ideal, but it is what it is," Hoiberg offered. "It happens at this level and you just have to go out and do the best job you can. It's an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup, really three with Denzel (Valentine) being a guy that can play make in that second unit. So, again, this is always opportunity for guys to get in there, show what they can do, and fight for rotation spots down the line.'
Welcome to Year 2 of the reconstitution, as perhaps they might call it in the home of the Constitution.
It just seems there is no justice for these Bulls people, limited chances for domestic tranquility, further difficulty promoting a common defense and a heck of a time producing general welfare.
Forget a perfect union; how about just having the regular starting lineup on occasion?
"Obviously, we've been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen," Hoiberg acknowledged. "They come up and you just have to adjust the best you can. We're still going to go out there and hopefully play with great effort, great intensity. It's what we're going to have to do if we want to have a chance in this game with Philly in their home opener. It's going to be electric and they're going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That's who they are and we have to be ready for that. It's a little bit of shock and awe with this team where you've got to weather that first storm."
That nor'easter comes with rookie Wendell Carter Jr. in his NBA debut facing MVP candidate Joel Embiid with the 76ers coming off an opening loss in Boston Tuesday. And Hoiberg still was deciding who would defend against 6-10 Ben Simmons, the 76ers point guard who is taller than about every Bulls starter.
Dunn is the Bulls best perimeter defender and was expected to try to slow Simmons, who operates best in the post. The Bulls likely will try to double team Simmons since the 76ers are a weak three-point shooting team. Hometown favorite Ryan Arcidiacono will be the backup at point with newly signed Tyler Ulis likely to see some playing time.
Though it's also possible the Bulls will go to bigger lineups with Jabari Parker.
"We feel that Cam with that first group is going to spray the ball ahead, run the offense," said Hoiberg. "I've liked what Arch has done in that second unit, so we're going to keep Ryan coming off the bench with that second group. In watching that game the other night, he had some good chemistry with Jabari when he was out there. So it's just the way we're going to go."
Payne had a painful preseason, shooting 25 percent and 29 percent on threes. So he has a chance to claim a role with the Bulls bringing in Ulis.
"I feel I can be way better," Payne agreed. "I know I didn't make a lot of shots. It's really not about that. It's about getting my team involved and making sure everybody gets the ball at their spots to contribute. Obviously, this is a big opportunity for me. I'm just going to play my hardest every night, do the best I can. I'm going to play as hard as I can and whatever falls in place falls in place. I've been waiting to play for a long time."
So have all the Bulls, but this wasn't exactly the starting lineup they hoped for when training camp began. Still, the schedule says it's time.
"Anytime you have a situation like this, it's an opportunity to step up and show what you can do," Hoiberg said. "We were happy with Cam at the end of last year when we had some different injuries, going out and playing really good basketball. He shot almost 40 percent from the three-point line. We thought he did a really good job of throwing ahead and making plays. It is an opportunity for him with the starting unit to go out there and hopefully get us off to a great start. (Cam) didn't shoot the ball very well (in preseason). It was good to see him knock a few down in the last game against Denver. Hit the two threes in a row in the third quarter to close the gap and give us a chance. So he did finish off with his best performance and hopefully he can carry that over.'
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