Parker is lack­lus­ter as a re­serve

Hoiberg’s changes work, but Jabari strug­gles

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - JOE COW­LEY BULLS BEAT jcow­ley@suntimes.com | @sun­times_hoops

It worked.

But will it stick?

Only coach Fred Hoiberg can an­swer that ques­tion, and he has some time to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

Fresh off back-to-back dis­mal per­for­mances against Mil­wau­kee and Char­lotte, Hoiberg and his coach­ing staff went back to the lab to try to rein­vent a stag­nant of­fense and an unin­spired de­fense.

What they con­cocted was on dis­play in the Bulls’ 104-89 vic­tory Wed­nes­day against the Pac­ers at the United Cen­ter.

Zach LaVine and Justin Hol­i­day led the Bulls with 22 points apiece.

It was a pos­i­tive show­ing on many fronts un­less your name is Jabari Parker.

Parker again was less than stel­lar. He scored 11 points on 4-for-12 shoot­ing in an un­fa­mil­iar role off the bench, not the usual spot for the No. 2 over­all pick from the 2014 draft whom the Bulls lav­ished a two-year, $40 mil­lion con­tract on.

“We just want to try some new com­bi­na­tions,’’ Hoiberg said of the change. “We’re ob­vi­ously still in the pre­sea­son; we’ve got [days] left to ex­per­i­ment with some dif­fer­ent line­ups out there.’’

Parker’s feel­ings about the role re­main un­known, es­pe­cially be­cause he was one of the first play­ers out of the locker room and de­clined to speak to the me­dia.

Hoiberg, how­ever, is­sued a warn­ing to his team at the be­gin­ning of camp that start­ing spots would have to be won through com­pe­ti­tion. Be­fore the vic­tory over In­di­ana, Parker wasn’t ex­actly grab­bing that spot — es­pe­cially with the ab­sence of Lauri Markka­nen (right el­bow) — shoot­ing a com­bined 4-for-23 in the pre­vi­ous two losses and 13-for-49 (26.5 per­cent) for the pre­sea­son.

“Noth­ing is set in stone right now,’’ Hoiberg said. “This is just an ex­per­i­ment to see if it gets us get­ting out and play­ing bet­ter just with dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions. That’s all it is. Noth­ing more, noth­ing less.’’

Be­sides Parker be­ing benched, Hoiberg in­serted Bobby Por­tis into the Parker va­cancy and started 19-year-old rookie Wen­dell Carter Jr. over veteran cen­ter Robin Lopez.

“You know, you got to roll with what hap­pens in this league, so I’m go­ing to do what I can with the sec­ond unit,’’ Lopez said.

Hoiberg did ad­dress the moves with Parker and Lopez be­fore the game and said both play­ers seemed to take the news well.

“I’ve had con­ver­sa­tions with ev­ery­body that will be af­fected by the change in the lineup,’’ Hoiberg said.

“The big­gest thing you want out of the gate is great en­ergy. If you’re go­ing to make a mis­take, you want to do it with ef­fort. If you turn it over, you have to re­act to it and get back de­fen­sively.’’

Both the starters and newlook re­serves seemed to do that against the Pac­ers, es­pe­cially the part about “great en­ergy’’ out of the gate, as that first unit outscored the Pac­ers 34-17 in the first quar­ter.

But the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion — or pos­si­bly the $20 mil­lion ques­tion — is, does Hoiberg keep Parker in a bench role?

The Bulls (2-2) wrap up the pre­sea­son Fri­day, but they have un­til the Oct. 18 reg­u­lar-sea­son opener in Philadel­phia to fi­nal­ize the ro­ta­tions.

That’s a lot of scrim­mages and prac­tice time be­tween now and then to get a bet­ter sam­ple size and de­cide if Parker’s home­com­ing will be as a bench player.

JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IM­AGES

Jabari Parker shot 4-for-12 and scored 11 points off the bench Wed­nes­day night against the Pac­ers.

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