Bulls Move Parker To Bench, Find Spark With Starters

Signs are pointing to Jabari Parker playing a reserve role.

Cody Westerlund
October 10, 2018 - 10:52 pm
Bulls forward Jabari Parker

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- In an effort to find a spark after consecutive lackadaisical performances, the Bulls decided to start Bobby Portis in place of Jabari Parker at power forward and Wendell Carter Jr. in place of Robin Lopez at center against the Pacers on Wednesday evening.

The switch had the intended effect, as the Bulls started strong en route to a 104-89 win at the United Center behind 22 points apiece from Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday in the team’s best showing of the preseason. How the switch affects Parker, the high-profile free-agent addition who’s making $20 million this season, remains to be seen.

Parker scored 11 points off the bench on 4-of-12 shooting but didn’t appear pleased with his new role, declining to comment to reporters in pregame availability and then again postgame. He's struggled to find a rhythm in four preseason games, shooting 26.5 percent. The Bulls signed him in July with the intention of starting him at small forward, only to shift to power forward when Lauri Markkanen suffered a severe elbow sprain the first week of training camp.

For now, Parker's feelings about his role are a worry for another day. On this night, Hoiberg’s focus was on the positive returns he received from his new-look lineup.

"I loved our energy coming out of the gate," Hoiberg said. "I thought that group was really locked in."

Continuing his strong preseason play, Portis had 20 points and six rebounds. Hoiberg emphasized that a one-game sample size wasn’t enough to settle on a concrete plan for a starting lineup, but the Carter-Portis-Holiday-LaVine-Kris Dunn group complemented one another well and found the immediate rhythm that had been elusive for the Bulls lately.

"To come out here and bring it, that’s what we need to do every game," LaVine said. "Because without that, we’re not going to look too good out there, as you can see from the other two (recent) outings we had."

The defensive end was where the Bulls were most impressive, considering it’s regarded as their biggest weakness. The Bulls had allowed 60 of more points in the first half of the prior three games, with Parker often getting targeted in the pick-and-roll.

On Wednesday, Chicago held Indiana to 36 percent shooting in the first half and 39.2 percent for the game while showcasing much-improved defensive rotations. Hoiberg credited point guard Kris Dunn for setting the tone, and Dunn intends for his attitude to wear off on everyone.

"You’ve got other dogs around you, it’s easy," Dunn said. "We got Bobby, Wendell, who’s defensive-minded. Justin is fundamentally sound. Zach played good defense today. Because you put Zach around dogs, he’s going to become a dog. We were out there and competing."

References to a "dog" mentality were aplenty for Dunn, who shed more light on what he meant by that.

"Pit bull off a leash," Dunn said. "When you see one, how do you feel? You get scared, right? Nobody wants to see a pit bull off the leash. Where the owner at? You know what I’m saying? Where’s the owner? That’s what it is – somebody that tries to put fear in another player, somebody that gets up and is hounding."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.​