Lopez had five points (2-5 FG, 1-1 3Pt) and seven rebounds in 21 minutes during Saturday's 117-103 loss to the Heat.
Lopez drew the start but Bobby Portis ended up earning more minutes (24) off the bench and making a much bigger impact. With Wendell Carter (thumb) likely sidelined until late March, Lopez could be in line to start on a consistent basis thanks to his ability and willingness to defend, as coach Jim Boylen seems to be prioritizing development on that end of the floor. Lopez could be traded, bought out, remain the starter, or relinquish his starting spot, but regardless Portis is probably a more intriguing option.
Lopez will start Saturday against the Heat, Malika Andrews of ESPN.com reports.
During Wendell Carter Jr.'s (thumb) first absence Thursday against the Nuggets, Bobby Portis drew the start at center. However, it appears coach Jim Boylen wants to try a different look. The result is Lopez's first start of the year. When seeing 20-plus minutes, the veteran has averaged 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 51.8 percent shooting.
Earlier in the week, coach Jim Boylen suggested that Lopez would likely be phased out of the rotation, but the Bulls were quickly forced to change course after starting center Wendell Carter sustained a thumb injury in Tuesday's loss to the Lakers. With Carter sidelined Thursday, Bobby Portis moved over from power forward to enter the starting five at center, allowing Lopez to move up a spot on the depth chart as Portis' backup. Lopez made the most of his time on the court by matching his season high in scoring, but he could soon be on the outs for a rotation spot with the Bulls merely viewing Carter's injury as a day-to-day situation at this juncture.
The Bulls are yet to announce the extent of Carter's injury, but the belief at this point is he'll miss multiple weeks, which will leave Chicago shorthanded at center. Coach Jim Boylen indicated earlier in the week that Lopez would move into a decreased role going forward, and that was borne out in Tuesday's game against the Lakers, when Lopez did not see the floor. While the Bulls are focused on developing young talent, they may have no choice but to return Lopez to the rotation for the time being. Cristiano Felicio could also see more time at the five, as could Bobby Portis or even Lauri Markkanen in small-ball lineups.
Lopez was informed Monday that his minutes will likely be reduced going forward, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. "I'm going to play some different people," coach Jim Boylen said. "He has got pride and he wants to play, but he's all for the team and he understands. You don't always expect guys to be happy with their situation or their minutes or whatever. That's not part of this league. What's part of this league is you have to do what's best for the team. Rolo has always done that."
Boylen hasn't exactly been wearing Lopez out as it is, but it looks as though the Bulls will pivot toward more of Wendell Carter, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis up front. The veteran was not thrilled with the decision at Monday's practice, and it's likely the two sides will continue to work toward a trade at some point before next month's deadline. Lopez, who is averaging 11.7 minutes per game in January, can still be a useful piece, but he doesn't fit in the Bulls' future plans, so the team would likely seek a draft pick or younger player in return.
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