The Chicago Bulls still are free to lose games as they please. But their best players must be on the court for those losses.
That’s essentially what the NBA told the Bulls in a memo earlier this week, warning of consequences if Chicago continues to rest healthy players — namely Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. Lopez has sat out the Bulls’ last five games while Holiday has missed four of five, with the team going 1-4 in that span, including a blowout defeat to the Kyrie Irving-less Boston Celtics on Monday.
Bulls executive vice president John Paxson confirmed the team’s dialogue with the league, admitting Tuesday in a statement that the NBA determined Chicago was violating the “player rest” policy by sitting Lopez and Holiday.
“We respect the communication and cooperative dialogue with the league and will adhere to their recommendations going forward,” Paxson said, via the Chicago Tribune.
That appears to be true: The Bulls plan to play Lopez and Holiday “more extensively” for “the remainder of the season,” Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reported Tuesday, citing league sources. Chicago wasn’t fined or punished because it acted so quickly, according to the Tribune.
The league’s tanking problem is especially visible this season, as the NBA’s eight worst teams are separated by just three games. The Bulls have the best record of that bunch at 21-42 — despite losing 14 of their last 17 games — but have full incentive to lose to “catch” the teams below them and improve their position in the NBA Draft Lottery.
That burden now will fall on Holiday and Lopez, who must step down their games if they want to help Chicago stay cold.
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