Bulls' point guard carousel continues to spin in win over Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Rajon Rondo's answer was short and direct.

When asked after Tuesday night's 100-92 win over the Orlando Magic if the Chicago Bulls' point guards know who is going to play on a night-by-night basis, the 11-year veteran point guard didn't hesitate.

"No," he said. "Just got to be professional, not make excuses. Go with what it is right now."

What it is right now, as far as the point guard rotation is concerned, continues to change for Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg on a regular basis.

Just when you think there's some continuity, the second-year coach and his staff decide to change things up. Such was the case again Tuesday when Michael Carter-Williams, who had started the previous 12 games, was benched in favor of second-year guard Jerian Grant. The move seemed to come as a surprise to all parties involved.

"I was a little surprised," Carter-WIlliams admitted before the game. "I didn't really see it coming."

Carter-Williams said he hadn't gotten a chance yet to speak to Hoiberg about what it would take to get back into the starting lineup.

For his part, Hoiberg offered up this explanation.

"I've been looking at a lot of things," he said. "Obviously, we're putting the ball in Jimmy [Butler]'s hands a lot. We just felt as far as complementing that [starting] lineup, we felt that Jerian was the guy we'd go with tonight."

The issue for the Bulls with the point guard situation is two-fold. First and foremost, none of the point guards on the roster have played at a consistent enough level all year. Rondo has started 29 games, averaging just 6.6 points a game, while struggling defensively. He has been open about his belief that the role he currently has on this team is different than the one Hoiberg and the Bulls' front office explained to him when he signed over the summer.

Carter-Williams missed two months of the season after wrist and knee injuries, but he replaced Rondo in the starting lineup on Dec. 31. Carter-Williams has had some nice moments, but he is shooting just 35 percent from the field and 21.9 percent from beyond the arc. Grant, who was acquired in the deal that sent Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, has shown flashes of solid play, but he is shooting just 32.1 percent from beyond the arc and has struggled on both ends of the floor at times. Isaiah Canaan, who was brought in to be a long-range threat, is shooting just 26.5 percent from 3-point range. Canaan has gone from a rotation player to an inactive player in the span of a few short months.

Aside from the lackluster play, the confounding issue when listening to the players is a perceived lack of communication as to why they have been taken out of the lineup and what they have to do to get back in it. Rondo said he was told by Hoiberg that he was playing "slow" when he was benched, then said another member of the staff told the veteran that he was "saving me from myself." Rondo affirmed Tuesday that there hasn't been much communication between himself and the coaching staff and says he has never been through this situation in his career.

Carter-Williams acknowledged the situation was "frustrating" and echoed Rondo's sentiments in the feeling that if the Bulls don't want to play him, maybe he can find a better place for his game.

"Hopefully you get your time," Carter-Williams said. "If it's not one team, maybe it's another one."

Whether the Bulls find a way to deal Rondo before next month's deadline, or buy out the rest of his contract at a later date, his presence on the roster continues to clog a spot for one of the young point guards to play. Aside from an incident with assistant coach Jim Boylen in December, in which he was suspended for a game due to conduct detrimental to the team, Rondo has been repeatedly praised by teammates as being a solid role model for younger players -- but he isn't part of this team's future. Or, at times, its present.

Hoiberg, who said it was his decision and not the front office's to bench Carter-Williams, finds himself in the same quandary all the time. On one hand, he wants to win games. And on the other, he wants to develop players. But none of these players have proven to be the type of consistent figures he was hoping for. In the short-term, Hoiberg would be wise to find a way to get rookie guard Denzel Valentine some more minutes.

"He's a guy that will get a chance," Hoiberg said of Valentine. "There's no doubt about that. ... A guy that puts in a ton of work. He and [Paul] Zipser are the first two guys in the gym, which is the way it should be when you're rookies. Very talented, versatile player that's going to get a shot at some point. We're all confident he'll play well when that happens."

But Hoiberg's frustration with the point guard situation belies a deeper problem at the soul of any organizational discussion. The Bulls want to develop their young core of players, but the problem is that none of the young guards have proven to be that good. The Bulls want to make the playoffs, but the roster doesn't have the depth it needs to be successful over the course of an 82-game season. As Hoiberg tries to figure out his next move, Rondo and the cadre of young guards are left to wait and wonder like everybody else what will happen next.

One thing Rondo seems to know for sure is that no matter what happens, he won't be starting again. When asked about that possibility, he chuckled.

"Ha," he said. "Good one."