CHICAGO -- As the talk surrounding tanking reaches a fever pitch around the NBA, the Bulls have had an ongoing dialogue with the league office regarding the best way to handle the final 19 games of the season.
The Bulls, like many teams around the league, are focused on this spring's upcoming draft lottery and have made it clear that they want to see how younger players on their roster do with extended minutes. Players such as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba have been placed in the starting lineup in games down the stretch in favor of veterans such as Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, both of whom have been inactive for most of the games since the All-Star break.
"After the All-Star break, we had communication with the league office about Robin and Justin's roles," said Bulls executive vice president John Paxson. "After healthy dialogue, the league determined that their situations fall into the 'player rest' policy. We respect the communication and cooperative dialogue with the league and will adhere to their recommendations going forward."
While one league source reiterated Tuesday that Lopez and Holiday will play again at various points before season's end, the league is being extremely wary of teams intentionally trying to lose games to help their draft positioning. The NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 last month after he said on Julius Erving's podcast that he talked to his players about how it was in the organization's best interest to lose games down the stretch.
For their part, the Bulls have been very cautious not to make any reference to tanking or losing games, with Paxson and coach Fred Hoiberg repeatedly saying they would like to get a look at the prospects they have.
What makes the Bulls' situation different is that instead of Lopez and Holiday coming off the bench, as was the plan coming out of the All-Star break, both veterans made it clear to front-office executives that they understood what the team was trying to do in getting a better look at the younger group and would cede their minutes in the short term, rather than play lesser minutes off the bench, according to a league source.
The Bulls, who are 21-42, currently sit in the eighth position in the draft lottery. They play the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at the United Center.