Doug McDermott‘s return to Chicago tonight as a member of the Knicks gave Bulls fans an unpleasant reminder of the Cameron Payne trade, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne appeared in just 11 games after being acquired from the Thunder in that five-player deal and hasn’t played at all this season as he recovers from offseason foot surgery.
Coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters tonight that an X-ray on Payne last week showed improvement, but he still isn’t able to run or cut and probably can’t play full-court games for at least six weeks. Cowley suggests it will take Payne at least a couple of weeks to get in shape after that, which pushes his return date back to sometime in mid-February.
“He came at a very difficult time last year with a veteran team, and just had his struggles,” Hoiberg said. “At the same time we’re competing for a playoff spot and it’s a tough time to come in and make an impact. For Cam, the big thing is to stay positive through this stretch, and to get him back and have some positive moments for us when we’re going down the stretch.’’
There’s more tonight from Chicago:
- McDermott was surprised by the trade that sent him to Oklahoma City at last season’s deadline, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. He was in the middle of his most productive season, averaging 10.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, when the deal occurred. “It was hard leaving because of all the people I liked here,” he said. “But I wish them the best. It was a great organization to play for.”
- Now that Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis have put aside hard feelings over their preseason altercation, they should expect to remain teammates for the rest the season, Johnson writes in a mailbag column. The Bulls found a “non-existent” trade market for both players after Mirotic threatened not to return to the team unless Portis was dealt. The Bulls also found no interest in Mirotic when they shopped him prior to last year’s deadline, and no other organization offered him a significant deal as a restricted free agent this summer.
- Rumors about Hoiberg’s firing have persisted almost from the time he became the Bulls’ head coach, but he is safe for this season, Johnson adds in the same piece. The front office likes how he has handled a collection of young talent, and he has done better with assigning roles and holding players accountable for their performance. Hoiberg has two more seasons left on his contract.