Bulls' lineup ripe and ready for opener

Chicago BullsLuol DengP.J. BrownUnited CenterTyrus ThomasAndres NocioniBen Wallace

And now, the starting lineup for your Chicago Bulls …

When public address announcer Tommy Edwards used his signature phrase to introduce Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, P.J. Brown and Ben Wallace on Friday night, he meant it.

Unless, of course, coach Scott Skiles changes his mind again, which, with this team's depth, could happen often this season.

The Bulls capped a 6-2 exhibition schedule with a 108-97 victory over Toronto before 19,709 at the United Center behind Gordon's 38 points.

Expect to see the same starters Tuesday night in Miami when the Bulls kick off the regular season against the defending champion Heat on TNT.

"I wouldn't swear by it, but I'd say there's a pretty good probability," Skiles said.

Brown, who started the first five exhibitions, replaced Andres Nocioni for a multitude of reasons.

"Just the defense at the basket early in the game," Skiles said. "Plus, I like the bench, but I'd like to have someone there that I can really count on to score points. Talking to Noce, he's fine with that role."

Indeed, Nocioni's ability to create spacing with his effective outside shooting played a part in the decision. As did the fact the Bulls open against big front lines in Miami and Orlando.

Deng and Nocioni still will see time together, as they did as early as the 6-minute-19-second mark of the first quarter against Toronto.

Skiles also said Brown, after starting, could spell Wallace at center.

"In theory, this gives me a little bit more control over when I want to go small," Skiles said.

Gordon put an uneven preseason behind him with an aggressive performance. His output included 19 first-quarter points and 12-of-12 free-throw shooting, notable because his stated goal is to get to the line more.

"I tried to stay aggressive," Gordon said. "That's something I need to do during the season."

The Bulls shot 49.4 percent, committed just 14 turnovers and attempted 39 free throws, indicative of an aggressive performance.

As for the lineup, you'd have a better chance of getting Skiles to sing karaoke than to hear Nocioni or Brown complain.

"For me, this does not matter," said Nocioni, who matched Deng with 15 points.

Tellingly, Skiles said he didn't know how long Nocioni would remain in his role.

Brown, who has both started and not in his 13-year career, grabbed seven rebounds but missed all five shots.

"Starting doesn't matter, really," he said. "I was surprised when he said it because we have a lot of guys who can contribute. Minutes are going to be there some nights. Others, some of us won't see any time. You just have to deal with it, be professional and be ready."

The Bulls were on Friday.

Layups

Andre Barrett didn't play in his last attempt to snag the 15th roster spot. A decision to keep him, injured center Luke Schenscher or leave it open must be made by Monday. … Michael Sweetney scored six points in nine minutes in his first action since playing six minutes in the exhibition opener. Skiles said he intended to play Sweetney on Wednesday in Minnesota but that his sore right knee didn't look strong. … Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha played a combined 11 minutes. … Deng won the team's Charles Lubin Award, given annually to the player who most significantly impacts with community service. Named after a team investor and the founder of Sara Lee, the award gives Deng $2,500 for his favorite charity.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Chicago BullsLuol DengP.J. BrownUnited CenterTyrus ThomasAndres NocioniBen Wallace
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