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updated: 1/12/2018 6:15 PM

With Mirotic ready to return, Bulls close to having full lineup healthy

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  • After missing two games with a stomach virus, Nikola Mirotic was back at practice and should be ready to play Saturday against Detroit. With Zach LaVine making his Bulls debut, the team will be essentially at full strength for the first time.

    After missing two games with a stomach virus, Nikola Mirotic was back at practice and should be ready to play Saturday against Detroit. With Zach LaVine making his Bulls debut, the team will be essentially at full strength for the first time.
    Associated Press

 
 

Nikola Mirotic was back at practice Friday after missing two games with a stomach virus. He seemed to be in a good mood, trying to distract teammate Zach LaVine from across the gym as LaVine spoke to reporters.

That means Bulls will essentially have their full lineup Saturday against Detroit for the first time. Backup point guard Cameron Payne remains out, though he has returned to practice after foot surgery.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg talked about having a complete lineup, highlighted by LaVine and Kris Dunn playing together for the first time since joining the Bulls last June.

"What's made us a better basketball team is we are playing faster, and we're playing more efficiently, and I think that's where Zach really fits in," Hoiberg said. "Kris Dunn has done a tremendous job of throwing the ball ahead. I think our commitment to get out on the break has been exceptional."

LaVine ponders dunk contest:

Zach LaVine is a two-time slam dunk contest champion, having won in each of his first two NBA seasons. He was asked Friday if he's retired from the contest.

"I can still dunk, but I'm not doing it next year," he said. "I always still have a couple dunks up my sleeve, but the main thing I'm focused on is the Chicago Bulls and me coming back and becoming the best player I can be."

Asked if he had any recommendations for this year's contest, LaVine suggested former Minnesota teammate Andrew Wiggins.

"We used to have dunk contests in practice every other day," LaVine said. "That was one of the only other dudes that could really beat me. (Orlando's) Aaron (Gordon), of course, is off the charts, but I don't know if he wants to do it again."

LaVine edged Gordon in an impressive dunk contest at 2016 all-star weekend. Some felt Gordon should have won after his memorable sit-and-slam over the Magic's mascot.

"I don't know, I came home with the trophy," LaVine said with a laugh. "I don't know if that's a robbery. No, that's my dog, though. We had on one of the best dunk contests ever."

Moms trip a success:

Zach LaVine offered a recap of the moms' road trip to New York. The team invited players to bring their mothers to Wednesday's game and Cheryl Johnson-LaVine came.

"She liked it a lot, actually. The Bulls did something that no other team has done. I appreciate that," he said. "My mom had a really big smile. They got gifts, they pampered them, they took them to spas and stuff like that.

"They wore our jerseys to the game, gave everybody a high-five coming out of the tunnel. I told the players -- if you can't get hyped up when your mom is cheering for you, we don't need to be playing this game anymore. It was really cool."

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