Spurs (1-0) vs. Chicago Bulls (0-1)
When, where: 7 p.m., Saturday, United Center, Chicago
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs 119, Bulls 100, Dec. 25, 2016, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Beat Minnesota Timberwolves 107-99, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Bulls’ last game: Lost to Toronto Raptors 117-100, Thursday, Toronto
Notable: The Spurs split their two-game series with the Bulls last season.
Their season-opening victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the books, the Spurs flew to Chicago on Friday for their first road trip of the season.
The Bulls team the Silver and Black face Saturday night will be different than the one they split two games with last season. Three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler is gone, traded to Minnesota in June and playing with Chicago for six seasons.
The Bulls have so many new players that longtime NBA writer Sam Smith, who now blogs for the franchise, described this season’s team as “basically a roster on an 82-game tryout.”
Cristiano Felicio is the only player on the team with a multi-year contract, and Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday have two-year deals.
“Chicago is a rebuilding team, and we are at a point in which we are trying to build, too,” veteran Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Build confidence. Build stamina, build camaraderie, and get used to playing together with Rudy (Gay), with Joffrey (Lauvergne), and the new guys."
“So, (it’s) very early in the season and we’ve got to respect them the same way as we respect Houston, Golden State, Cleveland. We haven’t seen them at all, so it’s a matter of being serious, trying to get better, and hopefully get a good result.”
The Spurs opened the season without point guard Tony Parker and All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, both sidelined as they continue to do rehab work for injuries.
Leonard is out with right quadriceps tendinopathy, and Parker isn’t expected to return until mid-November. Parker had surgery in May to repair the left quadriceps tendon he ruptured in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals last season.
Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge carried over his strong play from the preseason to the opener, finishing the Silver and Black’s 107-99 victory against Minnesota with a team-high 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“I felt good,” said Aldridge, who started his third season with San Antonio and 12th in the NBA. “I missed some easy ones, and that’ll come to me as I keep going. I thought I tried to make some good reads out of the double teams, and I tried to put pressure on them down low. Just tried to make shots that way.”
How did Aldridge think the Spurs performed in the opener?
“I thought we played well,” he said. “That’s a very talented team. They have a lot of guys that can score and make plays. We weren’t as sharp as we can be, but I think it’s a good first step in the right direction.”
Aldridge has plenty of help from his friends Danny Green had 17 points and nailed 3 of 7 three-pointers, and second-year pro Dejounte Murray, who started at point guard, finished with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and only two turnovers.
“He’s been great,” Aldridge said of Murray. “He’s very competitive. He’s not scared of any moment, and I thought he did great at finding guys and getting guys the ball, also scoring the ball. I thought he played great today.”
Murray, who turned 21 last month and played only one season at Colorado before turning pro, generally looked comfortable after settling down.
“I think we prepared ourselves starting (in) training camp and preseason,” he said. “Coach and the rest of the staff do a great job when we go in every day and learn everything. We have a lot of new guys and everybody is blending in and knowing that you have to know your role. It’s team game. We just have to go out and play hard for one another.”
New Spurs forward Rudy Gay came off the bench to score 14 points and Kyle Anderson, who started in Leonard’s spot, finished with 12. The opener marked Gay’s first regular-season game since he tore an Achilles tendon last January.
The Bulls lost their opener on the road Thursday night, falling to Toronto 117-100. Chicago stayed close in the first quarter, but the Raptors seized control of the game with a 30-4 run at the start of the second period.
The Bulls made news earlier in the week when a fight broke out between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis in practice. Mirotic is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks after he was punched by Portis, who was suspended for eight games. Mirotic sustained a concussion and facial fractures during the scrap.
Chicago also will be without Zach LaVine (knee), Kris Dunn (left index finger) and Cameron Payne (foot) when they play the Spurs.