The NBA has warned the Bulls to stop resting healthy players, and the franchise now plans to play veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday more extensively down the stretch, according to Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania.
After trading away Jimmy Butler prior to the season, Chicago has embraced a rebuilding period and has prioritized the development of its young players. The Bulls have lost six of seven to drop to 21-42, and Holiday (13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds) has played just once in the past six games while Lope (12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds) has been held out of six straight.
In a concerted effort to discourage tanking, the league office has been clear that it will issue heavy penalties for teams that lose games purposefully. In February, the NBA fined Mavericks (19-45) owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for saying "Look, losing is our best option." Shortly thereafter, commissioner Adam Silver issued a letter to all 30 teams.
“The integrity of the competition on the playing court is the cornerstone of our league,” Silver wrote. “It is our pact with the fans and with each other, the fundamental reason we exist as a preeminent sporting organization, the very product that we sell. With everything else changing around us, it is the one thing in our league that can never change. We must do everything in our power to protect the actual and perceived integrity of the game.”
This season, eight teams are bundled at the bottom of the standings with 18-21 wins as the "race" for the number one overall pick heats up. A number of proposals to alter the draft process have been floated recently as the league is dealing with a troubling trend—teams that feel they can't compete for a championship often seek to rebuild and stock assets rather than put the best possible product on the floor.
The NBA made schedule changes prior to this season to dis-incentivize teams from sitting players our due to rest. Teams no longer have any stretches of four games in five nights or 18 games in 30 days, and single-game road trips and backs-to-backs were significantly reduced. There will be only 11 games total for which a team travels more than 2,000 miles for a single road game. The changes were made possibly by a lengthening of the season—the regular season began a week earlier than usual in October.