CHICAGO – The goal was set at the media day news conference, and frankly, it’s a tall task.
Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said that the objective for the 2019-2020 season was to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2017. That’s pretty aggressive considering the team won just 22 games last season and would nearly have to double that win total to qualify for the postseason.
Last season, the Pistons were the last team in playoffs in the Eastern Conference with 41 wins.
Yet as the team enters this campaign, the first with head coach Jim Boylen at the helm from the start, there is a bit more optimism than there was the previous two years of the rebuild. Most of the team is healthy, and instead of making a major reach in free agency, the team picked up solid pieces to fill in lineup gaps.
Hence the start of the season tonight against Charlotte brings a sense of controlled optimism from the team and fan base. Are there championship aspirations? No. But the idea that the team could be on the right track instead of the wrong one is more prevalent than in the past.
“I feel like we’ve done a good job with the basics and our team is together and respectful and they’ve worked very hard,” said Boylen of his team during training camp and the preseason. “I feel like we’ve controlled the things we can control and we’re just trying to do that going forward one game at a time.”
Fans will get a chance to see some of their core lineup together to start the season as Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, and Wendell Carter Jr. will all take the floor against the Hornets just after 6 PM Chicago time. Tomas Satoransky, signed from the Wizards this offseason, adds stability to the point guard position as Kris Dunn and Coby White back him up.
Thaddeus Young brings a veteran presence to the squad as he comes off the bench to contribute.
Ball movement and defense were the focus of the preseason in which the Bulls showed a few positive signs of what could be to come the next six months. Markkanen, who gets the chance to start the season after missing a month-and-a-half with an elbow injury in 2018, is hoping those characteristics will come out staring Wednesday against the Hornets.
“Obviously we’ve been working on our defense so we’re trying to take their scoring away, obviously. But I think, what I’ve said previously, it’s just playing unselfish basketball,” said Markkanen. “We went through how they’re going to play defense on us and I think our style of play, the unselfish ways, is going to be good for us.”
So could the schedule in which the Bulls will play four of their first five games of the season against teams that missed the postseason last year. Yet Boylen’s not getting ahead of the job ahead on Wednesday night, especially with a long season on the horizon.
“Playoff team, non-playoff team, we’re talking about Charlotte and we’re gonna play as hard as we can against Charlotte,” said Boylen. “That’s what we’re going to control and then we’ll move on.”
Most hope they’ll move forward, which is progress for a Bulls’ team still building their identity in this new era.