CHICAGO – It was maybe the understatement of the Bulls’ first statements when it comes to the Bulls’ 2021-2022 seasons.
No one will deny that Billy Donovan isn’t telling the truth.
“They were pretty busy in the beginning of August went the draft was coming and then free agency started,” said the Bulls’ head coach, who was right there with the front office to help build a new-look squad for the upcoming campaign with executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley.
It’s certainly a different-looking one that took the floor about nine months ago to start the preseason and has had a few drastic moves since the beginning of the offseason. Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso were the major additions this summer that accompanied the team’s surprise trade deadline move to trade for Nikola Vucevic in March.
That trade along with others purged a few of the John-Paxson, Gar Forman-era players, and the offseason saw former first round picks Lauri Markkanen and Denzel Valentine leave as well. Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, Cristiano Felicio, and Ryan Arcidiacono were among others that were traded or let go.
That’s left a brand new lineup around Zach LaVine, who is in a position to be the face of the Bulls’ franchise moving forward for this more veteran group. Emphasis was placed on winning now instead of accumulating draft capital, a shift from the previous regime.
“We have a lot of talented guys in that locker room. We also brought in high-character guys and there is a lot of excitement but we also understand that we’re gonna have to get in the gym and we’re gonna have to work,” said Karnisovas. “We haven’t seen those guys practice or play together so it’s gonna take time for them to get to know each other, to find that team chemistry.”
That falls on Donovan to make it happen, and the road to start that begins on Tuesday when the team opens up training camp ahead of their preseason opener against the Cavaliers on October 5th at the United Center then the season opener in Detroit on October 20th.
It’s certainly made for an interesting just or so at the helm of the Bulls when he stared with a very similar team that the one that played before the pandemic, had it altered at the trade deadline with the Vucevic trade, and now changes again with the overhaul of the roster.
“The challenge is going to be how well we gel and mesh together throughout training camp. I understand that when you turn the roster over as much as we did, there’s going to be some ups and downs, through this period, and that’s to be expected,” said Donovan. “But I do feel really, really good getting a chance in August and September to spend time with a lot of these new guys, just in terms of their competitive makeup, their character, their experience.
“I think they understand that’s going to be a challenge and, something that’s equally as important, is how to do we all come together as a team and how well can we fulfill roles and play to our roles and can we continue to play to an identity or style that’s going to be conducive to the group.”
Donovan would like an up-tempo style of play just as he did with the previous team, but both he and LaVine understand that the process of figuring out this team comes before an identity is set.
“We’ve got to get to know each other first and that’s where Billy and a lot of the guys, the leaders of the team decide how we’re really going to play,” said LaVine. “I know first and foremost, we’re going to have a commitment to going in everyday and getting our work in and being a really hard-playing team. Obviously, we’re going to be exciting, we’re gonna be able to get up and down the floor with some athletic guys, but we’ve got to see how it is first before we can put any names on it.
“But I just know we’re going to come in with our hard hats on and be ready to scrap.”