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Will the 2023-24 season be different for the Chicago Bulls?


L-R: Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso pose for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

L-R: Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso pose for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

L-R: Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso pose for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

The Chicago Bulls held their pre-season training camp at Belmont University in Nashville, the first time they did it outside Illinois since 1985, which marked the second season of Michael Jordan’s NBA career.

The team made changes on the suggestion by DeMar DeRozan. Back in his day in the Toronto Raptors, they traveled out of Toronto for the first week of practice in every of the nine seasons between 2009 and 2018.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get outside your house and do something adventurous,” DeRozan told ESPN. “Find anything to bring y’all closer.”

DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

It has been two seasons since DeRozan joined the Bulls on a sign-and-trade deal. He, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic led the team to the playoffs during the 2021-22 campaign but were eliminated in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks. That was the Bulls’ only postseason appearance since the 2017-18 campaign. Moreover, the last time they entered the Eastern Conference Finals was in the 2010-11 season, when Derrick Rose was named the youngest NBA Most Valuable Player in history.

That’s how long the Bulls have struggled. When they put up the new Big Three of DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic in summer 2021, the team clearly wanted to return to the top race in the East. Nonetheless, they missed the playoffs again last season instead.

“We got to get back to the postseason,” LaVine said. “Obviously we did that our first year and didn’t have a good first-round result. … Everybody has their own personal expectations and expectations as a team. For us, it’s consistency and [making] sure we’re playing after the 82nd game.”

Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

When DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic joined hands two years ago, one of the major concerns was over the Bulls’ defense because none of the three has ever been known as good defenders. By contrast, each of them was seen as a star caliber on the offensive end. DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic averaged 24.5, 24.8 and 17.6 points respectively and combined to deliver 12.5 assists per game during the 2022-23 season. Moreover, they played 1,642 minutes together, more than any trio in league history, which deflected their consistency.

Nonetheless, the Bulls had the seventh-worst offensive rating of all 30 teams, but the NBA’s fifth-best defensive rating, even without their starting point guard Lonzo Ball, who can switch to guard three positions. The team was held back by their poor 3-point shooting performance, which was at the bottom in both production and attempts.

“We’ve all had really good seasons, but we haven’t put it together as a team,” LaVine said. “This is the year where we have to prove it. You have to put pen to paper. Three years is a lot of time to show what you have.”

Nikola Vucevic of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Vucevic of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Nikola Vucevic of the Chicago Bulls poses for a portrait on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Having suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee during the 2021-22 season and been making slow progress in rehabilitation, Ball hasn’t played for the Bulls in any game since January 14, 2022. He is unlikely to come back in the 2023-24 campaign and the team seems ready for it.

“I think last year we were thinking, ‘When Lonzo comes back, it’ll be different,'” Vucevic said on the Media Day. “I think this year we have a clear picture that he’s not going to be back. We have to find other ways to run our offense without putting so much pressure on Zach and DeMar handling the ball and scoring, doing everything.”

The Bulls signed a three-year, $60 million with Vucevic this summer, but didn’t do the same with DeRozan, who will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. LaVine, who still has three years and $137 million left on his current deal, including a player option for the 2026-27 campaign, was involved in a lot of trade rumors last season.

Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls speaks to the media on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls speaks to the media on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls speaks to the media on Media Day at Advocate Center in Chicago, Illinois, October 2, 2023. /CFP

“My camp isn’t putting them out,” LaVine said of the trade speculations. “I committed to the Bulls when I signed my five-year deal. So until I’m not, I’m committed to the Bulls. I’ve always brought professionalism and consistent play, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

“I told a couple of guys last year, ‘I want to see you win. I want y’all to witness what it feels like to win and what comes with winning and being appreciated and called a winner,” DeRozan said. “That’s just my optimistic mindset when it comes to this. I put my all into it.”

The Bulls will host the Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center on October 25 to begin their 2023-24 regular season.



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