Yesterday marked the beginning of training camp for NBA teams, and just like in years past, day one was designated as Media Day for the Chicago Bulls. But unlike in years past, where coaches, players and reporters mill about the Advocate Center, talking and catching up between press conferences and photo shoots, all of this years interviews took place via video conference calls. There were four press conferences shared with the general public this year, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen spoke with reporters on behalf of the players, Billy Donovan had an extended Q & A session with the media, and Arturas Karnisovas also took questions about the state of the team.
I’ll have links to the four press conferences toward the end of this post, but I thought I’d share some of my take aways after hearing what Zach, Lauri, Billy, and Arturas had to say.
First and foremost, I’m no longer convinced that Zach LaVine will be traded this season. After hearing what Arturas and Donovan had to say about him, I think they both appreciate just how rare his talent for scoring is. Both Karnisovas and Donovan, while not raving about LaVine, made it clear he is the best player on the roster, the go-to guy. They also expressed confidence in Coby White. Arturas saying that the reason they didn’t go all out in free agency for a playmaking point guard was that they were happy with the roster, and Donovan letting slip that they intend White to be the primary ball handler this season.
There was a lot of talk about daily improvement, a theme that has been a big talking point for the Bulls ever since Donovan was hired. LaVine and Markkanen both spoke about how the energy in camp was different, positive and crackling, players were excited to play basketball again. Donovan half-joked that they better be excited to get back to playing again, especially after such a long lay off for the Bulls, otherwise what’s the point. Markkanen fielded questions about the upcoming deadline for his rookie contract extension, and he said he wants to stay in Chicago and was putting pressure on his agent to get a deal done. Karnisovas echoed some of Lauri’s enthusiasm, but was more diplomatic, saying that both sides were working on a deal, and that they (the Round Table) really like Markkanen.
Another area that was addressed in the press conferences was what kind of basketball you could expect to see from the Bulls this season. Billy Donovan did a nice job of bullet pointing some general principles he expects from the players on the court. Things like rebounding, running in transition, and off-the-ball player movement will be key ingredients to this seasons Bulls. He made it clear he didn’t want guys like Markkanen or Otto Porter Jr just sitting in the corner shooting threes.
Lauri echoed Donovan when talking about some of the areas he needs to improve on after his regression last season. Markkanen said he wanted to be more active on offense, and that he needed to move more without the ball. He seemed excited about getting the opportunity to do more on the court.
Zach talked about wanting to reach the next level as a player, and how playing winning basketball would be the way he could do that. Donovan outlined how he wants to use LaVine in late game situations, or rather how to use the team around Zach in late game situations. After watching video of last season, he wanted the team to give LaVine more support. Other players need to move without the ball and give Zach options if he’s double teamed or pressured. Donovan made it clear that winning close games wasn’t going to rest solely on Zach’s shoulders anymore.
There was a lot to sift through in the nearly 2 hours worth of interviews. Interesting comments about Wendell Carter Jr, a Ryan Arcidiacono shout out from Donovan, some thoughts on the acquisition of Garrett Temple and the new coaching staff, typical Media Day stuff. So if you have some spare time, I encourage you to check out the interviews yourself, the links should be just below this paragraph. I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions from what you hear, and maybe something will jump out at you that I didn’t recap above.
All in all, I think it was a pretty run of the mill Media Day. Unlike last year, expectations for where the team will finish seemed tempered. There were no grand declarations about reaching mountain tops. LaVine did say that he really wants to make the playoffs, but from Donovan and Karnisovas the theme remained Daily Improvement. It looks like this is an evaluation season, meaning we might see a lot of roster turnover between now and the next Bulls Media Day. While I said I’m less confident that the Round Table will trade LaVine this season, I’m not about to rule anything out. Much like the Bulls, I’m just excited that the season is about to start, and I’m definitely feeling a different set of vibes around this team.
That does it for today’s post. Soon we’ll have preseason basketball to over analyze, and discussions about rotations and player roles, I also have some crow to eat over last seasons foolish predictions, and some goals to set for this season. Until next time, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!