Bulls stumble into regular season with some boxes still unchecked

By Chicago 5 Min Read

There were many questions surrounding the Bulls at the start of training camp.

Two-plus weeks and five preseason games later, not a whole lot of clarity has been provided.

‘‘At the end of the day, it’s basketball,’’ veteran DeMar DeRozan said after the Bulls’ preseason loss Thursday to the Timberwolves, doing his best to ease some minds.

That’s why DeRozan isn’t that concerned. He doesn’t agree with putting a lot of stock in results of preseason games.

‘‘For me, it’s just feeling out going into season to be comfortable with what we are doing,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘Just trying to get all of us comfortable, the different options, understanding how to create opportunities. More a conscious effort of getting to spots and creating shots and see where shots come from.’’

That’s all well and good for a player who already can start working on his Hall of Fame speech, but there might be jobs on the line if the Bulls — with the core of their roster back for a third season — fail to make the playoffs again.

That was the mentality at the start of camp, when coach Billy Donovan offered a to-do list of things he wanted the Bulls to achieve to be more than a play-in team.

So what boxes can be checked? Not a whole lot of them.

1. For starters

Donovan wanted a competitive camp and set it up that way, especially at point guard. He wanted Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Jevon Carter thinking there was a vacancy for the starting job to see who wanted it most.

It became obvious pretty early on, however, that it was White’s job to lose. The same could be said about Patrick Williams over Torrey Craig as the starting power forward.

Either way, Donovan wanted to use camp to find two starters to go with Zach LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. After the loss to the Timberwolves, he said White and Williams will get the first look when the regular season tips off.

Box: Check it

2. Long-range snipers

The Bulls have been one of the worst teams in the NBA in terms of trying three-pointers. That was evident last season, when they finished last in the league at 28.9 attempts per game.

What Donovan wanted to see in the preseason was a roster more aggressive in shooting from behind the arc. That box can be checked, with the Bulls finishing the preseason with 32.8 attempts per game, but check it in pencil. The Bulls shot more threes, but they have to learn how to take better ones and understand the spacing needed to do that.

Box: Check it (in pencil)

3. In Vooch they trust

Another offensive change the Bulls were supposed to implement in camp was running more sets through Vucevic. That included allowing him to bring the ball up and operate from the top of the key, whether that was a simple dribble handoff or running actions off the ball.

There have been glimpses of that at times, but even Vucevic admits it is ‘‘still a work in progress.’’

Box: Unchecked

4. Getting defensive

The Bulls became a top-five defense last season not only because of individual defenders such as Alex Caruso and Williams, but also because of their willingness to stay connected in team defense. That hasn’t been the case this preseason.

‘‘We are not in gaps and where we should be,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘We’re not protecting the rim. We’re not there for each other on a consistent enough basis.’’

Box: Unchecked

5. Rotation wonders

Carter and Craig have shown why the Bulls added them in free agency. And while they will come off the bench, it remains to be seen which starter (LaVine or DeRozan) will stagger with the second unit and who will close games.

It sounds as though Donovan will experiment with that into the regular season, and it might be matchup-based.

Box: Unchecked 

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