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A Perfect Preseason, High-IQ Players, What’s the Rotation? And Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

If we have learned anything this preseason, it’s that the Chicago Bulls are never losing a basketball game ever again.

Right, DeMar DeRozan?

“We’re just eager to continue to get better honestly. You can’t look at the record. Preseason is preseason,” DeRozan told reproters after the Bulls 118-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. “For us, we’re still being hard on ourselves about a lot of mistakes that we make, and that’s a good mentality to have, especially now. We try to stay in the moment and figure out ways, how we continue to get better, every opportunity we get.”

Wait, so you’re telling me you didn’t pop the champagne and light the cigars in the locker room!? WHAT THE HELL! BORING!

•   DeMar DeRozan is right, preseason is preseason. When the four-time All-Star was asked about the undefeated preseason record, he couldn’t have looked more unimpressed. Zach LaVine, who was seated comfortably next to him in front of the media after the game, also shook his head in disapproval when the topic came up. This new roster presented plenty of positive signs over their four games of action, but until those W’s mean more than just a gold star sticker, it’s not particularly anything to celebrate.

•   Of course, that does not mean there isn’t value in the experience each player had this preseason. LaVine was not particularly shy about sharing what he believed these four exhibition matchups helped prove to everyone inside Chicago’s locker room.

“We’re an extremely explosive offense team,” LaVine said. “When we lock in on the defensive end, we can be extremely scary. We got a bunch of guys out here playing for each other trying to figure each other out that are extremely unselfish and will do anything to win – sacrifice and try to figure it out with this process.”

•   The Bulls talked the talk during Media Day. Everyone preached unselfish basketball as well as the development that needed to happen on the defensive end. While the regular season is a whole different ballgame, I think there is immense value in this roster walking the walk during the preseason. LaVine and Co. saw exactly what sharing the basketball and playing aggressively on the defensive end can do. If they want to play the uptempo and transition-based game that fits the personnel so well, they will need to get stops on the other end and rebound at a high level. The Bulls set the foundation for those two things this preseason. They finished with the 5th highest rebounding percentage and recorded double-digit steals in all four games (something the team never did once last season). Again, this will all become harder to do on a nightly basis when the regular season starts, but the willingness to put in the extra effort on this end of the floor is there.

•   Also, adding truly gifted defensive players never hurts the cause! Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso both continued to impress last night with their high-IQ play. Caruso barked out orders left and right as he continued to establish his role as this team’s defensive anchor. Meanwhile, Ball jumped passing lanes and continued to look like arguably the smartest player on the floor. His best moment of the night came in the 3rd quarter when he sneakily stole the rock on the Grizzlies’ inbound. After passing to LaVine for a missed layup, Javonte Green tried to save the ball from going out of bounds only to chuck it over Ball’s head. The basketball was then headed over the halfcourt line – which would have been a Chicago turnover – but Ball grabbed it in midair and threw it hard off Steven Adams to force the out-of-bounds call on Memphis. All things considered, I think it was the smartest basketball play I have seen from a Bulls player in several years.

•   FWIW: I’ve also been more impressed than initially expected with Ball’s on-ball defense. He has always been a really great help defender, but his ability to disrupt the POA has been a bit less stellar. However, this preseason I have not seen much to complain about, so maybe some of that Caruso magic is rubbing off on him.

•   Head coach Billy Donovan may have been testing out his preferred opening night rotation last night. Until midway through the 4th quarter, we saw him roll with just a 9-man unit of Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso, Troy Brown Jr., Javonte Green, and Tony Bradley. Early season results could obviously have a huge impact on how this unit looks, as well as the specific matchup. But with Williams and Bradley back in the frontcourt mix, it appears that Derrick Jones Jr. and Alize Johnson could be on the outside looking in … for now. We will definitely have to keep an eye on this evolves over the first couple of games.

•   Speaking of Williams, he looked comfortable and confident in his first taste of preseason action. We probably should give him a couple of games before drawing any real conclusions on this new power forward role, but I do hope we see his physicality and aggressiveness increase as Donvan bumps his minutes up. The more he can help on the glass and establish a presence inside, the more dynamic this team will become.

•   Confirmed: Zach LaVine is still Zach LaVine.

•   THE CHICAGO SKY ARE UP 2-1 IN THE WNBA FINALS, FOLKS!

•   This is absolutely absurd.

•   BEAT THE PACKERS.

•   I would like the Blackhawks to win, please.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.