Basketball is Back(!), LaVine Sounds Like a Leader, Contract Frenzy, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Basketball is Back(!), LaVine Sounds Like a Leader, Contract Frenzy, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

LET’S HOOP! *shoots paper ball toward trash can … clanks off rim* 

After 91 days, the NBA will make its return for the 2021-22 season later tonight with two marquee matchups. The Brooklyn Nets will tip-off against the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks at 6:30 p.m. CT before Steph Curry takes on LeBron James in a repeat of last year’s crazy play-in game.

I know, I know, it’s no Bulls-Pistons … but it will do!

•   I’m a proud member of the Zach LaVine Believer Club (meetings are every Thursday night … bring orange slices). For the past several seasons, I’ve thought he could become one of the elite scorers in the league. Not only has he proven he can add levels to his game year after year, but he possesses a raw athleticism that could never be taught. Sure, his leaping ability is obviously extraterrestrial, but his fluidity is equally hard to comprehend. Every bucket LaVine makes looks easier than the last. He has a confident breeze to his game that is as much refreshing as it is powerful. Whether he is flying through the air for a one-handed slam or stepping back for a dagger 3, LaVine kills opponents with his graceful physical gifts .. but can he now kill them with his mind?

•   I’m not necessarily talking about high-IQ play (LaVine has demonstrated he can read the game better with age) but rather winning leadership. For this organization to take the next step, LaVine will need to prove he is the franchise cornerstone they covet, and a key part of that process is making those around you better on and off the court. Doing this starts in the locker room by establishing a heightened level of accountability and respect. LaVine needs to ensure everyone is working toward a common goal as much as they are working their hardest to achieve that goal. Fortunately, LaVine is prepared to take on this challenge, and he practically said as much in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report.

“If you’re not confident going into every game and thinking you’re going to win, I don’t know what you’re doing,” LaVine said. “We’re trying to build championship aspirations, and you have to approach it that way every day in practice. You shouldn’t put a cap on how your season should go, you should go into every game and practice thinking about winning and championship habits. That’s what we’re going to establish.”

•   Liquify that quote and inject it right into my veins. LaVine still has to prove he is capable of carrying a team into the postseason on the floor, but this is the kind of attitude and mentality that signals real growth as a team leader. Likewise, this is also the kind of determination you want to hear from someone who is an unrestricted free agent next offseason. LaVine sounds committed to turning the tide in Chicago, and it’s nice to know he finally has a front office that feels the same way.

•   The Chicago Bulls are going to be a better defense than some expect. I’m not prepared to go as far as Kevin Anderson did below, but the preseason made me feel far more confident in their ability to be a borderline average group. Yes, I know we can not read too much in preseason stats, but I do think we can read into the effort. The determination to get stops and rebounds to help generate the best offensive product seems to be there, which is half the battle.

•   I also think Anderson raised a great point with his second comment: Stop using last season’s stats to justify your concerns for the 2021-22 Bulls. Look, there are several reasonable cases to make for why this team could face issues, but saying something like “they were dead last in free-throw attempts last season” is not one of them. The roster has seen a complete 180 since the trade deadline last season, and the style of play we are about to see from head coach Billy Donovan will be aggressively different.

•   We got a great look at Alex Caruso speaking out during practice in Episode 1 of Bulls Access, and we talked about that more here. Now, we get to see veteran DeMar DeRozan do the same (go to 3:15). Great stuff.

•   The deadline to sign rookie-scale extensions came and went on Monday night, and plenty of big names added some massive dollars to their wallet.

•   I already thought the Lonzo Ball contract was a steal, but seeing someone like Malcolm Brogdon get $89.3 million guaranteed makes me think it was a full-blown heist. And, don’t get me wrong, I think Brogdon is a great player (remember when we all wanted him in Chicago?), but do I think Ball could be just as valuable – if not more – for this Bulls team down the road? Absolutely.


•   Chicago is a basketball city.

•   The rookie has looked really good so far.

•   Please just win at home.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.