NBA Media Day for the Chicago Bulls came and went like the city wind, but not without setting the tone for what is sure to be an exciting season ahead.
The new-look 2021-22 Bulls gathered at the United Center on Monday, September 27 and revealed much of what fans should expect from the team moving forward, inclusive of freshly braided ‘dos for both Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan & Lonzo in uniform pic.twitter.com/MKbIAsCsm4
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) September 27, 2021
While members of the front office, some coaching staff and players themselves touched upon a multitude of topics, perhaps most interesting of all was learning more about the roles that Ball and Zach LaVine intend to fill.
Ball, who started his professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers after being drafted second overall in 2017 and then spent two years with the New Orleans Pelicans, is really looking to return back to operating as a “traditional” point guard – in other words, making playmaking and facilitation his bread and butter.
“Talking to Billy [Donovan], just getting back to being a more traditional point guard,” Ball said. “Last year was different for me but whatever the coach asks me, I’ll do to the best of my abilities. This year, it looks like I’ll be point guard.”
This should absolutely be welcome news to fans, as the 23-year-old made a name for himself at the University of California Los Angeles first and foremost, for his astute passing. Although Ball did average an impressive 14.6 points a game on 55.1 percent shooting from the field (alongside 6.0 rebounds) during his single collegiate season, it was his 7.6 assists that stood out to scouts. His 274 total assists actually put him in ahead of Jason Kidd (with 272) for second-most assists in a year by a Pac-12 player (behind only Ahlon Lewis of Arizona State with 294 in 1997-98).
During his first season in the league, the California-native dished the ball at a similar rate, averaging 7.2 assists per contest. However, by last year, this number fell to 5.7, as Ball was focusing on increasing his shot output and becoming a reliable scoring option for the Pelicans (resulting in averaging 14.6 points a matchup, on 41.4 percent shooting).
He may have met the goals set by New Orleans, but it turns out that part of the reason he chose to come to Chicago, was the organization’s willingness to let Ball well, ball.
“They didn’t want me to change any part of my game, just to excel in the things I’m already comfortable doing,” Ball said. “Zach played a big part as well.”
Media Day certainly answered some questions about LaVine too, who between Ball, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, finally has some solid counterparts to rely on.
For starters, despite not having yet signed a contract extension, the star is very pleased with the current state of the team.
“I’m not even worried about my contract situation,” he said. “I think there will be a point in time in the future. My mind is on tomorrow, starting this thing off right, working hard, and getting forward with helping us win… I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy. I’m excited with all the moves that were made, and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started, because we all have a lot to prove.”
Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas made sure to give the 26-year-old his flowers, stating, “the one thing that we know is we are committed to Zach. We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think our trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that.”
Doing whatever it takes to keep him around is a no-brainer, given that LaVine had a tremendous 2020-21 run; the swingman posted a career-high 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, as well as shot 50.7 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three.
And even with higher caliber guys around him now, fans can rest assured that their headliner will continue to be an offensive threat for the Bulls.
In fact, with Ball falling into more of a pass-first player, there is little reason to believe that LaVine cannot keep emptying the clip in a similar manner.
The All-Star recently spoke on his hunger for success only growing, as a member of Team USA this past summer.
“My appetite to get to the playoffs has been big. I want to go out there and win each and every game. I think that experience definitely taught me something about winning, and being a part of a winning team at a very high level. It’s something that I can bring back here and hopefully be a better leader going forward in trying to push us to become a playoff team.”
As Lonzo Ball reverts back to his old ways and Zach LaVine adds to his list of accomplishments, the Chicago Bulls are in great shape heading into this new era.
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