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Chicago Bulls media day: Reacting to the most interesting nuggets

Will Gottlieb Avatar
September 27, 2022

Media Day is exciting because it is the official start of the NBA season. But while we can rejoice in the fact the Bulls are back, little was said in the way of interesting offseason secrets or detailed basketball strategy.

As a result, we try to glean as much as we can from the often cryptic answers given by the front office, coaches and players. The majority of questions in the Bulls 2022-23 season intro presser sadly focused on Lonzo Ball’s knee, but there were some interesting tidbits to uncover.

Here, I’ll give my thoughts about what stood out by reacting to a quote or two from each of yesterday’s speakers.

Arturas Karnisovas

We gave every opportunity to rehab and get back on the court without doing the surgery. That was our thought process, with the thought in mind what’s best for the player. We’re at a crossroads now that we need to do something else and that’s why we opted to do the procedure. We worked very closely with Lonzo and his representation and looked at every option possible and got to this conclusion.

Arturas Karnisovas explains the thought process behind Lonzo Ball’s surgery

This confirms my suspicions about the timing with regard to Ball’s surgery. It’s always best to avoid surgery if you can. Clearly, the Bulls thought he might be able to return by the start of the season, and there’s an alternate reality where they wait even longer to do the procedure. We’ll know more after his surgery on Wednesday.

The approach was basically adding more talent and depth. We did retain 12 players from last year, added [Andre] Drummond and Goran [Dragic], drafted Dalen [Terry]. We focused more on the depth and giving enough ammo for Billy [Donovan] to operate, give him enough guards and wings to be functional.

Arturas Karnisovas on the roster additions

Although I remain firm in my stance the offseason moves weren’t big enough to be considered needle movers in an offseason where the Bulls needed to move the needle, I am getting more and more on board with Drummond and Dragic. When the Bulls became riddled with injury last season, they resorted to third-string caliber players for heavy minutes. At least now they’ll have decent second-string players. Though they’re imperfect and don’t address the major flaws on the roster, it’s better to see them on the court than Troy Brown Jr. and Tony Bradley.

Billy Donovan

We now know the things that we’re not going to be able to sustain, that are going to help us. And we’re going to have to make some changes and do some things that will help us and allow us to take another step.

Avoiding another melt down

It was nice to see Donovan’s self-awareness when it comes to the things the Bulls might not be able to rely on this year. The Bulls walked a dangerous line last year with their unprecedented mid-range scoring efficiency, free throw attempt rate and low turnover rate and DeMar DeRozan’s unlimited clutch heroics.

The Bulls cannot be last again in three-point volume and bottom-five offensive rebounding team. How exactly the Bulls plan to adjust their identity to remains to be seen, but they will have to enter the 21st century at some point.

I’m fine with our team. There hasn’t been enough time with these guys on the floor. Certainly Lonzo’s situation doesn’t help that. Patrick’s numbers have been pretty good from the three-point line. Zach has been an elite three-point shooter. Same thing can be said for Coby. We got good shooting from Javonte, especially from the corner spots. Am I going to sit here and say we’re this elite three-point shooting team? No, but I think we’re more than capable.

On whether the Bulls addressed their shooting limitations in the offseason

I too know the players on the Bulls roster. The answer is no, the Bulls did not address their shooting weakness and it is my number one concern for the team on the offensive end. There are ways to work around this problem and juice the numbers, but distance shooting will never be a strength of this group as currently constructed.

With Javonte and Derrick, those guys have played the power forward spot. We’ve used Alex Caruso at the power forward spot as well. There’s maybe an experimentation in training camp, where we look at Patrick playing small at the five. So there’s some versatility with the players we have.

On experimenting with lineups

This is chef’s kiss. I’ve been advocating for Williams to play small ball five since his draft night and given the Bulls lack of flexibility in the frontcourt, this seems like the perfect option. Whether it’s alongside Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., or Alex Caruso, William’s ability to protect the rim from the weak side and defend the perimeter makes him an ideal defensive anchor in these mobile lineups.

Zach LaVine

I put the highest expectations on myself more than anybody, and I keep developing my game like I have the last nine years of my career. I don’t think a contract is going to give me any extra motivation for it because I already have enough myself.’

Zach LaVine on his continued improvement after signing his max contract

With headlines focusing on Ball’s health, Williams’ development and DeRozan’s aging curve, LaVine has somehow become the forgotten man when it comes to ways the Bulls can improve on last season.

Entering his age 27 season, LaVine has scope to grow. If he can develop his facilitation while keeping his turnovers low, be an engaged off-ball defender and continue to be one of the most dangerous outside scorers in the NBA, he can make a jump from top-25 player to top-15. That might elevate the Bulls ceiling more than anything else.

Nikola Vucevic

I was on Zillow every day.

At no point did I feel like [a trade] was going to happen, honestly.

On trade rumors

Vucevic is a good sport. Though I was a champion of the Vucevic-for-Rudy Gobert fake trade, I do think Vucevic is a better player than given credit for and due for a bounceback season. The adjustment to playing in Chicago after being the focal point in Orlando for so many years was clearly a difficult one, but he’s an example of where #continuity could work best.

It’s not so much about my usage as far as number of shots. It’s more of the positions that I’m on the court where I can be effective. Last year there were times where I was too much hanging out on the perimeter. Yeah, I can shoot the ball, but the three point is not my main weapon. That’s something I’ve added over the years and it’s made me a more complete player and it’s helped me elevate my game. But there are so many things on the court I can do that are better than that.

If you took away my three-point game, I’d still be a very good player and still average high numbers. But if you take away some of the other stuff I do well like rebounding, or my inside game, or my passing, or my pick-and-roll game when I get in the pocket and make plays, and I’m just a stand up three point shooter, I’m not as good of a player.

On not being just a shooter

I appreciate Vucevic clapping back a bit here. Yes, the shooting was a problem that needs to be improved this year, but he is right to explain his versatility. He is a fantastic passer who unlocked a ton of offense for the Bulls as a short-roll facilitator. His post play is still a weapon if utilized wisely.

At the same time, how much more can the Bulls really afford to feature Vucevic? Maybe in secondary lineups without one of DeRozan or LaVine? What does that mean for Patrick Williams’ touches?

Unfortunately, the Bulls do have a spacing problem and Vucevic is one of the best equipped to solve it.

Maybe his fit with DeRozan and LaVine isn’t as seamless as we thought, even on the offensive end?

Goran Dragic

I talked to Vooch, I talked to coach Billy. I have a good relationship with Arturas. We worked together in Houston. They tried to get me last year, before I signed with Brooklyn. I just decided it’s going to be a good team for me and I’m happy to be here

On being courted by the Bulls

Dragic seemed to be a depth play after Ball’s recovery continued to stagnate, but it appears the Bulls were in on him dating back to last season. Interesting!

Alex Caruso

We’re missing him for a little bit more time than we expected and obviously that’s something we’ve got to pick up as a unit. We’ve got great guards behind him so I’m not really worried about who’s going to play the position. We’ve got great options with me, Ayo and Goran. Guys that are three different players that bring three different elements to the position that benefit the team.

On finding the right combinations at point guard

The Bulls will not be able to replace Ball’s size, defense, speed, IQ, shooting and passing, so the Bulls have built out a bullpen to give them a piece of everything. With Coby White they get shooting. Caruso gives them elite defense. Dosunmu is a rounded contributor. Dragic gives them speed in transition.

It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the fact that the front office is still trying to play to their strengths.

Patrick Williams

So far in the workouts, the offense has kind of changed to more position-less, so I think I will be in different areas and different opportunities to make a play.

On creating opportunities within the new offense

One of the biggest conundrum’s I see with the Bulls is with regards to Williams’ development. Williams needs to take a major jump to be the contributor the Bulls need to make the playoffs. But the East is so tight, they may not be able to afford to let him develop slowly as an on-ball creator.

Hearing Williams say there will be more built-in areas for him to create is just what he needs to be able to walk that line. It’s also exactly what the Bulls need to be doing to not be so one-dimensional and overburden DeRozan and LaVine.

DeMar DeRozan

Why? Who comes up with that theory? I always wondered that. It ain’t like I’m 48.

DeRozan on not slowing down after his career 2021-22 season

I love the competitive island that the East is on. That’s what brings the best out of you, when you have the best around you. Put me in a room with the best it’s gonna bring the best out in me.

Just when they thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I’m not saying DeMar can’t be as good as he was last year, but I do wonder what happens to the Bulls if he is only 90 percent of his 2021-22 self.

This had me questioning why he can’t be even better than he was last year. Some real, “why can’t I be MVP” Derrick Rose vibes.

With him playing at his current level and the rest of the Bulls finding some modicum of consistency, the Bulls are plenty capable of competing with the middle of the Eastern Conference.

There. I’ve just talked myself into it.

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