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With the Bulls season wrapping up following a Game 5 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, players took the podium Thursday morning for their exit interviews.
Here’s what the major players had to say:
Kicking things off with Vucevic, who spoke about finding his way within a new ecosystem. He said that he was used to having the offense run through him and felt more relegated to a spot up role in Chicago and that challenged him.
“As a big man too, you’re kind of depending on others, you don’t always have the ball, you can’t do much on your own,” Vucevic said. “You have to figure that part out.”
Getting the ball in his spots was one thing, but the fact that his shot just didn’t go in was still concerning. Vucevic finished the season 31.4 percent on threes, down from 40.6 percent last year.
“I never really got to the point where I was shooting the ball as consistently as I can,” Vucevic said. “It’s just that type of season. That adjustment. At times, I think I was overthinking it a little bit when I didn’t start shooting the way I wanted to when you want things to happen right away. You want to get going right away and it didn’t and maybe you start overthinking things. The shots you’re taking are not the ones you’re used to.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about a Bulls shooter getting in his head. For Vucevic, he needed to find his rhythm in the paint to have his confidence on his outside shot.
“Making sure I was getting a good mix of playing inside and outside,” Vucevic said. “I felt at times I was trying to space too much and not thinking of other things I could do.”
Floor spacing, short-roll playmaking and post scoring are the three things Vucevic was supposed to provide for this team offensively. We’ll see if or how the Bulls try to integrate him more next season, or ship him out for a new center.
Year 2 was a strange one for Williams, who obviously missed 55 games with his wrist injury. Typically Year 2 is an important period of development, and someone of Williams’ age and maturity would especially have benefitted from game experience.
“I know what it takes for me to stay mentally locked in,” Williams said. “I learned how to watch film this season through being out. Even though I was out, it’s another year in the NBA. You can’t take that for granted. This is a dream.”
This is still an important piece of development for Williams, who will look to parlay his back-to-back 20-point playoff performances into a leap next year.
“When you have the love and support of people around you,” Williams said .”The people around you want to see you do better. The people around you want to be a star. I think it’s inevitable, honestly”
Speaking of turning Patrick Williams into a star, DeRozan has big summer plans for the Bulls young guns.
“I plan on having a lot of guys come to LA for sure,” DeRozan said. “Work with me, put ’em through a lot of the hell I put myself through in the offseason.”
“Pat’s my main victim,” DeRozan said. “I’m looking forward to having him spend some time with me in LA, having him get up at 4 o’ clock in the morning, kind of breaking him down. And whoever else want in on the team.”
DeRozan obviously put together one of the best offensive seasons in Bulls history. But his leadership and mentorship over the younger players should not go unnoticed. These summer workouts are a testament to what DeRozan was able to accomplish in year 13. Now he’s going to pour effort into making Williams and other young Bulls so they learn what it takes to improve each year.
“I’ll let them tell you,” he said. “Give them until after summer and all the guys who go through it with me will be able to tell a hell of a story, because it’s normal to me.”
Ball’s knee problems are seriously concerning.
“Kind of let it calm down for the last two weeks. I was going at it pretty hard trying to get back as fast as possible,” Ball said. “But like I said, at a standstill, still have pain. So got to get that figured out this summer for sure.”
Ball wasn’t sure if he’d need another surgery over the summer, and though he doesn’t want to if he can avoid it, he’ll do whatever it takes to get back on the court.
This was a season of disappointing injuries and Ball was perhaps the biggest culprit. He spoke of wanting to run it back next year and continuity was a theme of the day coming from DeRozan and Vucevic as well. But the Bulls have a lot of work to do and finding depth to step up when guys get injured is going to be a top priority.
Caruso said what we were all thinking: “I don’t know if we got to see our full potential. To have as many guys as we did miss games … (missing) big pieces hurt the symmetry, chemistry, the ability to form habits during the season … I think we’re a really good team with a chance to be really special.”
He wasn’t the only one to address this, most of the players said something to the same effect. But it really did become a season of ‘what if?’ Hopefully, the Bulls will have much better luck with health. Until then, Caruso will be chilling this summer
“Playing golf. Playing basketball. Watching my dog,” he said.
Billy Donovan, Arturas Karnisovas and Mark Eversley, and Zach LaVine will speak to the media on Friday. More to come…
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