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NASHVILLE, TN — For the first time since 1985, the Bulls are on the road for training camp.
“One of the things we talked about, we’re bringing back the same group, we have to do something different,” Billy Donovan told reporters after the team’s first practice. “We can’t just do the same thing and expect everything to be fine.”
Until the Bulls play their first preseason game in Milwaukee on Sunday, they’ll be practicing, watching film and doing team bonding activities in Nashville, Tennessee.
“The players really felt like it would be a great idea to go somewhere,” Donovan said. “The challenge was, do you take a three or four hour flight to go all the out west? What does that look like — time change, those things. This was convenient. Belmont’s got a great facility, we appreciate them opening it up. It was a one hour flight from Chicago here. We’re going back to Milwaukee for the first preseason game. The travel just made a lot of sense.”
It’s close in proximity to Chicago, warmer and not an NBA city. A lot of the players don’t know it well, so it represents a chance for them to explore together.
“I think sometimes just trying something new could be beneficial,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Nothing wrong with that at all. Just getting out of everybody’s comfort zone of being home for camp, it can do a lot for camaraderie.”
DeRozan said he hated doing training camps in his team’s home city, and that he found the best results from being on the road. Most training camps during his years in Toronto were spent in Vancouver or Montreal or even Hawaii, and believes that kind of bonding experience can do a lot to help a team come together.
“On those trips, we did a lot of stuff we probably wouldn’t do if we were just at home practicing,” he said. “And that kind of carried over to the season, of just riding for each other and having each other’s back.”
“I’m pretty sure if we went out to the woods and hung out for a week, we’d be a lot closer,” he said, directed at KC Johnson.
Mid-season form with the analogies.
The Bulls have plans to share team dinners and tonight, they’re taking a team outing to Top Golf.
“You seen me? It was terrible,” he joked, referring to his backswing.
“These guys have got really good relationships, but I think there’s a deeper connection you have to establish,” Donovan said. “In today’s society, when everything’s done with your phone — Facebook, all these social media — they don’t really connect, in my opinion, like you think they’d connect.”
It’s more than just team dinners. The Bulls need, and want, to use this opportunity to dig into the details, learn how to communicate more clearly and have the difficult conversations that ultimately bring people closer together.
“It’s not so much about just going to dinner, it’s about having conversations of what they need from each other,” Donovan explained. “As players, as teammates, how they can help one another. In your house, it’s hard to have a really good, functioning environment if there’s not great communication. I know where we practice is not their family’s house, but it’s our house.”
Donovan noted Patrick Beverley’s influence on the team, bringing guys together to watch football games. But you can’t just force relationships, and it’s on the players and coaches to have the desire to establish those relationships.
In the end, this has to be more about translating that to the court. If the Bulls want to move the ball more, share offensive responsibility and trust that the next guy will make the right play, it comes down to trusting each other.
The Bulls believe this team trip can be the genesis for a healthier, more trusting team dynamic.
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