What is UP, Bulls Nation. The Bulls are back! For some of you sickos like us out there (we call ourselves Diehards) the Bulls never really leave. We talk about them all offseason long. Draft prospects, free agency, trades, offseason rankings, workout videos, player appearances on podcasts, more trades…
But when the calendar turns to September, it feels like a cruel waiting game. Everything about the offseason has been dissected every which way, and all that’s left to do is kill the clock in anticipation of Media Day and the dawn of a new season. When Chicago’s baseball teams are spending September dragging their lifeless corpses to the finish line (sorry, Sox fans) or lifting our hopes just high enough to break our hearts (sorry, Cubs fans) and the Bears are, well…ugh. I can’t. I truly cannot. That anticipation for Bulls basketball being back in our lives is all the more vital to our mental health.
On Monday, that day finally came. The 2023-24 Chicago Bulls season has officially begun. And our CHGO Bulls crew was there to take it all in. The interviews, the photo shoots, the Bulls media buzz. It’s truly a sight to behold. Even when fans have valid skepticisms about this upcoming season (*Peck raises his hand repeatedly*), there’s something so unshakably optimistic about Media Day. A fresh start for everyone. Players and fans alike.
So, here are my 10 favorite quotes we heard on Media Day, followed by a few of my thoughts on each. It’s the Pecking Order.
10. “I definitely plan on playing again.” – Lonzo Ball
It was a nice surprise to see Lonzo Ball participating in Media Day. Not to suggest I assumed he wouldn’t show up because he won’t be playing (insert Chase Claypool joke here). He just seems so far removed from Bulls basketball right now, in a sad way. And we all already know his situation.
But there he was, Bulls jersey on and wearing a smile with it. He gave some encouraging updates on his rehab process following his third knee surgery. Honestly, credit to him for staying so positive through this whole ordeal. “After surgery three, I feel like it’s going well so far, no setbacks. So for me it’s just keep my head up, just keep doing the work,” Ball said.
I can’t begin to fathom how challenging it’s been to keep his head up over the past 18 months. But you have to admire his outlook. Do I personally think, right now, we’ll see Lonzo suit up for the Bulls again down the road? No. I don’t. And that sucks. I really, really, REALLY hope I’m wrong about that. I’ve maybe never wanted to be wrong more about anything in my Bulls fandom. And not just for us fans’ sake. For his sake. Because Lonzo deserves to feel the joy of playing basketball again.
9. “I think they need someone to do that for them.” – Coby White
Speaking of the Bulls point guard situation, a lot was said on that topic at the Advocate Center on Monday. According to Bulls VP Arturas Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley in their interview with 670 The Score last week, the starting point guard job will be up for grabs at training camp in Nashville this week. Open competition. As a Bulls fan, I love that. Heck, I want to see different starting lineups throughout the preseason.
Coby White is among the candidates for that job. His role has varied constantly during the tenure of his Bulls rookie contract, from starter to spot bench minutes and everything in between. But if he wins the starting job over Jevon Carter and everyone else, he’ll need to lead the shift in this Bulls offense that finished 24th in the NBA last season.
“Getting those guys in spots where they feel comfortable. Honestly just commanding the show, I think a lot of times DeMar and Zach find themselves bringing the ball up and then initiating the offense. I think they need someone to do that for them, and then let them focus on what their game is which is putting that ball in the basket.”
I agree, Coby. Now go do it.
8. “My agent, he deals with that.” – DeMar DeRozan
“…And I tell him to leave me the hell alone.”
This was the beginning of DeMar DeRozan’s answer when asked about a looming potential contract extension. Entering the final season of his three year sign-and-trade deal, DeMar is the biggest remaining domino in the “just how much does the Bulls brass like the #CONTINUITY plan?” question.
Nobody had a public answer for the DeMar extension question, and it’s no surprise. Maybe they secretly do, maybe they don’t. But we weren’t going to learn the answer on Media Day. I just love how bluntly DeMar handled it. As a fan, you want to believe each player’s focus coming into a fresh season is on one thing: winning games. Is there a part of DeMar that’s wondering what’s next for him in his NBA career? Probably. But keep that shit on the back burner. And let your agent handle it. Go get buckets and win games.
7. “There was a lot of work undone.” – Nikola Vucevic
This was part of Nikola Vucevic’s answer when explaining his decision to return to the Bulls on a new three year contract.
Sure, Vooch probably wasn’t getting $60 million from another team on the free agent market. And you can look at it that way if you want to. Maybe you’re one of the Vooch Haters still seething loudly about the trade that brought him here. Or a “Vooch’s defense is terrible!” screamer. Personally? I choose to live in the present. And letting Vooch walk for nothing would’ve been profoundly stupid. And he’s an adequate defender. Started all 82 games for a defense that finished Top 5 in the NBA last season. One of the best defensive rebounders in the league. Gets buckets. Great passer. There’s plenty to appreciate with Vooch.
I appreciated this quote from him. Because he’s damn right. This group stayed together this offseason, whether we like it or not. Go prove to us that you can achieve more together than you have thus far.
6. “We’re going to go into the luxury tax…” – Arturas Karnisovas
Arturas Karnisovas did actually say this. But here’s the rest of the quote, as he answered a luxury tax question courtesy of our grenade-throwing pal Joe Cowley:
“We’re going to go into the luxury tax if we’re confirming this is the group. Once you have consistent success, we can go for it.”
AK then reaffirmed what he has stated on the record before, which is that ownership will support the team entering the luxury tax if the team has “consistent success.” What does “consistent success” mean? F*ck if I know. Or if they know. All I know is that in my entire lifetime of Bulls fandom (that’s 30+ years), ownership has paid the luxury tax once. One. Damn. Time.
I’ll believe it when I see it. Even then, I might not believe it.
5. “Everyone’s zero-zero right now.” – Zach LaVine
This was Zach’s answer when asked about the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics – two Eastern Conference powerhouses – making big moves this offseason.
I mean, he’s not wrong. And the Bulls had multiple wins against the Bucks and Celtics last season. Are they staring down even tougher competition now that the Bucks have Damian Lillard and the Celtics have Jrue Holiday? Yeah, probably. But this is the right attitude for Zach – and the whole team – to have coming into the season. They play 82 games for a reason. The Bulls have the same number of wins as the Bucks and Celtics right now. No fear.
4. “I love it.” – DeMar DeRozan
DeMar’s response to the “Milwaukee and Boston made moves” question. DeMar has always said one of the things he loves most about being an NBA player is the competition. He wants to beat the best. Milwaukee and Boston look like the best.
(…Now, can Bulls fans be somewhat miffed that teams who were already a class above theirs made major efforts to improve their squads while the Bulls largely stood pat with a mediocre one that missed the playoffs? Yes. Yes we can. There’s no “but” to that rhetorical question. I still love DeMar’s attitude, though.)
3. “I don’t really care. I’m a Chicago Bull.” – Jevon Carter
You guessed it. Jevon Carter said this when it was his turn to answer the question about Milwaukee and Boston. And this is coming from a guy who spent the past 1.5 seasons playing for the Bucks. But he’s a Chicago guy, through and through. We could tell when we talked to Jevon at Bulls Fest what putting on a Bulls jersey was going to mean to him. On Monday, we got to see it. The dude was beaming.
Inject this quote directly into my veins.
2. “I will be a vocal leader of this team. I’m going to voice my opinion.” – Jevon Carter
Jevon Carter won Media Day, in my opinion. Sure, there’s the “Chicago Guy” aspect. And it’s great to have another hometown hero alongside Ayo Dosunmu. But it’s more the attitude and mindset Jevon is bringing to a team that desperately needs it that has me excited.
It’s the same reason I quickly got on board with the Patrick Beverley Experience at the tail end of last season. I’ve never been a huge PatBev fan, but there’s no denying the dude cares. Why am I such a Joakim Noah fan? Because he cared. There are a handful of professional athletes who truly understand how much the teams they play for mean to the fans. Jevon, by all evidence thus far, is one of those players.
And he’s not afraid to say certain things if that’s what it will take to win. This Bulls team is full of nice guys. And that’s all fine and good, if you’re winning. When the going gets tough, who’s going to step up and lead them? It doesn’t have to be the most talented guy on the roster. No offense to Zach or DeMar, but there have been questions about who the leader of this team is for a reason. Because no one knows. I’d be perfectly content with Jevon stepping up to be that guy. This team needs leadership. And, to borrow Big Dave’s word, it needs a Goon.
Jevon Carter, you’re up.
1. “It’s like Christmas and camp, all in one.” – Big Dave
This is how Big Dave described what being at Bulls Media Day is like at the opening of our show from the Advocate Center. I couldn’t agree more.
Our guy Will Gottlieb has been on the Bulls Beat for awhile now (and crushing it, by the way. You know this.) He’s around the players, coaches, front office and other Bulls media members on a regular basis. For Dave and myself, these occasions are special. We truly are fans of the team. We make content, and in some ways now can be categorized as members of the media. But our brains still work as fans first. And that’s how they should always operate to best serve you, our fellow fans.
So you can probably image how cool it is for us to be able to participate in such an event. It is Bulls Fan Christmas for us. We get to be around the players, even talk to them. I talked to Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso…all in the same day! That’s wild to me. It will never not be wild to me.
It’s also like camp, where you get to see all your camp friends again. That’s the Bulls media family. We go our separate ways in the offseason, and then suddenly we’re all reunited. Getting to see our old Bulls Outsiders friends Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Jason Goff, Tony Gill and Kevin Anderson always fills my heart with joy. On top of that, getting to be around Bulls media legends like Sam Smith, K.C. Johnson and Chuck Swirsky. Adam Amin! Other beat members like Cowley and Darnell Mayberry who crush their gigs while supporting us newcomers. And seeing fellow newcomers like Josh Hicks and Drew Stevens from The Bigs making their presence felt, or our former CHGO intern Kyle Williams, now crushing it for the Chicago Sun-Times.
These are our people. And it’s so damn cool to be welcomed by them. For them to be happy to see us. Is this real life? No, it can’t be. I’m just a Bulls fan who must be dreaming.