This past Monday the Chicago Bulls started pre-season training camp and the front office and players hosted media day to discuss all things Bulls.
After the firing of head coach Fred Hoiberg last season, Bulls Vice President John Paxson hired long-time assistant Jim Boylen to finish out the year. Now, in his first full year as head coach Boylen has some strong goals in mind for his youthful and talented roster with the regular season just three weeks away.
“Our goal for the season is to make the playoffs,” Boylen told the media on Monday. “We’ve added talent. We’ve added veteran leadership. We’ve added things that we thought were holes last year.”
All of that is true and the goal of making the playoffs is very realistic in a now weakened eastern conference with Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard both in L.A.
Experts in Las Vegas have set the Bulls over/under win total at 34.5 and the Bulls should have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs if they can outperform that number by just a handful of games. In two of the last three NBA seasons, 41 victories was the magic number to get a team into the dance and the bulls were one of those teams back in the 2016-2017 NBA season when they had the three alphas of Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Dwyane Wade.
This roster is a lot different than that one and LaVine and Markkanen believe they’re ready for the challenge posed by their head coach and by Paxson.
“We have some guys…where they’re at a time in their careers where they have to step up. That’s Zach, that’s Lauri, that’s Otto,” Paxson explained.
When asked about the team being built around them and taking on the pressure, Markkanen and LaVine didn’t shy away from the challenge.
“It’s not a lot of pressure because we expect ourselves to be and go to that level,” LaVine responded.
“I feel like we both play better under the pressure. I feel like it’s a positive thing for both of us,” Markkanen added.
Markkanen and LaVine stated some of their own goals to go along with the expectations from Paxson. Both players want to be available for all 82 games. LaVine even mentioned he’s been training mostly on the sand to keep the impact on his body low and Markkanen explained he’s been working on his defense by watching film on his footwork and playing a lot of one-on-one in practice. He believes that the call to “step up” by Paxson means that he and LaVine need to become complete two-way players.
Despite the drama that ensued between Boylen and the players last year, it is exciting to hear that the Bulls young stars were frustrated by their lack of team success in the previous years and are ready to take on the demands of the upcoming season.
“Everything comes from winning. You’re going into your sixth year [referring to LaVine] and I’m going into my third year and we haven’t won a whole lot of games. So, that’s one thing that I know really pisses both of us off. So, we want to get to that winning record first and obviously that comes from us playing well and the whole team playing well together,” Markkanen stated.
The start of a new season for a young team that has this much potential is always exciting, but all the goals and the talk will be meaningless if the Bulls fail to execute on the floor or fail to stay healthy.
The Boylen Bulls will get their first full season underway on October 23 in Charlotte against the Hornets.