While the Bulls have made a lot of progress over the summer, Sam argues that it's time to turn that progress into wins and get the season started with some good momentum.
Bulls players have accomplished a lot in their own little ways. Zach LaVine has nudged himself into the All-Star conversations and Lauri Markkanen remains on most everyone's next-big-breakthrough list. Rookie Coby White is drawing Rookie of the Year whispers with Zion Williamson's surgery. Tomas Satoransky became a national hero back home for his Czech Republic National Team play. Otto Porter Jr. broke the bank when the Washington Wizards matched a Brooklyn Nets free agent offer in 2017 and Thaddeus Young has turned himself into one of the game's most respected veterans, last summer with an invite to the USA Basketball camp.
It's just that they've yet to embrace the doctrine of the famous NFL executive Al Davis, "Just win, baby."
Time to see. It begins on the road for these Bulls Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets, and playing in a depleted Eastern Conference there's once again reason to consider moving beyond individual accomplishment.
"That's what we're trying to do, start off strong," Markkanen agreed Tuesday before the team left for North Carolina. "That sets the pace for the rest of the year. So we're going one game at a time. But it's really important for us to get these.''
That's about as close to a guarantee as you get in sports these days. But what's everyone so afraid of? Say it! Put yourself on the line! That you're going to get these wins.
The Bulls appear to get a schedule break to start the season with four of the first five games — albeit on the road — against the teams expected to have the poorest records in the conference. There's also the defending champion Toronto Raptors minus their best player Saturday in the United Center for the home opener. Then it's the Pistons and Lakers at home around a road game in Atlanta.
There are possibilities.
Though when it comes up for discussion, at least in public, there often seems to be a dichotomy between the views of the coaches and players versus the fans. The community talks about wins; team members often discuss harmony. "Care for each other," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said when asked about a team strength. "Care for each other and support each other. That's what I've seen. I've seen a group of guys that want to do the right things. It's a high character group, it's a willing group. Our care factor is high and I expect for us to care for each other tomorrow, play for each other, sacrifice for each other. I think we'll do that well. We don't talk about playoff team, non-playoff team. We're talking about Charlotte. We're going to play as hard as we can against Charlotte. That's what we can control. And then we'll move on.
"What I am I'm proud of this group," Boylen added, "I love this spirit we have, the work ethic we have and now we're going to go out and do it. I expect there to be moments when we struggle. I expect there to be moments when we play well. What I want us to do is get better every game. What I don't do is I don't always evaluate whether we've won or lost. I evaluate how we played. And then the next day we'll work on the things we didn't do well and hopefully we can grow as a group. So that's what I'll worry about. I'm excited for them, I'm pumped up because just like them I like to compete. That's why we do this. So I'm ready."
We all understand the gentle minuet everyone plays here. Practice your cliches, guys! You're not supposed to disparage your opponent and you're not supposed to provide brazen comments for that so called bulletin board material, as if anyone's seen a bulletin board this decade. Still, it's about competition and being the best competitor. The best and toughest and most successful weren't afraid to declare their beliefs and intentions.
Like Ali and Joe Namath and Michael Jordan.
Dare to be great. They were coming to win. They let you know and challenged you to stop them. That's the real next step for this Bulls team. When they are ready to move from exceptional performances to victories.
"I think we're a new Bulls team," said Markkanen.
Time to show it instead of just showing up.
Just win, baby.