The 2019-20 NBA regular season seven-month marathon begins for the Bulls Monday with the "media day" official opening of training camp. For the players, it means interviews and posing for their yearbook photos, and for management the hope is no one gets injured by a photo light.
The last two seasons have mostly been a marathon for the training staff as the rebuilding core of Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine missed a combined total of 187 games primarily due to injury, an average of more than 60 games for each player over the last two years.
Thus "assuming good health" becomes the Bulls' leitmotif if the team intends to play some sweet string music with the nets this season.
There's actually reason for hope, if not also optimism, despite the third fewest wins in the league during the last two seasons.
Good health is not a given for anyone, so that goes into the luck category.
Though quietly — which these days generally means not having been seriously involved in tampering — the Bulls have assembled a competitive roster with depth and experience that in a diminished Eastern Conference could prove to be among the competitors for the playoffs. The Bulls generally are not regarded among that group, and true, this is the team's web site. But the team's web site did not suggest playoffs the last two seasons.
Nothing personal, but there's no more Cameron Payne, Quincy Pondexter, Sean Kilpatrick, Kay Felder, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser, Wayne Selden, Rawle Alkins and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Most were high character people, but still part of an audition process.
Rehearsals are over; Madison Street may become Broadway again.
The Bulls were not primary participants in the summer free agency madness. It started for the Bulls in February with the acquisition of Washington's Otto Porter, the 6-8 forward who would have been a top second tier free agent if he were available in the summer. Then came the furtive additions of veterans like forward Thaddeus Young and point guard Tomas Satoransky. So suddenly without the big name addition or the so called winning the press conference signing, the Bulls replaced tryouts with tried and true. Maybe not great, but parts that could fill the gaps.
The enhancements provide depth, playoff experience, potential leadership, shooting and perhaps a neat fit with the efficient Porter, the versatile Young and the unselfish Satoransky.
Still, LaVine and Markkanen represent the team's aspirations.
The high scoring LaVine and long distance shooting seven-foot Markkanen project as possible All-Stars, and perhaps even this season with the annual All-Star game coming to Chicago in February for the first time since 1988. Though there are exceptions, like the 2004 Pistons, 2011 Mavericks and last season's Toronto Raptors (hey, that's a lot for being exceptions), elite teams usually require multiple stars.
LaVine was among the league's leading scorers last season, a group that includes the league's poorest defenders like James Harden and Russell Westbrook. And Markkanen can be almost a matchup impossibility with his size and skills. They could evolve to stardom. It's the team's hope, if not certain promise.
Especially in a modest Eastern Conference in which All Stars Kawhi Leonard and D'Angelo Russell went to the Western Conference, two others in Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker changed teams, and another, Victor Oladipo, remains injured going into the season. Plus, players like Kyle Lowry seemed to benefit by playing next to an All-Star like Leonard. The East All-Star roster seems wide open as does the conference and the Bulls possibilities for this season.
Though this is Year 3 of the latest construction project, it's really the first season when the goal is less about who else to add and how much you can achieve.
Still there are questions; here's 10 to consider for the next several months.