This 2019-20 NBA season is finally about to come to an end in the Disney bubble, and the Bulls just wrapped up their three-week minicamp in their own mini-bubble in Chicago. As one of the “Delete Eight” teams not invited down to Florida for the NBA restart, the Bulls had the opportunity to get together for workouts so they could have some league-sanctioned activity after so much time away since their season ended in March.
The Bulls had to take plenty of their own COVID-19 precautions in their mini-bubble, which the Chicago Tribune’s Jamal Collier documents here. Off the court, the Bulls made sure to push their social justice messages and got to do some team bonding both in the Advocate Center and away from it:
Fun and games aside, the Bulls got some important work done on the court and in terms of the future of their franchise. They made a splash by hiring Billy Donovan as head coach, and while he didn’t join the team in Chicago, he gave an early glimpse into how he’ll run his new squad.
In addition to Donovan, the Bulls hired a new athletic trainer in Todd Campbell in their quest to avoid the litany of injuries that befall them every season. New GM Marc Eversley recently addressed the Campbell hiring and a number of other topics, including the state of the roster, how he’ll work with EVP Arturas Karnisovas and Kris Dunn.
Dunn was the lone Bulls player not to attend the minicamp. Here’s what Eversley said about Dunn’s absence, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:
“I think Kris decided not to participate because he’s not healthy. He’s on the road rehabbing by himself, which we fully support. Whether he’s going to be with us going forward is a decision we’ll make when we get together post-bubble and start talking roster construction. Obviously, he had a great year. He’s a terrific defender. When he gets back to health, hopefully he’ll come back to being a full participant in the gym and workout right before free agency.”
Johnson says Dunn’s knee injury actually is healed, but with his free agency coming up, he likely didn’t want to risk anything.
As for other players on the roster, we got to hear from key core guys like Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White. White was named to the All-Rookie Second Team early in the minicamp and got a special gift from the Bulls:
White — who interviewed with the media before the hiring of Billy D — also talked about his desire to start at point guard next season.
“I think moving forward my primary position is point guard,” said the 6-4 White, now with a thick, though not quite Hardenesque beard. “But I also can play off the ball because I can score and shoot it so well. So I think that this past year showcased that I can be a point guard, but I can also play off the ball at times when I need to. I think my goal for next year is to be better than I was last year. And who doesn’t want to be the starting point guard in training camp? That’s my goal, that’s what I want to achieve. I’m just going to keep working towards that to get that achievement for myself.
“I feel like at times I was overlooked,” White admitted. “But I feel at times I didn’t play up to my expectations. Not making the Rising Stars (All-Star weekend) game was also fueling my fire. But I feel the ones who did make it deserved it and deserved to be part of the game. That game kind of helped me. It was a wake-up call. After that, I kind of took it how it was and just continued to get better and continued to do what I do. As the season went on, I felt like I got better as a player.”
White is hoping to join LaVine in the starting backcourt. LaVine is naturally excited to have Donovan in town after butting heads with Boylen, though the shooting guard took the high road with Jimbo and thanked him for his time after he was fired.
Still, LaVine took a subtle jab at Boylen’s offense as he talked about playing for Donovan:
“I feel like it’s going to be a lot better for guys, especially for me, if you have that part of your game now and you can use all your tools. You know, instead of almost playing with one hand behind your back and if you get to the midrange you’re not supposed to shoot a shot that’s open. Don’t pass up on the best shot,” LaVine said. “Now, I’m not saying that we should be taking strictly midrange jumpers. I know he don’t think that either. But if it’s a good shot, you should take it and you shouldn’t feel bad about it either.”
Markkanen is another guy looking forward to playing in an offense more tailored to his strengths. The Finnish big man claimed he “didn’t really have a reaction” on the “weird day” Boylen was fired, and he likes what he has heard from Donovan about how he’ll be used:
“I do think I can be more productive, more versatile than I was last year,” Markkanen insisted. “Not all times, but there were times I felt like I was just used as spacing the floor. But I think just talking to Billy I’m really confident this year just by (our) one conversation how he uses players to their strengths. Just getting me into actions, coming off ball screens, and he talked about posting up right away. Just being involved. He kind of asked me where do I want the ball and what do I want to do with it. So I’m excited to work with him.”
Markkanen is facing crucial times ahead. He’s eligible for a contract extension this offseason ahead of his fourth year in the NBA, but it seems more likely that he’ll be playing a prove-it campaign. He says he wants to be in Chicago for the long haul after there were rumors of his unhappiness throughout last season.
For what it’s worth, K.C. says Markkanen and White came up as players who impressed in this mini-bubble, but this should obviously be taken with a grain of salt given the level of play. Eversley admitted there was plenty of sloppiness.
Even so, it was good for the team to get back out there. Also, at least these dunks look cool:
Now, we wait and see what comes next for the Bulls. The draft is scheduled for Nov. 18 and then free agency is supposed to happen soon after that. Next season? Totally up in the air. There’s still a lot to figure out, and it’s looking like a January or February start.
Until next time: