By Joseph G. Phillips, Sports Editor
The Chicago Crusader Newspaper
The Chicago Bulls look to kick off their 2020-2021 NBA season on Wednesday, December 23, against their Eastern Conference opponents the Atlanta Hawks, with a starting lineup featuring Coby White, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and Lauri Markkanen.
The Bulls will face the Hawks at the United Center for their first game of the regular season, and the team will not only feature a slightly revamped starting lineup but a changing of the guard in management as well.
The Chicago Crusader sat down with the Bulls to discuss their 2020-2021 season preview.
ZACH LA VINE AND THE OFF SEASON:
“Basketball is my life… I’ve been working out nonstop… I’m extremely happy and excited to get it going,” said Zach LaVine speaking at his training camp presser. “We’re all excited to see what we can do under [coach] Billy [Donovan]. We haven’t done a lot of winning for the last couple of years, but I think we have to strive to win games, make a run at the playoffs. My main goal is winning, going out there competing, giving us a chance every day.”
As one of the team leaders, LaVine said he not only wants to adjust to the flow of the game but learn how to win while doing it.
He made a point of saying he will do whatever is necessary to help the team win more games and is looking forward to entering training camp as one of the best-conditioned athletes on the floor. He added he is willing to take whatever role new coach Billy Donovan assigns him this season and will surely be “ready for it,” when called upon.
BULLS HIRE ARTURAS KARNISOVAS, EXECUTIVE VP OF BASKETBALL
OPERATIONS DURING THE OFF SEASON:
Over the past eight months, Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas has waited patiently to turn the page of the franchise during the offseason, after the organization relieved former VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson and GM Gar Forman of their executive duties.
The Bulls felt they needed a change in the front office after going 22 years straight without an NBA championship. The last time the team won an NBA championship was during the 1998 season when Michael Jordan and the world champion Bulls won six titles in eight seasons to completely dominate the 90s.
A change in management also took a turn in the right direction after fans viewed the 10-part docuseries “The Last Dance,” which aired during the COVID-19 pandemic. The series featured Jordan and the Bulls who also exploited the fact that change in management was needed.
Since the docuseries aired, the new regime has had plans of changing the perception of the organization and felt the change was needed.
“In this situation, we have a clean slate – a new front office, new coaching staff establishing themselves,” said the Bulls’ Karnisovas. “Cohesion takes time. We will build it the right way; no skipping steps. Our main objectives are player development and getting better every day.”
Karnisovas said there was a sense of optimism and excitement in the building during the offseason and that players were looking forward to getting back together on the floor as a team. He said that the minicamp in October generated a lot of enthusiasm for the team and that coach Donovan has been unbelievable with both the players and staff.
“Everybody is excited to get going,” Karnisovas said.
BULLS HIRE MARC EVERSLEY – FIRST BLACK GM IN FRANCHISE HISTORY:
After airing Episodes 3 and 4 of the critically acclaimed documentary “The Last Dance” in April, the Chicago Bulls’ front office struck a deal and hired Philadelphia 76ers Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley as their first Black general manager in franchise history.
According to ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls hired Eversley when the two sides struck a deal after the episodes aired.
The Bulls GM search came to an end after interviewing a pool of African-American candidates; the team felt that Eversley was the perfect fit for the job.
Several months later, Eversley and Karnisovas moved on from Coach Jim Boylen and hired former University of Florida standout Billy Donovan as the organization’s next head coach.
BULLS SIGN BILLY DONOVAN AS – HEAD COACH:
After serving five seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Chicago Bulls hired Billy Donovan as their head coach this off season. Donovan will look to implement his culture of hard work, strong basketball acumen and IQ for the 2020-21 season.
Karnisovas, along with Bulls management, believes that Donovan is the perfect leader for the squad. This year, the Bulls will look to improve their regular season record and will try to avoid missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
BULLS DRAFT PATRICK WILLIAMS WITH THE FOURTH PICK OF THE 2020 NBA DRAFT AND ADD DEVON DOTSON:
Known for his high-flying dunks, deep three-pointers and humble personality, the Chicago Bulls drafted Patrick Williams with the fourth pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Bulls took Williams fourth overall in the draft, as the 6’-8” Florida State University product looks to add speed, power, and strength to Chicago’s lineup.
According to the PeachTree Hoops scouting report, Williams was one of the more interesting high-upside players of the 2020 NBA draft class. In his only season at Florida State, Williams displayed a variety of skills. This included playing combo forward and an intriguing versatility to play both ends of the floor.
His 6′-11″ wingspan allows him to guard multiple positions on the floor while possessing a diverse skill set offensively.
“When I saw his skill level – ball-handling, shooting, ability to pass – I would disagree that he’s a raw athlete,” said Karnisovas about drafting Williams. “He knows how to play… at FSU, he would be full court pressing guards. That’s a very unique skill for such an athletic and skilled player.”
“It’s huge, it’s huge,” Williams told ESPN after being selected. “I feel blessed to be in this position.”
According to his bio, Williams entered his freshman year at Florida State rated as the 21st-best prospect for the 2020 NBA draft, according to ESPN.
Williams was named the ACC Sixth Man of The Year.
Kansas Jayhawk Devon Dotson:
Following the draft of forward Patrick Williams, the Chicago Bulls signed Devon Dotson to a two-way contract with the Windy City Bulls of the NBA G League after the 2020 NBA Draft.
Dotson played college basketball for the Kansas Jayhawks and will contend for playing time throughout the season.
Dotson, a Chicago native, says he loves to pattern his game after former Chicago Bulls legend Derrick Rose.
BULLS ADD FREE AGENT GARRETT TEMPLE:
In their first huge move of the offseason, the Chicago Bulls signed former Brooklyn Nets guard and NBA journeyman Garrett Temple to a one-year, $4.7 million contract this off season.
Temple will provide both veteran leadership and a “3 and D” option for the Bulls offense. Temple played his college ball for the LSU Tigers (from 2005 until 2009) and has played nearly 11 years in the league as a veteran.
Temple averaged a career-high 10.3 points per game last season and helped the Brooklyn Nets clinch their second straight playoff appearance and their fifth in eight seasons.
Along with Thaddeus Young, Temple will look to bring his veteran leadership to the “young” Bulls locker room. Last year, the Bulls added several more additions in the offseason, including former Washington Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky on a three-year, $30 million deal (Satoransky was acquired via sign-and-trade using cap room); scrappy guard Ryan Arcidiacono on a three-year, $9 million deal; former New York Knicks center Luke Kornet on a two-year, $4.5 million deal (using cap room exception) and a two-way contract for guard Adam Mokoka.
CHICAGO BULLS ROSTER (SEASON PREVIEW):
With the off season coming to a close and the regular season around the corner, here is the Chicago Bulls current roster: Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Coby White, Daniel Gafford, Ryan Arcidiacono, Cristiano Felicio, Chandler Hutchison, Luke Kornet, Adam Mokoka, Tomas Satoransky, Zach Norvell Jr., Denzel Valentine, Thaddeus Young, Garrett Temple, Devon Dotson, Noah Vonleh and Patrick Williams.
The Bulls will play their first preseason game on Friday, December 11, against the Houston Rockets. Game time is 7 p.m. at the United Center.
Here is my projected future lineup:
PG: Coby White
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Patrick Williams
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: Wendell Carter Jr.