Chalk it up to youthful exuberance. That is the stance Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan is taking with teammate Patrick Williams. The third-year forward was a little too honest with the media when discussing changes the Bulls were making in the wake of Lonzo Ball’s second knee surgery in nine months.
Set to be without their starting point guard for what will likely be more than a year when all is said and done, the Bulls are focusing on “positionless” basketball, as Williams put it, getting the ball in different players’ hands at different spots throughout a possession.
For his troubles, Williams earned a bit of light-hearted ribbing from the veteran DeRozan with whom he spent time this summer training in Los Angeles.
DeRozan did not say that the youngster was not wrong, though.
DeRozan Confirms Williams’ Comments
‘‘First of all, you can’t expect too much; he’s still a teenager,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘But, yeah, just putting more wrinkles in the offense so we don’t become so predictable and [rely] on ‘hero basketball’ so much.’’ (h/t Joe Cowley/Chicago Sun-Times)
Underscoring that he was not really upset with Williams, DeRozan took his description a step further.
‘‘Get guys in different places, get guys involved and get easier shots for the next person,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘Not just rely on me and Zach [LaVine] so much playing a bunch of isolation basketball. There’s definitely more wrinkles in there, and just getting comfortable with that, for sure.”
Much of that was due to the Bulls being ill-prepared to withstand his absence, something they hope to have remedied this offseason with the additions of Goran Dragic specifically when it relates to Ball. But also with Andre Drummond for a team that was 28th in rebounding.
Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has previously lamented that the Bulls were just two game-winners from DeRozan away from being a Play-In Tournament team last year.
‘‘The better you balance that,” DeRozan said, “the better a team we become. It’s just a matter of understanding how to balance that. That’s on us. We’ve definitely been locked in and understanding of how we can help that.’’
In Williams’ Defense
Williams was not the first to spill the beans on the Bulls’ shift in offensive philosophy. The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry reported that they were already planning to put less on DeRozan’s plate next season as the 32-year-old wing heads into his 14th NBA season.
LaVine also let on that the Bulls would be seeking more “randomness” in their offensive approach this season.
“Free-flowing,” LaVine said via NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer. “Quick reads. For isolation, one on one players, we’re going to get a couple of those shots up. That’s part of our game. But quick reads. Fast decisions…The ball should be popping side to side. Being able to use different players in different spots.”
Donovan was also quick to point out that the offense would be tweaked more than changed.
To that end, Dragic spoke of getting pick-and-roll reps in with both Nikola Vucevic and Drummond. That is an area where the Bulls’ offense fell off in terms of playmaking last season without Ball.
Both DeRozan and LaVine are willing passers but are far more effective as play finishers than playmakers.
Dragic could help bring that and the transition element back to the Bulls’ offense.
Bulls’ Strategic Advantage
While the Bulls’ new approach offensively is no longer a mystery, who they will start at point guard still is. Dragic is an option as the most experienced option but, at 36 years old, Donovan has stressed not over-taxing the veteran. Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu are the other legitimate options.
Fourth-year guard Coby White is also still on the roster in the event of an emergency. But his time at point guard has been mostly in an off-ball capacity and the Bulls are expected to explore his trade value at the deadline.
Donovan has hinted at a possible platoon situation. But Caruso says that he is more concerned with closing games while Dosunmu started 40 games last season.
If anything, this is a far greater competitive advantage than Williams’ admission.