The Chicago Bulls’ decision to run back the majority of their roster for the third consecutive season was made amid some potentially ominous sentiments emanating from the locker room.
“What we learned from our team was, when we had our exit interviews, they were a team,” Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said on “Bernstein & Holmes” on September 27. “But they really didn’t feel like a team, ‘That was one of the takeaways that we put on the board and said we’ve got to do things next year.
“I think it became … like you just show up and you go to work, you come, you go home, you show up the next day, you come to work. And they love to play, and our coaches love to coach. And we were a team. But they didn’t feel like they were really, really, really a team.”
Eversley said they plan to address it during training camp.
It is the first time that the team will be going away for training camp in franchise history, though the practice is quite common around the NBA.
Bulls Battled Locker Room Turbulence Last Season
The Bulls’ locker room issues were well-documented during the season, with Shams Charania and Darnell Mayberry of The Atheltic reporting on multiple team meetings and waning belief in head coach Billy Donovan.
Things could snowball on the Bulls, though, with Donovan and Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas quietly receiving extensions ahead of last season, potentially setting the stage for any unresolved issues to pop back up. The Bulls have been gauging the interest in Zach LaVine dating back to the trade deadline.
LaVine has largely dismissed the trade rumors and organized a team softball outing.
The two-time All-Star has maintained his position that Chicago is where his heart is. And, going into Year 2 of a five-year, $215.1 million contract with a history of knee issues, his trade value has not met the Bulls’ asking price.
“One league source said the Bulls would be focused on getting a good young player, multiple first-round picks and salary filler if they decide to trade LaVine,” wrote NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on June 19. “Another said one first-round pick and an established, high-end player might be sufficiently intriguing.”
“It’s always rumors. But I always heard where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” LaVine said via NBC Sports Bay Area on August 5. “And, every once in a while, you see a little too much smoke.”
Nikola Vucevic Puts Timeline on Bulls’ Core
The trade rumors are one thing. But staring center Nikola Vucevic also alluded to significant changes on the horizon if this group cannot make some noise in the postseason this year after bowing out in five games in 2021-22 and failing to make it altogether last season.
“We have to do better,” Vučević said, per Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Jake Fischer on August 31. “We know it’s kind of our last chance as this core of guys to do something.”
Vucevic re-signed on a three-year, $60 million contract this offseason while LaVine is under contract through at least 2025-26. That just leaves DeRozan as the lone member of the Bulls’ big three without a contract after this coming season but Eversley has already made it clear he was the veteran back.
With so much of their future already locked in or under serious consideration, a pivot could be difficult. Especially if Karnisovas continues to value players as he has, which in the case of LaVine has already been described as a “giant” roadblock.