The Chicago Bulls are a top-heavy team. Their “Big 3” can hold up against most others when healthy. But the Bulls’ also boasted surprising versatility from their bench that allowed them to do that throughout the majority of last season as they sat in first place in the Eastern Conference after the All-Star break.
That is one of the driving factors in Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas’ decision to run it back with the same core.
In the wake of an offseason that saw the Bulls stand pat in comparison to some of the other top teams – and their splurge last offseason – many see the Bulls as at-risk of falling into the Play-In Tournament and, possibly, out of the postseason.
But one Bulls player certainly doesn’t see it that way.
JaVonte Green’s Message for the East
“We don’t back down from nobody, Bulls utility man Javonte Green told Stacey King on the “Gimme The Hot Sauce” podcast, “We had our little run last year before injuries and everything…But I think we’re a good team. We made noise last year before the All-Star. To get everybody back healthy, I think we could do the same thing this year.”
There is a caveat on the Bulls’ health with the status of starting point guard Lonzo Ball’s knee still unclear. But the Bulls held onto their top spot in the conference for over a month after he went down.
Green’s assertion will likely fall on deaf ears as the NBA world reacts to the blockbuster trade sending Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz to the Bulls’ rival, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But the Bulls aren’t doubting themselves.
“We know what we’re capable of, Green declared. “We know we made noise last year. We know how good we were. And then we picked up a few guys. And then drafted [Dalen Terry]…If we have that mindset and we feel like we can go fight, we’ll go fight.”
But he was equally as confident in the work the Bulls are putting in.
Summer From Hell
Bulls forward Patrick Williams garnered headlines early and often this summer after DeMar DeRozan prepped him from an offseason workout in Los Angeles. But he was not the only Bulls player to get active often in the gym.
The Bulls had players taking part in the pro-am circuit and even saw most of the team meet up for unofficial workouts.
That grinder mentality will have to show up in training camp with more competition for minutes.
“I think it’s going to be very competitive and I feel like that’s going to help us out throughout the year. Just going out there and competing from Day 1 and then all that’s going to carry over throughout the season.”
Just what are the Bulls trying to carry over into next season?
That was essentially revealed during a recent workout that King witnessed in which players were getting after each other defensively.
“Last year we didn’t do a very good job of closing out to shooters,” Green answered. “And, if we did close out to them, we gave them straight line drives. So I just feel like that’s been the emphasis this year for us. So we just trying to work on that. And trying to perfect that so we can be good on both sides of the ball, not just one-sided.”
Green on Playing PF
“I don’t back down, man. I don’t care how big you is. You tie your shoes up the same way I do.”
That’s Green’s approach to playing at least one spot (and more likely two) out of position as a power forward.
There might not have been a clearer sign of the Bulls’ lack of size last season.
But the 6-foot-4 Green acquitted himself nicely despite being matched up with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. Not bad for someone who, despite playing the position in college, had scouts and league personnel struggle to find a position for him.
“Nothing I expected to do. But whatever they ask me to do I’m going to do it. I actually played the 4 in college a little bit. It was, like, a four-guard set. Everything was interchangeable. So I just felt like that helped me a lot… going back to my college days. Knowing how to space the floor as a 4-man.”
King mentioned Green’s football background and the Bulls guard noted that he takes things from that background and applies them to the basketball court.
“I like contact…So, anyway I can get some contact, I just feel like that helps me just being aggressive on the defensive and offensive end. Just trying to create contact and throw the offense off because they’re probably not expecting as much physicality as I present.
Green’s Long Road Home
Green came out of college in 2015 after four years and then spent time overseas playing for Germany, Italy, and Spain. He did not make his NBA debut until the 2019-20 season. That process has gone a long way toward forming the mindset he approaches the game with.
“The journey is a long one. But I’m just blessed I’m here and I’m talking to ya’ll. Talking how I can talk about it now.”
He also had a pointed response to how good this team can be when fully healthy.
“We know that. And I feel confident that we will. We just got to have that same mindset we had at the beginning of the year and not towards the end. Because we know we had the downfall. So we just got to have a mental toughness this year and just try to figure it out.”
Green averaged 7.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for the Bulls this past season while shooting 54.2% from the floor and 35.6% from beyond the arc.
He is heading into the final year of a two-year, $3.5 million deal.