CHICAGO ( Associated Press) — DeMar DeRozan already had his sights set on next season.
The five-time All-Star was looking forward to working out in Los Angeles at 4 a.m. and seeing teammates through “hell” when they joined him, most notably Patrick Williams. He wants to build on an exceptional season and help the Chicago Bulls take the next leap after taking a big step forward. They get a sense from management that they will try to do it with their core balance.
DeRozan said Thursday, “That’s where it starts, a day after the Bulls ended their successful season with a first-round playoff knockout by the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.” ” “All great teams that play for something, that play deep, that compete for a championship, that’s first and foremost — that consistency. That’s definitely something we’re definitely on. going to work.”
The Bulls have no doubt made great strides, the result of a major change that began two years ago when Arturas Karnisova was fired from the Denver front office to lead their basketball operation.
Chicago went 46-36 in coach Billy Donovan’s second season and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
DeRozan played at the MVP level and finished fifth in scoring in the NBA after being acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with San Antonio last August. The addition of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso strengthened his backcourt and gave his defense on the perimeter a huge boost. Rookie Ayo Dosunmu also made a big contribution.
With Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevi already in place, the Bulls looked like a team ready to take a leap. He made a big start and finished with his best record as the 2014–15 team was 50–32 in former coach Tom Thibodeau’s final season, even though the way it unfolded left a bitter taste.
The Bulls led the Eastern Conference for part of the season, only to struggle in the second half. They ended the regular season in a 7–15 knock and were 4–1 out of the Bucks.
The Bulls also struggled to face the best of the NBA, with a combined 2–21 record against the top four teams in each conference. And injuries made things more difficult.
Lavin, whose contract expires, has been in and out of the lineup over the past few months due to a pain in his left knee. Caruso missed seven weeks with a broken wrist. Ball missed the final 3 1/2 months after surgery for a torn meniscus. And Williams missed most of his second season because of a torn ligament in his left wrist.
Assuming LaVine re-signs and no major trades are made, bulls will likely be banking on continuation and correction from within.
“You look at the group of people that we have, a lot of people who are willing to make sacrifices to win, people who get along well,” Vusevic said. “Just based on that, I think we have the talent to strike a chord with all the teams in the past.”
With a four-year, $78 million contract coming to an end, LaVine is in line for a huge payday. How big is the question?
A Supermax deal worth about $245 million over five years appears out of reach because he would need to be voted All-NBA, MVP or Defensive Player of the Year to become eligible. A maximum contract would run over $200 million over five years.
LaVine averaged 24.4 points and made his second straight All-Star team. But in Los Angeles before the All-Star break he had platelet-rich plasma therapy, a cortisone injection and fluid drained from his knee, hoping the treatment would help him through the rest of the season. He tore an ACL in the same knee in February 2017 while playing for Minnesota.
ball watch specialist
Ball said he is still in pain and is “pausing” to recover. He will see a specialist next week and hopes to avoid another operation.
Ball was expected to be out for six to eight weeks following surgery in late January. But whenever he intensified his movements, he continued to experience pain due to the injury to the bone before the operation.
Ball also fractured his left knee in 2018 while with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Caruso feels better
Caruso said he felt normal for the first time ever since he left Game 4 against Milwaukee with an injury.
Caruso took an unintentional hit in the face from the Bucks’ Jevon Carter while trying to take a pick by Giannis Antetokounmpo late in the second quarter. This left him with a bloody nose, which he said was not broken. Caruso’s head ached as he returned to the locker room.
In addition to re-signing LaVine, the Bulls may attempt to extend Vucevi’s contract. The four-year, $100 million deal he signed with Orlando is set to expire after the 2022–23 season.
age old question
DeRozan, who averaged 27.9 points, turned 33 in August. But they are not worried about the fall in their production.
“If LeBron is still doing what he’s doing, I hope so,” DeRozan said.
More Associated Press NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports