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updated: 9/25/2017 8:25 PM

Chicago Bulls try to put positive spin on rebuilding plan as camp opens

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  • Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis, left, Robin Lopez, center, and Lauri Markkanen pose for a portrait during media day for the NBA basketball team Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis, left, Robin Lopez, center, and Lauri Markkanen pose for a portrait during media day for the NBA basketball team Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Chicago.

 
 

It was a strange atmosphere inside the Advocate Center for Chicago Bulls media day.

Across the NBA, there was an unusual amount of player movement during the off-season. Several teams tried to stockpile former all-stars in an effort to prevent Golden State from winning its third championship in four years.

The Bulls, on the other hand, decided to head to the basement. They grabbed a blanket, some reading material and essentially told everyone, "We'll be studying up on the 2018 draft. Let us know how it turns out."

Maybe a rebuild was necessary. Maybe it will pay off in a few years. For now, though, it's a strange return to post-dynasty 1999, when getting a high draft pick was the top priority for the Bulls.

Coach Fred Hoiberg did show some passion when asked about how he will deal with the conflicting priorities and the fact that winning games may not be the best outcome for the franchise's future.

"Well, that's my No. 1 goal," Hoiberg said. "I'm going out there to coach this team and put them in a position to be competitive where we can win basketball games. That's my job."

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said wins and losses will take care of themselves, which essentially means the Bulls have enough young guys where winning too often won't be an issue.

"I'll say this: I've never met a coach or a player that steps foot on the floor to lose a game," Paxson said. "They don't, and they shouldn't. We understand and acknowledge that there's going to be some tough times."

General manager Gar Forman talked about how the Bulls are well-positioned for this uncertain journey because they got three young players in return for Jimmy Butler -- Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen -- they'll have cap space and, unlike the Brooklyn Nets, the Bulls haven't traded away any of their future first-rounders.

The Bulls released plenty of video this summer of their young players working out together inside the Advocate Center and on a nearby football field.

Realistically, future success depends on LaVine, Markkanen and next year's first-round draft pick turning into stars. If they can help some of the other guys become competent NBA rotation players, it will be a bonus.

"Look, we know being a young basketball team it's hard to win in the NBA at a high level," Paxson said. "That doesn't mean you can't put a team out there that plays the game the right way, works hard, believes in each other. If we do that then I think our future is really bright."

LaVine was pretty cheerful Monday about the task ahead.

While his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, are welcoming veterans and planning for the playoffs, the Bulls are bracing for a long, cold journey. LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee last Feb. 3 and probably won't be on the floor when the regular season begins.

Minnesota finished 16-66 in LaVine's rookie season, so he has a pretty good idea of what might be in store in Year 1 of the ReBulld.

"In Minnesota we had such a tight locker room, it never seemed like we were in a losing situation," LaVine said. "It was such a fun group. We felt like we competed. And that's the same way I can see how it is here.

"Sometimes the scariest thing in the league, going against a bunch of guys that don't care what people say about them or what expectations are."

Again, there's a weird dynamic going on here. The Bulls intentionally got worse. They went from an interesting trio of Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to a rebuilding plan of unknown duration.

Hoiberg tried to sell the idea of this being a team fans will enjoy watching, regardless of what the scoreboards says.

"I'm very excited to coach this team," he said. "It's going to be fun. Getting up and down the floor, playing an exciting brand of basketball is something I'm looking forward to."

He does mean this season.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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