Over the past 16 months, the Bulls have bid farewell to a couple of Chicago natives who were franchise players in their prime, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.
On Tuesday in Cleveland, the Bulls will be the opposition when Rose and Wade are expected to take the court for the first time with LeBron James, who hasn't played yet in preseason.
The rebuilding Bulls have just three players on the roster who played with Rose in 2014-15. But most of them went through last season with Wade, so this matchup can also provide some closure.
There were rumors the Bulls' younger guys didn't enjoy playing with Wade, but that theory was shot down at Monday's practice.
"We never had any conflict with Dwyane," Nikola Mirotic said at the Advocate Center. "Just after that game, they had some tough declarations, Jimmy (Butler) and D-Wade. But that was all. It's a part of the game. They were hot. There was disappointment about the game. We all understand. But inside the locker room and with the practices, they've been terrific with us. So there's nothing to complain."
Mirotic is referring to the Jan. 25 postgame session. After a late-game collapse against Atlanta, Wade challenged the younger guys to work harder and care more about winning. Butler seconded those thoughts, but Wade did most of the talking.
Bobby Portis said Wade sent him a personal text after the longtime Miami star agreed to a contract buyout with the Bulls before training camp began.
"I don't feel like we had a problem with him," Portis said. "We just had a little mishap during the season last year. I feel like all teams have a little trouble during the season.
"He was a great leader for us. He came in every day, came in to work. When I came in at nighttime, I'd see him here, he and Jimmy. He showed us hard work and things like that, especially in the playoffs. He revved it up even more, and when our team gets back to playoff mode that's something I will take from him and it will help some of the other guys."
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg spun it a different way, saying Wade's postgame comments last January led to an productive team meeting and ended up being a positive.
There's no reason to dispute Hoiberg's assessment. Beyond the January drama, the Bulls seemed to get along last season. Wade and Butler were on a different level than anyone else in the locker room, but that dynamic is not uncommon in the NBA.
"Sometimes those things have to happen," Hoiberg said. "I talked to a couple of coaches about it that said, 'At least your guys are in there talking about it.' Our guys won't say anything to each other. Maybe it needed to happen, and again, I thought we were better because of it and finished the season playing our best basketball of the year."
Regarding Tuesday's game in Cleveland, Hoiberg felt facing some old teammates will be a good way for the Bulls to prepare for the regular season. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Monday he will start Wade at shooting guard ahead of J.R. Smith. Rose figures to be the Cavs' starting point guard at least until Isaiah Thomas returns from a hip injury.
Last Friday in a game against Indiana, Rose and Wade combined to score 35 points on 15-of-22 shooting.
"Derrick was hitting shots, getting downhill," Hoiberg said. "Dwyane looked like he was 21 years old, that reverse dunk that he had on the baseline. So those guys looked pretty good, and that's without the most dominant player in the league playing a minute yet."