With plenty of new faces, Bulls ready to build some chemistry

The Bulls did most of their talking over the summer, by scrapping the rebuilding plan and trying to put together a competitive roster.

So the obvious task when training camp begins Tuesday is to start fitting those new pieces together. Of the 20 players on the training camp roster, only seven were with the team when last season ended, while Zach LaVine and Coby White are the only players still around from the day Arturas Karnisovas took over as vice president of basketball operations in April 2020.

The Bulls have three former all-stars in LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, all of whom averaged at least 20 points last season; a young floor general in Lonzo Ball; and two younger players (White and Patrick Williams) who will miss most of camp due to injuries.

"I'm really looking forward to it tomorrow, the start of camp," DeRozan told reporters Monday as the Bulls held Media Day at the United Center. "The talent is there. I don't think I've played with as talented a team as I have since coming here. Now it's about just putting it together."

If DeRozan really means that, it would be a nice compliment. He played on several 50-win teams in Toronto with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and others.

"It's so hard to sit here and make predictions or project what is or is not going to happen," second-year coach Billy Donovan said. "I just know we have a lot of work ahead of us. I'm excited about the work because I'm excited about the guys."

An important dynamic to the Bulls this season is adding DeRozan - an accomplished player who's led a team to the conference finals - as a mentor to LaVine and Ball, two guys who have yet to play on a winning team in the NBA.

DeRozan said he and LaVine spent time together this summer, both in Chicago and DeRozan's native Los Angeles.

"DeMar is a lot more than just a veteran leader," LaVine said. "DeMar is still in the prime of his career, let's not get that twisted. DeMar has been at the top of his game for the last couple years still, even when he was in San Antonio. So he's going to be a vital part to everything we do, but he is going to be somebody that I can talk to because he's been to places that I want to go."

LaVine is coming off a career year stat-wise, made his first all-star appearance and won an Olympic gold medal. He'll be a free agent after this season, which could conceivably complicate attempts to build a winning chemistry. Karnisovas was supportive, though, when asked about LaVine's future.

"The one thing that we know is we committed to Zach. We want him to be in Chicago a very long time," Karnisovas said. "I think trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that."

Vucevic might have a head start when it come to building chemistry, because he and DeRozan were teammates for one season at USC in 2007-08. Former Bulls forward Taj Gibson was also on that team and it was coached by ex-Bulls boss Tim Floyd.

"Yeah, DeMar and I were same class, except he came in as a big star, I came in as a nobody," Vucevic joked. "But I think it was special for us to have been there together. He's a player I have a lot of respect for. I think he's a great player, I think he's going help us a lot."

Ball is excited be back at point guard. New Orleans moved him off the ball last year after adding Eric Bledsoe, but passing has always been an important skill for Lonzo and younger brother LaMelo, the reigning rookie of the year with Charlotte.

After being connected by rumor to the Bulls for a few years, Ball finally made it official this summer, joining the team in a sign-and-trade deal, while Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple flew to the Pelicans.

"They (the Bulls) didn't want me to change anything I had going, any part of my game," Ball said. "They wanted me just to excel in the things I'm already comfortable doing. So it was an easy choice for me, and I think Zach played a big part as well."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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