Windy City Bulls excited for a normal season to start

The Windy City Bulls thought last year would be a return to normalcy after the pandemic wiped out the 2020-21 season.

But the troubles weren't over. After a flurry of positive tests, the team had to shut down for several weeks, miss the G-League Showcase in Las Vegas and deal with restrictions at NOW Arena.

So there's hope for a better restart in Hoffman Estates this time. The Windy City Bulls open their sixth season Friday at Wisconsin, then host a rematch Saturday for the home opener.

"I think the biggest thing is after almost three years, we're back to normal," team president Brad Seymour said. "Last year was such a tough seasons still dealing with COVID and restrictions.

"We're really starting to see the fans come back in waves, groups rebooking. It's nice to be back to a normal cadence. We've put together a pretty robust promotional schedule in anticipation of the return to normalcy."

One highlight on the court is the weekend games are expected to feature a battle between Giannis Antetokounmpo's two younger brothers. The Bulls signed Kostas, a 6-10 power forward, to a two-way deal after Marquette product Justin Lewis suffered a knee injury. Alex Antetokounmpo, 21, plays for the Wisconsin Herd.

The Bulls have assigned 2020 second-round pick Marko Simonovic to Windy City, so he is likely to be in uniform this weekend. He averaged 17 points and 9.8 rebounds in 28 games with Windy City last season.

Four players are back from last year's team - two-way player Malcolm Hill, a former Illinois star; 6-8 center Daniel Oturu, 6-5 shooting guard Ethan Thompson and 6-8 Estonia native Henri Drell.

The team added three Chicago natives in former DePaul star Javon Freeman-Liberty, ex-Michigan forward Charles Matthews and 6-7 Ben Coupet Jr., who finished his college career at SIU.

Windy City acquired point guard Carlik Jones after he played for the NBA Bulls in preseason and summer league. Six-foot-8 Okaro White, who played in 44 NBA games before heading overseas, could be a key player. Others on the roster are 6-4 guard Anthony Tucker, 5-9 guard Chris Clemons and 6-8 forward Nick King.

Like last year, the early part of the season is being called the G-League Showcase, culminating with a tournament in Las Vegas. Then the regular season starts on Dec. 29 and continues through March 23. The early part of Windy City's schedule includes eight weekend home games before Christmas.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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