Chicago Bulls players making plans for summer bonding
The quest for better draft lottery odds took a wrong turn with the Bulls' three-game win streak. This unexpected surge, however, could offer some benefit for the team's future.
Remember last summer when the Bulls held a boot camp for their younger players? The team posted videos on Instagram of the players running on a high school track, for example.
The Bulls have done well with player development this season, so the summer workouts seemed to pay off. And the players involved enjoyed the experience so much, they're making plans to take the show on the road this year.
"This summer we're all going to connect somewhere, whether it's Miami or L.A. or wherever it is. Even here, we're connecting and working on our chemistry even more," Bobby Portis said after Tuesday's win over Charlotte. "That's going to be big for us going into next year. We have high standards set already. We have a culture built here. We want to win, so that will be big for us."
Portis confirmed his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., is not under consideration for a summer workout base, but he wouldn't mind if some teammates came for a visit.
"I can just imagine us getting together in another city, how we'll act and how we'll be together," Portis said. "The relationships are already set, but us hanging out even more will be much better."
With four games left in the regular season and the playoffs out of reach, several players talked about summer plans.
"Wherever we're at, we're going to get together and train throughout the summer," said Denzel Valentine, who was scheduled for an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee Wednesday. "We've got a pretty close-knit group of guys. We're going to try to take this thing to another level."
Kris Dunn participated in most of the summer workouts after being traded from Minnesota. Rookie Lauri Markkanen was busy with the Finland national team. Zach LaVine spent that time recovering from ACL surgery.
"We're going to have a couple guys in different locations," Dunn said. "I'm going to be back and forth for sure. I just want to show the organization and the team and everybody that I'm serious about this summer, that I'm serious about working and excited for next season."
There has been evidence of the Bulls being a tight-knit group. Before games, when the locker room is open to reporters, it's common for the home locker room to be empty for the entire 30 minutes. But before recent games at the United Center, there has been a crowd of players hanging out in front of their lockers. The left side of the locker room seems to have a particular bond with Portis, Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne, Antonio Blakeney and newcomer Sean Kilpatrick. LaVine has joined them, too.
Kilpatrick, who signed with the Bulls on March 26, talked about it after scoring 21 points against Charlotte.
"This is probably one of the closest teams I've ever been on," he said. "They just want to see everybody do well. I think that's something that's real exciting about this group."
The Bulls are Kilpatrick's sixth NBA team, so he has been around.
"This is probably one of the first teams I've been on where we'll come from practice and the next thing you know, we're at each other's houses," Kilpatrick said. "For me, I'm in a hotel, so I go to everyone else's house. I think it's actually pretty cool that they invite you over and say, 'What are you doing today? If you're not doing nothing, come and watch the game.' "
Kilpatrick said he watched the Final Four with Portis and Blakeney. He already knew Portis fairly well because they share the same agent.
"That's like a little brother to me," Kilpatrick said. "Whenever I tell him, 'Yo I need you to pick me up from my hotel,' he comes over. He's like my rookie. Bobby's great. He wants to keep getting better and when you're actually having fun with a guy like him, it's pretty nice."
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