Chicago Bulls' marathon off-season finally has an end date

  • New Bulls coach Billy Donovan finally will be able to get back to work in December. The Bulls last played a game on March 10.

    New Bulls coach Billy Donovan finally will be able to get back to work in December. The Bulls last played a game on March 10.

Updated 11/6/2020 7:37 PM

For some teams, a Dec. 22 start date for the NBA season feels like a short turnaround.

For the Bulls, one of seven teams not invited to the Orlando bubble this summer, it's more like, "What took so long?"


The players association agreed late Thursday to the league's plan of a 72-game season beginning Dec. 22. Training camps are expected to start in early December, and there have been reports of teams playing three preseason games.

So the Bulls' endless off-season finally has an expiration date. They'll go roughly nine months and two weeks between games since their season ended with a March 10 victory over Cleveland at the United Center.

They were able to hold a two-week minicamp at the Advocate Center, but newly hired head coach Billy Donovan did not participate because he didn't want to break the quarantine after camp began. So the Bulls should be eager to get started.

One aspect of the new calendar is there will be a very short window of free agency between the Nov. 18 draft and the start of training camp. The Bulls don't figure to make many roster changes, and that may be the case throughout the league.

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There are several reasons why it doesn't make sense for the Bulls to shake up the roster this fall. For one, they have 12 players under contract for next season and they'll draft two more Nov. 18.

They have no cap space to chase major free agents right now, so it's reasonable to wait until 2021 before making any moves because that's when the expensive contracts of Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio finally will expire.

If the Bulls do sign any free agents, including their own, they'll likely be looking for players who are available on one-year deals. There's a good chance the NBA salary cap will drop in 2021 since the figure is tied to league revenues, so any long-term deals will limit their flexibility.

Keep in mind, the NBA played most of its regular season with full attendance before the pandemic hit. No one can predict what sort of arena revenue will be available this season. There's been talk of having some fans in the seats and some in luxury suites. But it's also easy to imagine the basketball season going awry without the barriers of the Orlando bubble to keep the coronavirus away.


From their 2019-20 roster, the Bulls have three free agents: Kris Dunn, Shaq Harrison and Denzel Valentine. They can all be restricted, which means the Bulls can match any offer sheet from another team if they make a one-year qualifying offer.

It will be interesting to see what kind of interest Dunn gets around the league. The four-year pro from Providence was one of the league's best perimeter defenders last season, but he also has missed at least 20 games with injuries three years in a row. So this is might be a bad time to hit the open market.

Dunn missed the end of last season with a knee sprain and did not participate in the minicamp.

This isn't expected to be a big year for free agents, especially if Anthony Davis re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers after winning his first NBA title in October.

It probably won't be a very strenuous training camp for the Lakers, Miami Heat and other teams that played all the way to October. The Bulls, however, should be working hard.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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