With few expectations and open-ended goals, the Bulls open the 2018-2019 season
PHILADELPHIA – For the majority of the past decade, both before and after the Derrick Rose injuries, the Bulls’ goal was to win now. Last season that changed with the Jimmy Butler trade as the team went into a rare rebuild.
It might have been a forgettable season, but fans knew what the direction of the franchise was: Lose today, collect talent, win later.
Coming into the 2018-2109 season, however, things aren’t quite as clear.
Technically it’s the second year of the current rebuild as a number of young players make up the majority of the roster. Yet there was the signing of Jabari Parker in the offseason, perhaps with the hope that he could add to a quicker development of the younger talent to make a playoff push this season.
Yet a few times this year when asked about what the expectations are, John Paxson, Fred Hoiberg, nor the players have given a true direction of where they are hoping to accomplish this season. For the moment, the hopes are in the present as the team opens the campaign against the Sixers Thursday night in Philadelphia.
“It’s an exciting time of year,” said Hoiberg on Wednesday. “The challenge for us is to go out there and make sure we stay together through the good times and the bad. There’s going to be a time, I can pretty much promise you tomorrow, that we’re going to hit some adversity, and you’ve got to find a way to battle through that.”
Oddly enough, they’ll be facing a team that went through a lengthy, frustrating rebuild in the middle part of the decade and emerged as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. If that’s the Bulls’ path, there is still a lot of time before they get there, so the goals are more short-term as the moment.
Staying healthy would certainly help, as the team enters the season already down Lauri Makkanen till at least the end of November with an elbow injury. Denzel Valentine’s ankle will keep him out of the opener and his return to the lineup is still unknown.
Kris Dunn is out of the opener after he was excused for a personal matter, per Hoiberg, which puts Cameron Payne into the starting lineup against the Sixers.
It messes a bit with Hoiberg’s set lineup of Wendell Carter Jr., Dunn, Justin Holiday, Zach LaVine, and Bobby Portis, with Jabari Parker heading up the second team with Robin Lopez. What this group could produce this year is a bit of a mystery with true end goals still unknown.
For the energetic Portis, it’s all about playing hard.
“I think with our group of guys, everybody is ready to go,” said Portis. “Everybody has a lot to prove, everybody has a lot to accomplish. I think with us, you’ll see a hungry Bulls’ team on Thursday night.”
The rest is wait-and-see.