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Bulls feel buzz entering season: 'We can do something special'

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Nobody will put a number on it. But everybody feels it.

The expectations as the Chicago Bulls begin their regular season Wednesday night against the Pistons are large. Following an active offseason in which management added Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso and athletic depth, the buzz is real. A 4-0 preseason only added fuel to the fire.

So what will constitute a successful season? We asked those at the center of attention.

"Us building our culture and winning," Zach LaVine said. "Try to get into the playoffs and contend for championships. You're not going to put a cap or goal on where you see yourself before the season. I don't put a seed on it but I definitely see us as a playoff team."

The Bulls haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2017. Beyond the aggressive moves made this offseason, management used draft capital, Wendell Carter Jr. and expiring contracts to acquire Nikola Vučević from the Magic at last March's trade deadline. That win-now move failed to produce even a play-in appearance.

That's why there's pressure on the Bulls to produce this season.

"I don't want to put a number of wins on it that we have to achieve. But our minimum goal should definitely be make the playoffs," Vučević said. "It's a new team. So the way I at least look at it is day-by-day, try to improve."

 

DeRozan and Caruso are the only players to advance to conference finals as significant contributors. DeRozan achieved that in 2016 with, coincidentally, current Pistons and then-Raptors coach Dwane Casey. Caruso owns a ring from his work with the 2019-20 Lakers. They know what winning teams look like.

Back at Bulls media day, DeRozan called the collection "as talented a team" as he's played on. Vučević said the same. Caruso said a successful season will be one in which the Bulls gel and continue to improve as the season progresses. That process begins Wednesday.

And about that buzz? Player said they feel it.

"Right after free agency and all the sign-and-trades happened, there was excitement around the franchise. You can feel it around the city, feel it from the fans. I think you could even feel how excited fans were at the preseason games," Vučević said. "We as players too are looking forward to having a good year. As competitors, we know we can do something special."

But LaVine gets the last word, and he put it bluntly.

"We gotta go out and prove it," he said.

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