DeMar DeRozan called it “amazing.” Zach LaVine said it’s “great.” And Billy Donovan, aware of the Bulls’ whopping 36 assists to just nine turnovers, got his assessment that players like to play with Lonzo Ball validated.
Yes, the effect of having a true lead guard, someone who pushes the pace and looks to make the right play, could be felt right off the bat for the Bulls.
Preseason game or not, Ball’s pass-first impact proved contagious.
“When you’ve got a point guard of that magnitude with that IQ that’s as unselfish as he is, he makes the game easier and it makes it fun. And it becomes contagious,” DeRozan said. “You saw the way we moved the ball. It’s been like that all through training camp, and we expect it to keep getting better.”
Not all nights will produce 48-point advantages. There will be nights the Bulls’ offense stagnates, gets stuck in the mud, faces a physical defense or shots aren’t falling.
But for a team that has been looking to stabilize the point-guard position for years, since a certain No. 1 graced the hardwood, Tuesday night proved quite the debut.
“He’s a helluva player, talent, IQ. It’s fun, man. He makes it easy,” DeRozan said. “What’s even better about it is he has the greatest, most humbling demeanor toward him too. But it’s definitely fun playing with him.
Chemistry is something that takes time to build. But the Bulls had strong participation during voluntary September workouts. And players and coaches have talked consistently about strong practice habits being formed.
The first dress rehearsal against an opponent kept the momentum flowing like a finely-executed fast break, of which the Bulls authored many.
“We’ve had some good chemistry in practice. To come out here and play with pace, have Lonzo get the ball off the rim and run, it’s good. It fits our game pretty well,” LaVine said. “He gets the ball out of his hands so fast. He’s such a high IQ guy. I think we’re all on the right mindset of going out here and playing hard, setting the tone from the beginning. So it’s been a treat to play with him.”
As has been his nature to this point, Ball deflected most questions about himself and broadened his answers to display a team-wide mentality. And obviously, the Bulls feature multiple offensive weapons now to the point where coach Billy Donovan can stagger scorers.
But with Ball posting eight points, five assists and five rebounds with active defense in his Bulls’ debut, it’s a strong start.
“Just from the first two weeks that we've been together, I've kind of seen this coming,” Ball said. “I just know that we have a lot of talent. There's only one basketball out there and we understand that and its all about getting the best shot. I think everybody gets that 1 through 15 and we showed that.
I think it was fun for all of us to get out there for the first time especially in front of the fans and stuff. we're going to try and put a show on for them every time.”