This just in: The Bulls are officially back. In town, at least.
With voluntary group workouts at the Advocate Center beginning Sept. 21 — and daily COVID-19 tests being administered until then — Coby White described an eager vibe around the team. The workouts mark the Bulls’ first on-court group activities since the pandemic ended their season after 65 games on March 11.
“I think big thing is just all coming together, getting a feel for each other. Just getting that team chemistry back,” White said of what can be accomplished during the workouts. “We've been away from each other for so long and we haven't played with each other in so long, so for us to just get back all on the court together it'll be good for us.”
And who should we expect to see at the workouts?
“The whole team,” White said. “Everybody’s pretty much here.”
While White said he and his teammates kept in touch over the course of “four or five” team Zoom calls during the Bulls’ break, and a few group text chains, there’s no substitute for personal interaction and on-court run. Especially during a pandemic that has kept many out of the gym for months on end.
“Some of us haven't really played basketball or been down and played 5-on-5 in so long, so in that aspect it'll be good,” White added. “Cause for a lot of us basketball is our therapy. So for us it'll be good to just get back with our brothers on the court and hooping again and having fun, so there's that aspect of it as well. A lot of us I feel like are really looking forward to it.”
White spent the front end of the league’s hiatus with family in Goldsboro, N.C. before returning to Chicago “two or three” months ago. He hasn’t been totally bereft of basketball in that stretch, having hooped a little bit back home and made use of the Advocate Center being open for individual workouts. He said he visits to get shots up and lift five days per week, where league-sanctioned guidelines limit activities to one player and two coaches (maximum) per basket.
Time to apply that grind to competitive on-court work will be valuable. The Bulls were among the very youngest teams in basketball last season, and will be again in the upcoming one. Building continuity up and down the roster is no simple task, but it’s one new executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas has experience with from his time with the Denver Nuggets.
As for the hiring of a new head coach? Interviews are expected to enter the finalist stage this weekend. As much as that’s a topic of conversation in Bulls fan and media circles, it will be for the players too.
“We haven’t talked about the new coach because it’s so spread out right now,” White said. “They haven’t really narrowed it down to where we’ve actually sat down and talked about it. Plus, like I said, a lot of us are just getting back into town. Some of us are just getting back into town and we’re still have to stay six feet away from each other. We still can’t really converse. So during the bubble, I’m pretty sure that’ll be something that’ll be talked about.”
The start of the 2021 season — and with it, live action for the Bulls — is further away. Recent reports say next season will start Dec. 25 or later. Adam Silver has said, if getting fans back in arenas were a possibility, the league would consider pushing to February or March of 2021.
Whenever that comes, White’s approach (and, it seems the Bulls’ approach too) centers on steady improvement and a day-by-day mentality. Refreshing, considering last season’s woeful finish relative to preseason expectation.
“We’re just going to take it game by game,” White said when asked if the team views next season as a developmental one. “And we’re going to focus on winning games. We’re not going to put a label on the season like we’re going to make the playoffs. I think we’re just going to try to win more games than we did last season and try to build.
“This isn’t something that I feel like is going to happen overnight. We all got to keep growing. We all got to keep grinding. And just try to win games. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do.”