For a few hours Monday afternoon, the Bulls’ front office can focus on a basketball game. It’ll be a much welcomed break from all the drama that has been swirling around the team for the last 72 hours.
The Bulls watched Zach LaVine, the face of the franchise, capture Olympic gold with Team USA. They learned they’re being investigated by the NBA for potential tampering in their sign-and-trade for Lonzo Ball. They heard more rumblings about Lauri Markkanen wanting to be elsewhere. And on Sunday, they had to read an emotional goodbye from Thad Young, whom they traded to the Spurs in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade.
Taking to his Instagram account, Young thanked the Bulls and the fans for his two years in town, writing, “This is the part of the business that’s always tough. I gained a lot of new family in you all. In this journey, I learned a lot about myself and trusting the process. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to fulfill that mission with you. Just know that I gave you all 110% every night.
“It was a pleasure and a honor to wear the Chicago Bulls across my chest!’’
Young’s stay was short, but the Bulls hope it was powerful, considering how much he was a mentor for LaVine. But as that chapter ends, the team hopes a new one is starting, specifically with some of the talent it has in Las Vegas for a later-than-usual Summer League.
The Bulls will face the Pelicans on Monday and the Spurs on Tuesday.
At least those are the first two games on the schedule. The NBA postponed the Wizards-Pacers game Sunday because Wizards players were put in the health and safety protocol through contact tracing, leaving them with too few bodies to fill out the roster.
The Bulls would love to avoid that.
Not that their Summer League roster is full of high draft picks who need to get minutes. Patrick Williams is by far the most talented player on the team. But just because there aren’t a lot of questions doesn’t mean the front office wouldn’t like some answers on a few players, starting with Marko Simonovic.
Selected as a draft-and-stash in the second round last year, the 6-11 Simonovic had been in Chicago the last month, working out at the Advocate Center. According to a source, he looked impressive.
Then again, it’s easy to look impressive in controlled workouts with developmental coaches and select players offering up the only resistance.
All eyes will be on Simonovic and how he deals with NBA opponents — albeit Summer League ones — especially with the Bulls looking very thin in the frontcourt after their flurry of moves last week.
With several teams reportedly interested in Markkanen, the Bulls would be able to handle his exit much easier if Simonovic shows that he can pick up some minutes off the bench and be a contributor. Like Markkanen, Simonovic can play the stretch game for a forward/center but is supposed to have more physicality to his game.
He also is supposed to be a willing passer for his size, so there is some buzz around his skills.
And for the Bulls’ front office, any distraction from the drama will be appreciated.