Bulls free-flowing offense still a work in progress in preseason loss to Pelicans
There have been some minor disagreements so far in training camp when it comes to the Bulls method of attack.
Patrick Williams, for one, talked about playing a new positionless style of offense.
Coach Billy Donovan disagreed that the offense was new. This was more a case of trying to get back to playing the way they did early last season, he said.
The Bulls took the floor for the first time Tuesday, losing their preseason opener to New Orleans 129-125 at the United Center, despite a big rally from a group of subs led by rookie Dalen Terry in the fourth quarter.
DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points in 23 minutes, while Nikola Vucevic finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. Zach LaVine (10 points) didn't play in the second half, and Coby White went down early with a left knee contusion.
Second-year pro Ayo Dosunmu started at point guard, replacing the injured Lonzo Ball. It may not stay like that, but Donovan did say he thinks veteran Goran Dragic, 36, is better suited to coming off the bench and he likes how Alex Caruso plays off the ball.
At the end of last season, Donovan said he was calling a lot of plays from the bench to help Dosunmu, who logged heavy minutes as a rookie.
Now, Donovan is hoping the Bulls can get back to more of the free-flowing style they played when Ball was on the floor early last season. Williams missed most of last season with a wrist injury, so it makes sense why this feels new and different to him.
But a key to the Bulls executing this plan is Dosunmu being able to play like Ball does. Read the defense and react instead of looking to the sideline for a play call.
"I think it's important that he (Dosunmu) take a jump," Donovan said before Tuesday's game. "I think it's important that happens for our team. There was just a lot on Ayo's plate (last year)."
For the first time in two seasons, NBA locker room are open to reporters, so Dosunmu was able to share his thoughts on Donovan's challenge.
"I talk to him a lot, just trying to have that camaraderie with the team where I'm the extension of him out there, getting us in the right spots, being a leader out there and being more comfortable with the ball making decisions," the South Side native said. "We've had a lot of conversations about it, so I'm excited for the challenge."
It's tough to make any judgments off the initial preseason game, but the Bulls' defense deserved poor grades as the hot-shooting Pelicans scored 40 points and shot 69.6% from the field in the first quarter. The Bulls trailed 70-53 at halftime.
This one featured the first game action for New Orleans forward Zion Williamson since May 4, 2021. He missed all of last season with a foot injury. The former No. 1 overall pick had a follow dunk and goaltend in his first segment on the floor.
The Bulls' offense had 8 turnovers and 4 assists in the opening quarter, then started the second with a shot-clock violation. So whatever offense they're running, it still needs a lot of work.
"It's not so much the plays we're running, as much as how do we get the floor spaced off a missed shot," Donovan said. "How do we get the floor spaced off a made basket, where it's random. It requires some communications, they've got to help each other.
"I think (Dosunmu's) got a real great quality that he can pick things up and learn and I think he will be better from the experience last year going into this year. I do feel better about that."
Donovan also talked about the realities of playing at a fast tempo. It's easy to credit Ball for pushing the pace, but when he and Caruso were out with injuries, the Bulls didn't create many turnovers and dropped near to the bottom of the league defensively.
"To me, it starts more defensively than offensively," Donovan said. "If you want to play faster, get stops. If you don't get stops, you're going to play slower. It's just inevitable. Most teams are not giving up shots in the first six or seven seconds on the shot clock off made baskets."