The Chicago Bulls kicked off the new season with heightened expectations on Monday’s media day at the Advocate Center.

Training camp kicks off Tuesday in preparation for four pre-season matches, starting October 4 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. The opening game of the season will take place on October 19 in Miami and the opening game at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers three days later.

Here are five things we learned in the media day.

1. Zach LaVine is ready to go.

LaVine has expressed his excitement about returning to full strength from an injury to his left knee that hindered the availability of the All-Star defender in the second half of the 2021-22 season. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in May to deal with the persistent swelling and discomfort in his knee.

After struggling with discomfort for months in the spring, LaVine said that he now feels painless and confident in his physical abilities after the procedure.

“I feel really good,” he said. “Surgery is an operation, but being able to perform such a small invasive operation is great. Being able to go back to 100% was all I was looking for, so I feel great going to camp. “

Executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas said LaVine – which signed a five-year, $ 215 million maximum contract in July – will have no restrictions to start the season.

“It’s good to go,” said Karnišovas.

2. The absence of Lonzo Ball leads to quarterback competition.

Ball’s protracted knee injury hit the media as the Bulls plan to start the season without a central playmaker and handler.

LaVine said he regularly talks to Ball who is understandably frustrated with his situation as he enters his 10th month due to an injury.

As the Bulls await Ball’s return, coach Billy Donovan will draw four defenders at the campsite to determine the defender of the starting point to start the season: Goran Dragić, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White.

Everyone brings their strengths. Dragić, 36, is the most experienced, but he cannot play for a few minutes at the start. Caruso is a competent football veteran but has had trouble staying on the pitch due to an injury last season. Dosunmu was a reliable support, but staggered towards the end of the season as he hit the rookie wall. White’s confidence on the ball grew throughout the past season, but he thrives more as a scorer than as a major soccer dealer.

Donovan said there was no favorite to kick off preseason.

“I don’t want to sit here and say it’s wide open, but we have to compete,” said Donovan. “I’m more interested in how groups function and play together than in just one position. … Who starts, where it goes, starts work – I’m not so engrossed now.

3. Patrick Williams is under pressure in his third season.

All eyes are on Williams as the striker enters his third season in Chicago. Expectations were high for a No.4 pick in the 2020 draft, but Williams is still on track with injuries that decimated his second season in the NBA.

After feeling “slightly overweight” after returning from a wrist injury in the spring, Williams spent the off-season focusing on slimming his body. Although he enters the 2022-23 season with the same weight (215 pounds), Williams said he felt more confident thanks to his noticeably lighter build.

Williams will face a challenge this season – both by league-wide expectations and by teammates and coaches. He spent part of his off-season training in Los Angeles with DeMar DeRozan, who emphasized the importance of growth between the second and third seasons.

Williams’ big leap in performance and confidence may be the biggest differentiating factor for the Bulls this season.

“It starts with him being more aggressive,” said Donovan. “We need him to take the next step as a player, and I think he can do that. It was a very, very good summer for his progress in the season.

4. New additions bring you experience.

The players, coaches and management team highlighted one key factor in adding Dragic and the great man Andre Drummond: the leadership of the veterans.

This will be Drummond’s eleventh season in the NBA and his fifteenth season for Dragić. They both have extensive experience working with new teammates such as Caruso and DeRozan.

“I’m excited to be his teammate and not play against him,” Caruso said of Dragic.

Neither player can solve the problems on their own, such as the circuit shooting that plagued the Bulls last season after the All-Star break. But their leadership as supportive players from the bench will be crucial as the Bulls are looking to bolster their rotations.

5. Alex Caruso honors Bill Russell wearing number 6.

Caruso’s jersey number has extra weight this season as it commemorates the life of Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics legendary center and pioneer of racial justice who died in July at the age of 88.

Each NBA jersey will have a number 6 badge on the right side of the chest this season to honor Russell’s influence in the league and sport, but Caruso will also wear the number 6 as his own number.

Caruso moved to 6th place last season when he joined the Bulls from 4th place last season, which he wore from the Los Angeles Lakers and who retired in Chicago in honor of Jerry Sloan. Caruso planned to change the number after Russell’s d*ath, but the NBA required him to keep 6th place for the 2022-23 season as his jersey is among the 75 best-selling jerseys in the league.

Caruso has said he will likely switch numbers next season but hopes to honor Russell this season as he wears his number.

“I just want to honor him, his legacy and what he stood for,” said Caruso. “He’s a pioneer, a pure basketball supporter, and just a great man.”

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