A real test may not show itself for a bit longer.
Let’s just say the Bulls have a soft landing to the start of the NBA regular season.
A rebuilding Detroit team twice in the first week, a New Orleans team that may or may not have Zion Williamson healthy and in uniform, and then a Toronto franchise looking for a new direction without Kyle Lowry.
That changes on Oct. 28, when the New York Knicks and Tom Thibodeau come to town, however, and then maybe Zach LaVine will get a taste of what he already believes – that this Bulls team has a chance to do something special this season.
And it’s not an opinion LaVine is grasping onto after just three preseason games. It’s about what has gone on in practice away from outside eyes, what went on weeks before camp officially started and guys were at the Advocate Center getting in work together. It’s also what has gone on off the floor.
“I do believe we have a really good team with really good guys that care for each other,’’ LaVine said, when discussing the 3-0 start to the exhibition season. “We’re all really unselfish.’’
A great trait for a roster to have, but this isn’t exactly a Catholic Youth League team, where being good guys and being unselfish earns participation medals.
LaVine knows a lot more has to go into it if he is to reach the postseason for the first time in eight seasons, and the Bulls are to break a four-year playoff drought.
“A lot of things have to go right for the NBA season,’’ LaVine said. “We’ve got to all stay healthy, everything has to mesh, we’ve got to all be on the same page, but we can be something special cause of all of our hard work and we care about each other. That’s what I have noticed throughout this preseason.’’
Then there’s the last formula, and maybe the most important.
The Bulls may be all these positive things in the eyes of the All-Star guard, but they better be talented. The Association is littered with rosters that get along and work hard, but if the talent’s not there they are simply roadkill for the likes of a Brooklyn, Milwaukee or Los Angeles.
“I don’t think talent means everything, I think it helps a whole lot,’’ LaVine said with a laugh. “But I don’t think it means everything. You’ve got to have some heart, and have players that play with each other and everything meshes well chemistry-wise. We’ve shown that, and we’ve also shown that we still have a lot of room to grow.’’
That was on display in the win over Cleveland on Sunday, especially in the first half, when the Bulls starters came out punching, but for the first time in the preseason were punched back. And hard.
Whether it was the Cavaliers getting blown out last week in the first meeting between the two or having some film to make adjustments, it was the first time coach Billy Donovan saw this group struggle a bit on the offensive end as far as making baskets, and then carry that to the defensive end by letting up in the physicality department.
Donovan saw that frequently from his roster last season, but this is an entirely different group minus a few holdovers like LaVine and Coby White.
So while this new-look roster is still learning Donovan, the feeling is mutual. If that can be figured out sooner than later, that’s when LaVine’s declaration will build some momentum into becoming reality.
“I feel a tremendous responsibility to figure out the group,’’ Donovan said.
What’s nice is the schedule gives him some more time to do just that.
NOTE: The Bulls announced after the Monday practice that they waived center Daniel Oturu and guard Ethan Thompson. The roster is now at 18.