“You can’t let history depict what your future is going to be like,” the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan said. “You just have to go out there and set the tone and take on the challenge.” | Frank Franklin II/AP
The Bulls are projected to be a .500 team at best, but DeRozan wants his teammates to hear the outside noise to put that chip on their shoulder, but also be willing to slap that chip off when the games start to count.
The lessons taught by DeMar DeRozan in just the first week of Bulls training camp have been many.
The latest to his teammates?
It involves talk of dogs and running fast, but the gist of it from the veteran forward is be aware what’s being said and predicted, but don’t dwell on it.
What DeRozan is very aware of is that even with all the changes made to the roster – including his own addition — the Bulls are viewed as a .500 team at best. The prognosticators see it that way, and Las Vegas sees it that way.
DeRozan, however, sees it quite differently.
“I never try to put too much thought on how Vegas or whoever comes up with the odds they come up with, because at the end of the day you don’t know how hard we’re working, how bad we want something, how much we are fighting for something,” DeRozan said. “It’s bigger than just somebody’s predictions and how we are approaching it. This is an opportunity of a talented group that has a chip on their shoulders. You kind of run faster when the dog is chasing behind you; that’s the type of mentality we have to have going out there playing this season.”
Play that gets at least a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, when the Bulls open up the four-game exhibition season at home against Cleveland.
A tip-off that isn’t expected to answer much in the big picture, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t importance being put into it.
According to DeRozan, he’s always used the preseason to work on getting into a rhythm. Not only his own, but a rhythm with his teammates.
Ideally, that rhythm comes quickly and the Bulls can get out to a quick start once the games actually do count.
That still won’t likely silence the doubters, but it will at least show the veteran that his teammates are up to accepting the challenge. Not from the critics, but the challenges they have put out there for each other.
“I’ve been on teams where we were picked to be in the tank and then win 50 games and make it to the third seed in the Eastern Conference,” DeRozan said, referring to his Toronto days. “I’ve heard it all — you can’t indulge in it. You can’t let history depict what your future is going to be like. You just have to go out there and set the tone and take on the challenge. With this group of guys and the talent we have everybody is willing to take on whatever that next challenge is.”
Challenge number one might be getting the young players to understand exactly what will be asked of them.
Patrick Williams is still nursing a sore left ankle, while Coby White is sidelined for possibly another month after offseason shoulder surgery, but there’s still Lonzo Ball, who is only 23 and figuring out life on a third team in the last few seasons, rookie big man Marko Simonovic, and even Derrick Jones Jr., who is still 24.
DeRozan has been doing his best to be a sounding board for all three, and anyone else who has a question or concern for him.
It’s about preparing them for the roller coaster ride that every season seems to bring.
“You are going to have ups and downs,” DeRozan said. “It’s all how you get through the downs when they come, how to maneuver through it. That’s on the guys who have been around to be together when things get tough because it is going to get tough. Just prepare for it.”