Bulls media day tips off with answering the critics and doubters

The line of doubters has been growing.

Didn’t add enough this offseason, “continuity” was a questionable plan, the Eastern Conference is a minefield … pick a criticism and the Bulls have heard it the last few months.

So while NBA media day is usually a nice bonfire and some Kumbaya filling the fleeting summer sky, Monday’s was a bit different for the crew at the United Center.

That started with veteran DeMar DeRozan.

At age 33 and coming off arguably one of his best seasons in the NBA, DeRozan spent the last few months hearing the critics dissect his game and predicting the inevitable fading of it in Year 14.

Enough so that he fired back at it on social media recently.

“I mean at this point, I always find humor in it,” DeRozan said. “You always try to find reasons to be motivated. At this point, I have so many other motivational factors that it becomes laughable. I always use whatever I can take. It’s kind of like free energy. I indulge in it and just let them eat their words whenever they eat it.”

Then why reply and get caught up in it?

“Because it’s like, “God damn, what did I do to you all?’ ” DeRozan replied. “Because I know nobody understands and knows the amount of work that I put in. I know for a fact that most of the guys in our league don’t work like I do. Just me knowing that part of it, I already know what you’re putting up is BS.”

DeRozan wasn’t the only one with a chip on his shoulder, either.

Fellow All-Star Zach LaVine found himself still being asked about being a max contract player and the pressure that will come with that.

LaVine’s response was his usual company line.

“I put the highest expectations on myself more than anybody, and I keep developing my game like I have the last nine years of my career,” LaVine said. “I don’t think a contract is going to give me any extra motivation for it because I already have enough myself.”

Easy to say the eve before camp practices are scheduled to start. Let’s check back with LaVine come February and March, especially if this Bulls team is trying to find a foothold in a play-in spot and that five-year, $215-million extension has an even brighter spotlight shining on it.

That’s when LaVine’s West Coast cool will really be tested.

There is a desk, however, where the buck starts and stops.

Since executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas first sat in the chair prior to the 2020-21 season, Karnisovas has been showered in praise for the quick turnaround. But even feel-good has an expiration date in the Association.

Karnisovas isn’t even close to reaching that, but there are now reasonable questions about his plan in building this roster, starting with the decision to stay the course with the core group this offseason. A core group that finished 3-25 against teams .600 or better last season and was bounced from the playoffs in the first round.

Even with the East getting better, Karnisovas wasn’t about to start second-guessing his plan.

“I think we need time to see this group play together longer to have any type of conclusion because we liked what we saw in the first 20 games,” Karnisovas said, when asked about summer regrets. “I think this group needs a lot more time.

“The things we are going to focus on, because it’s a lot of talent on this team, is chemistry and team cohesion and relationships because we all understand talent wins games and relationships win championships. Everything we do in our building is thinking about winning.”

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