With eight new players and likely three new starters for the Bulls, an adjustment period of roles has started to take place in the opening days of camp.
Shot creators turn into shot makers.
Full-time ball handlers revert back to being part-time dominators.
First-time leaders are supplemented by experienced leaders who bring an instant credibility and speak with a bluntness that wasn’t as present last year—even from the coach.
A new tone of sorts was set when Dwyane Wade didn’t give the stock “nobody cares what happened last year” spiel after being asked if he wondered about what went wrong on the floor and off with the Bulls.
“You ask the guys that were here last year, how rotten it was,” Wade said. “You want to hear from their perspective, whatever it was last year from the standpoint of losing. You don't do that. I come from a different place and a different culture. Things are done differently different places. So I sat down and listened to guys.
“But the thing is, some of the things they talked about I know are not going to take place. Not while I'm here, not while (Rajon) Rondo's here, not while Jimmy (Butler) continues to grow as a leader.”
It adds light to some of the thoughts that Butler expressed after Tuesday’s first practice, and what anyone with a set of eyes could see last season when the Bulls looked like a fractured group that didn’t enjoy playing with each other anymore.
There wasn’t outright disdain, but some of the damaged relationships were never repaired as the season went on. Putting that into an alphabet soup with losing, bad habits and injuries and it spelled out “something’s gotta give.”
“You definitely gotta like each other. If you don’t, and you can say this doesn’t happen, but I feel like if you don’t like a guy you’re not going to pass him the ball,” said Butler, who had some rocky moments last season as a leader. “I think there’s a lot of liking on this team. Like I said, everybody wants everybody to be successful. Do we like each other too much? I hope so.”
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Refreshing honesty is a change at the Advocate Center, with Wade and Rondo being the adults in the room. The two have the latitude from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to stop practice to get on guys, and they did so Tuesday.
“You just want to cut down all the chatter; it’s early,” Rondo said. “Only a couple of guys should be talking in practice. As far as disrupting when they do stop practice, coach has the voice then assistant coach has the voice and then the older players.”
It’s not a surprise given Hoiberg won’t be one change his ways overnight, and having a player-run team are often the most successful, assuming everyone is on the same page.
It sort of speaks to Bulls vice president John Paxson’s statement on media day about the Bulls’ rebuilding their culture from the ground level.
“You talk about last year, but at the same time, last year doesn't matter,” Wade said. “We have a different core, and I think our culture is fairly different. We have guys now, Rondo's won a championship, I've won championships, we demand respect on the court. But we've got a lot of young guys as well, so they'll listen.”
Wade and Rondo have both said the Bulls are Butler’s team, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be wallflowers if they see things they don’t like. Wade has been a vocal leader in some form for the last decade and Rondo has rarely, if ever, held his tongue.
Rondo, along with being a primary facilitator for Butler to make scoring easier, imparted some wisdom to help Butler in his ever-evolving role as a leader.
“Not doing it with my mouth but with my actions, being consistent; I told Jimmy a leader can’t pick and choose when he wants to lead,” Rondo said. “He has to come out every day, every practice; we’re having two a days. If you are down, need something to get your head right, you have to bring it every day, every day.”
Hoiberg said there has to be a mutual respect amongst the team, which can lead to chemistry and camaraderie.
“It takes a lot of those moments when we all make mistakes and the coach is on us, that's when we come together,” Wade said. “In the locker room, when we're in there talking about anything, talking about whatever. it takes a lot of being on the road, traveling together. You're on a road trip, you go out dinner together. It's going to take a lot of moments to get the chemistry that we need.”