Bulls’ front office keeping lottery talk away from players and coaches

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Bulls big man Robin Lopez doesn’t deal in nonsense. He knows what he is and, more important, knows what his team is.

‘‘Obviously, we don’t have the talent advantage on the majority of teams,’’ Lopez said of the rebuilding Bulls. ‘‘But something we can control every night is how hard we play.’’

That’s what Lopez is counting on now that the preseason is over and the games start to count.

‘‘I’ve seen a lot of positive signs from this team so far,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘When we’re out there, we play together, we push each other to play harder, play with a lot of energy. And those are all great things. I really think if we play hard, we play together, we can surprise some people, for sure.’’

It’s the kind of outlook the Bulls’ front office hopes each player shares — to a certain extent. The front office wants its players to learn how to play hard and how to win games, just not this season.

After all, there’s a draft lottery to win, and several members of the front office have told the Sun-Times they are hoping to do whatever they can to win it, so they can add a player such as Luka Doncic or Michael Porter Jr. to an already-solid young foundation.

It’s a fine line to negotiate, and the front office — to its credit — is keeping the players and coaches focused on the right things.

‘‘Being a young basketball team, it’s hard to win in the NBA at a high level; it is,’’ vice president John Paxson said at the start of camp. ‘‘That doesn’t mean you can’t put a team out there that plays the game the right way, works hard, believes in each other. That’s what this sport is about, man. That’s our expectation. If we do that, then I think our future is really bright.’’

Coach Fred Hoiberg said no talk of the Bulls’ lottery aspirations has reached his office.

‘‘Our job is to put the group on the floor that puts us in position to win,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s anybody in the organization that doesn’t have that same philosophy as far as putting your guys out there that fit with the long-term plans.

‘‘We’ll use different lineups throughout the year. Whatever the rotation is on Day 1 may change a week or two into the season. We want to find the guys who will be with the team for a long time.’’

It’s a philosophy Lopez said is shared by everyone in the locker room.

‘‘As players . . . we’ve got a makeup of competitors on this team,’’ he said. ‘‘I think a majority of the players in the NBA are competitors, so we’re going out there and we’re trying to win games.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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