A real test might not show itself for a bit longer.
Let’s just say the Bulls have a soft landing at the start of the regular season.
A rebuilding Pistons team twice in the first week, a Pelicans team that may or may not have Zion Williamson healthy and in uniform and a Raptors team looking for a new direction without Kyle Lowry.
That changes Oct. 28, when the Knicks and coach Tom Thibodeau come to town. Maybe that’s when Zach LaVine will get a taste of what he already believes — that this Bulls team has a chance to do something special this season.
It’s not an opinion LaVine is grasping onto after just three preseason games. It’s about what has gone on in practice and what went on weeks before camp officially started when guys were working together at the Advocate Center. It’s also about 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 Bulls’ 3-0 start to the exhibition season. “We’re all really unselfish.’’
That’s a great trait for a team, but this isn’t a Catholic youth-league team, where being good guys and 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 might be all of these things in LaVine’s eyes, but they better be talented. The league is littered with teams that get along and work hard, but if the talent isn’t there, they are simply roadkill for teams like the Nets, Bucks or Lakers.
“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 the Cavaliers on Sunday, especially in the first half, when the Bulls’ starters came out punching. But for the first time in the preseason, they were punched back. And hard.
Whether it was the Cavaliers getting blown out last week in their first meeting or having some film to make adjustments, it was the first time coach Billy Donovan saw this group struggle a bit on offense and let up in physicality on defense. Donovan saw that frequently from his team last season, but this is almost an entirely different group.
So while this new-look team is still learning Donovan, he’s still learning the team. If that can be rectified sooner than later, LaVine’s declaration will become reality.
“I feel a tremendous responsibility to figure out the group,’’ Donovan said.
The schedule gives him more time to do that.