Tuesday was another quiet day at Bulls camp.
Calm, drama-free days have become the norm under coach Billy Donovan.
That wasn’t always the case with this organization, and it’s a stark contrast when compared to several other Eastern Conference teams.
The 76ers have been dealing with the Ben Simmons saga since the end of last season, and the latest episode involved the All-Star guard unexpectedly showing up at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night, seemingly ready to return to the team.
Then there’s the always unconventional Kyrie Irving and the chess game going on between him and the Nets. With Irving refusing to comply with New York’s coronavirus-vaccine mandate, the Nets announced Tuesday that he no longer could practice with the team until he changes his stance.
Why should the Bulls care?
In the previous four seasons, they really didn’t need to worry about drama outside the Advocate Center. They weren’t a threat to reach the postseason — and possibly earn a first-round series with homecourt advantage — like they should be in 2021-22.
The 76ers and Nets are teams the Bulls would be looking up at, and with one organization looking to bring a star back into the mix in Simmons and the other possibly looking to move Irving if he holds the line, the Bulls are directly affected.
The Eastern Conference hierarchy has changed this offseason and could continue to change in the next month. The good news for the Bulls is all has been hunky-dory in their own house.
Three teams still ahead of the Bulls:
Bucks — The defending NBA champions have been taking a nonchalant approach to the offseason and preseason, knowing there are bigger goals ahead — specifically, a repeat.
76ers — Simmons’ return to camp is huge. Even if he’s not there to play nice, he at least can be a trade asset who would bring a big haul back. If he does stay, Joel Embiid, Simmons and Tobias Harris are a bigger Big Three than the Bulls’ troika.
Nets — With Irving, the Nets are championship favorites, but even without him, they’re a scary team.
Four teams that will be jockeying with the Bulls:
Heat -— Pat Riley rarely stands pat. Besides the Bulls’ Arturas Karnisovas, Riley was one of the busier NBA execs in the offseason. If the Heat stay healthy, the Bulls will have a tough time keeping up with them.
Hawks — They have been the model rebuild the last four years, doing everything right, while the old Bulls regime was doing everything wrong. As the Hawks showed last postseason, they are dangerous.
Celtics — On paper, Boston has top-four talent. Last season was a perfect storm of bad, however, and it will be interesting to see if the Celts can climb back to elite status.
Knicks — Few teams will play harder than Tom Thibodeau’s crew, and while the Bulls look more talented on paper, Thibs rarely cares about appearances.
Three teams the Bulls have jumped ahead of:
Pacers — Indiana could be a playoff team, but with Caris LeVert dealing with injuries, that’s a big unknown.
Hornets — A fun team to watch with some great young pieces, but there’s no way they should challenge the Bulls.
Wizards — It’s time to start thinking rebuild in Washington, and there’s no way the Bulls should be chasing them.