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Ready or not, point guard Lonzo Ball is pushing for a Bulls run

The Bulls are poised to pick up the pace and try to be “Showtime,” the Midwest version, but Ball is still learning his teammates, and his teammates are still getting accustomed to his tempo. The opener Wednesday in Detroit will be a good test run.

“I have a good understanding of everybody’s game right now,’’ the Bulls’ Lonzo Ball said. “I think we have a positive outlook on everything.”
“I have a good understanding of everybody’s game right now,’’ the Bulls’ Lonzo Ball said. “I think we have a positive outlook on everything.”
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Point guard Lonzo Ball has a different set of gears than most NBA players on offense. There’s fast, and then there’s really fast.

Although the Bulls went 4-0 in the preseason and enter the regular season Wednesday night in Detroit poised to do some damage in the transition game, they’re also dealing with some growing pains when it comes to matching pace with Ball.

It’s a nice problem to have.

“Yeah, I think the effort is there, obviously,’’ Ball said Tuesday when asked if his new team was playing fast enough for him. “But we’ve still got a long way to go. There are times where I’m a little ahead of the play, when guys are trailing, and vice versa, and I just think we’ve got to look at film, point that out and just make a more conscious effort to get down the court faster.”

For Ball, there’s really no such a thing as playing too fast, whether he’s the one attacking and putting an opposing defense on its heels or using his strength as an outlet pass specialist. The idea is getting into the offense as quickly as possible, not only to keep the defense from matching up the way it wants but to put teammates in favorable one-on-one situations.

“I think that’s going to come with time and just playing together, getting more games,” Ball said. “We’ve only played four games together, and they didn’t really count. Especially for guys like DeMar [DeRozan] and Zach [LaVine], if they can get ahead and have one-on-one situations, it’s going to work all day.”

First things first: getting it to work against the Pistons. There’s no doubt the Bulls want to play fast this season — the opposite of where they were at the end of last season, after their run game came to a halt with the acquisition of big man Daniel Theis at the trade deadline, in addition to center Nikola Vucevic. When the front office decided to give the Bulls an offseason facelift, adding athletic guys who can play with pace was a priority.

However, in coach Billy Donovan’s system, there’s also a time to slow it down. That’s what Ball will be looking to learn.

“Lonzo instinctively on made baskets does a really good job of getting high outlets,” Donovan said. “Sometimes when that high outlet comes, if, hypothetically, [Vucevic] has inbounded it or we have two guys behind him, it’s hard to play at that breakneck speed because there’s nobody out there in front of you.

“There are some times where the ball gets inbounded and [Ball’s] looping and there are guys down the floor and we can do that. There’s a balance there for him where he’s seeing the floor and saying, ‘OK, I need to let these guys flow in.’ And then there’s also a responsibility to Lonzo from the other guys to get down the floor as well.”

Donovan feels the problems will iron themselves out, especially with how well this team has been communicating.

Ball’s hope is that the Bulls play in their fastest gear more often than not.

“I have a good understanding of everybody’s game right now,” he said. “I think we have a positive outlook on everything. This is a brand-new situation for a lot of guys, including myself, but I think we had a great training camp, pretty good preseason, and we’re all excited to play [in Detroit].”