Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan has taught his teammates many lessons during the first week of training camp.
The latest involves talk of dogs and running fast, but the gist of it is to be aware about what’s being said and predicted but not to dwell on it.
DeRozan is aware that even with all the changes the Bulls have made to their roster, including adding him, they still are viewed as a .500 team at best. The prognosticators see it that way, and so does Las Vegas.
DeRozan, however, sees it differently.
‘‘I never try to put too much thought on Vegas or whoever comes up with the odds they come up with because you don’t know how hard we’re working, how bad we want something, how much we are fighting for something,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘It’s bigger than just somebody’s predictions and how we are approaching it.
‘‘This is an opportunity for a talented group that has a chip on their shoulders. You kind of run faster when the dog is chasing behind you. That’s the type of mentality we have to have going out there this season.’’
The Bulls will open their four-game exhibition season at home Tuesday against the Cavaliers. The game isn’t expected to answer much in the big picture, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
DeRozan said he always has used the preseason to work on getting into a rhythm, not only his own but with his teammates.
Ideally, that rhythm will come quickly, so the Bulls can get out to a quick start once the games count. A good start probably won’t silence the doubters, but it at least will show DeRozan that his teammates are up to accepting the challenge they have put out there for one another.
‘‘I’ve been on teams where we were picked to be in the tank, and then we win 50 games and make it to the third seed in the Eastern Conference,’’ DeRozan said, referring to his days with the Raptors. ‘‘I’ve heard it all. You can’t indulge in it. You can’t let history depict what your future is going to be like. You just have to go out there and set the tone and take on the challenge. With this group of guys and the talent we have, everybody is willing to take on whatever that next challenge is.’’
The first might be getting the young players to understand exactly what will be asked of them.
Forward Patrick Williams still is nursing a sprained ankle, and guard Coby White might be sidelined for another month after offseason shoulder surgery. But there’s still guard Lonzo Ball, who is figuring out life on a third team in the last few seasons, rookie big man Marko Simonovic and even forward Derrick Jones Jr.
DeRozan has been doing his best to be a sounding board for all three and for anyone else who has a question for him. It’s about preparing them for the roller-coaster ride every season seems to bring.
‘‘You are going to have ups and downs,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘It’s all how you get through the downs when they come, how to maneuver through it. That’s on the guys who have been around to be together when things get tough because it is going to get tough. Just prepare for it.’’