Bulls’ ‘Big Three’ knows time might be running out

Nikola Vucevic doesn’t know when or how it will end, but the veteran big man knows he, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan need to deliver quickly this season.

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The Bulls “Big Three” of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic

The Bulls “Big Three” of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic know time is running out on them to deliver something special.

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Bulls center Nikola Vucevic doesn’t have a history of throwing out wild statements.

He is usually calculated — or at least matter-of-fact — in what he says.

So in the wake of the Bulls’ 1-4 preseason and while getting ready for the start of the regular season, Vucevic was discussing the roster — specifically the Big Three of himself, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

‘‘This is probably our last shot to make something happen, and we’re aware of that,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘It’s on us to deliver.’’

And if they don’t?

LaVine is entering the second year of a max deal that will escalate to a $48.9 million player option in the 2026-27 season, but he still remains a rumored trade candidate, even with the looming collective-bargaining agreement making the movement of high-priced players a bit more difficult.

Vucevic re-signed with the Bulls during the offseason at a reasonable three years and $60 million. While the Bulls can’t — and won’t — look to move him until at least the trade deadline, he is the ideal finishing piece for a playoff team that needs a versatile big man.

Then there’s DeRozan, who enters this season in the final year of his deal with the Bulls. Both sides have said talks about an extension are ongoing, but a source said the front office wants to see how the team plays through the first half of the season before making any further commitments to DeRozan.

The good news for Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is that this isn’t a situation such as the one involving the 76ers and disgruntled James Harden. DeRozan always has been the consummate pro, never asking for a trade or publicly demanding more money.

While there is already trade speculation about DeRozan floating around, it’s not coming from him or his representatives.

‘‘If I sign up for anything, my goal is to finish whatever I sign up for,’’ DeRozan told the Sun-Times last season. ‘‘That’s with anything in life. I signed up to be a father, not just a part-time father. I treat everything I do that way.

‘‘I mean, 14 years in my career, I’ve never talked about a trade, asked for a trade, anything. So when I see something like [trade rumors], I try to make fun of it more than anything.’’

DeRozan definitely can poke fun at them for now, but all indications are the Bulls will look to pull the plug on their ‘‘Big Three’’ if the first half of the season goes poorly.

Would that entail simply trading DeRozan, or would it be a bigger purge than that? It’s way too early to tell, especially with the regular season just getting ready to tip off.

The best way for DeRozan, Vucevic and LaVine to keep their names out of the rumor mill is pretty simple: Play well and do that from the start.

Therein lies the concern. The Bulls showed some serious growing pains during the preseason while trying to find their way in coach Billy Donovan’s new-look offense.

Most of the warts will iron themselves out when the games matter, but the two major concerns are whether the Bulls can generate — and make — more three pointers and whether they can become more versatile offensively by using Vucevic and understanding the importance of off-the-ball actions.

Even Vucevic is eager to find that out.

‘‘I think we’ve taken some good steps in areas we’ve talked about, especially offensively — playing with more pace, better ball movement and movement in general,’’ Vucevic said of the preseason. ‘‘Preseason, it’s hard to judge because some teams don’t play all their guys. I think there have been some positive steps, so continue to build and get to where we want to get.’’

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