Bulls lose finale, and now it’s time for the business of roster improvement
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PHILADELPHIA — Robin Lopez didn’t play his last basketball game Wednesday night.
Was it his last in a Bulls uniform, however? Maybe, but the big man knows there’s a place for him somewhere on an NBA roster next season.
Coach Jim Boylen knows which roster he wants him on.
“Anytime you’ve got a tough, competitive guy who wants to win . . . obviously that’s going to be the theme the whole way next year, and that’s the theme I’m going to talk to the team about on Thursday,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘We’re going to have to share and sacrifice, grow together as a team and make it about the team.
“Those are going to be my messages. So whoever those guys are. But Rolo is a winning player. That’s the greatest compliment I can give him. And we need more winning players.’’
The bigger question is: Would there be room for Lopez?
Wendell Carter Jr. is the likely starting center next season, and Lauri Markkanen is also looking to add some strength and play minutes at the five.
Boylen, however, said there would be minutes for Lopez, as well.
“I like Robin,’’ Boylen said. “I care for Robin a lot. I think he’s a winning player, and he’s been terrific. He’s been terrific in helping the young guys, he’s had my back the whole time I’ve had the job and he’s a pro’s pro. What I want is what’s best for him, and I think he’s going to have a market. I hope he plays for a long time. It would be great if it’s with us, and if it’s not, I hope it’s where he wants to be.’’
Unfortunately, Lopez’s last possible taste with the Bulls was a bad one. They were blown out by the 76ers in the season finale 125-109. Lopez scored 12 points and again was surrounded by many players who might not even be in the league next season.
Considering he’s 31 and that he could be at the back end of his career, Lopez was asked if playing on a team that finished way better than 22-60 would be a priority.
He wants another playoff run, but he also reiterated that these Bulls might be ready for that type of push.
“Every NBA player wants to succeed,’’ Lopez said. “Everybody is competitive. We’re still bummed out today that we didn’t make the playoffs. We’ve been bummed out for however many amount of days. So everybody wants to be in a successful situation, and I’m no different. I see no reason that the Bulls can’t be in the playoffs next year.’’
Counting it down
While most of the Bulls were ready for some ice and relaxation, Boylen was already anticipating how important the fall training camp will be for his team.
The fact that it will be his first full training camp in the head-coaching chair also carries weight with Boylen.
“It will mean hopefully establishing our foundation at both ends better,’’ Boylen said. “Hopefully, it will reinforce the style of play that we want. We want to improve our individual defense and our team defense. That’s a big training-camp point of emphasis. That’s what training camp is, getting in a stance and learning how to play together defensively. Offensively, we’re going to keep building on our multi-ballhandler system and playing out of flow and then executing.
“I’m really looking forward to training camp. To be honest, I wish it was sooner than what it is.’’