Summer has officially begun for the Chicago Bulls and seven other NBA teams not invited to Orlando to finish out the rest of the 2019-20 regular season.
"It sucks. You've got to understand it. It's a weird time, especially with everything that's going on right now, but it's upsetting too," Bulls star Zach LaVine said during Friday's media availability. "We weren't even good enough to get to the play-in game, so it's upsetting and it just shows that we've got to do a lot of things differently to get ourselves that recognition to get to that spot."
Chicago (22-43) was 11th in the Eastern Conference standings and on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the league on March 11. Since the Michael Jordan era ended in 1998, the Bulls have won fewer than 45% of their games, which ranks in the bottom third of the league (23rd), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota and New York were the others not included in the 22-team format to complete the season.
Games are set to resume July 31. But even if the Bulls were invited, forward Thaddeus Young admits there is concern among players about the new format.
"For me, it's two-fold. Obviously, I wanted to play. I wanted to be a part of it," Young said. "But another side of me was worried about being away from my family or if they were to even come down. Just me being around everybody in general, playing basketball and then going back to my family and not knowing if I contracted the virus. Or not knowing if my family contracted the virus.
"As I said before, I have two young kids and I have a wife and my major concern is their health. Me, personally, I think I can fight it off, but I don't know if my kids would be able to do that. I don't know if my wife would be able to do that. So I don't want to put them in harm's way."
The eight teams left out of this season's resumption -- fearing significant setbacks in the development of young players over months of inactivity -- have proposed ideas for regional mini summer leagues, training camps and organized team activities, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.
"Not playing for eight months puts us in a competitive disadvantage," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said Saturday. "... These eight teams, we're getting now on calls and we have conversations of how we can develop our players and how we can have structure in place to get some practicing and possibly some scrimmaging in the offseason to catch up to the teams that are going to be playing. So, the work never stops and I informed players that we will inform them, depending on what the league will allow us to do this summer, and we're going to go from there."
Young said the long hiatus has likely "added a couple more years onto my career," while LaVine eyes the 2021-22 season as an opportunity for a strong comeback by the Bulls.
Chicago pulled the trigger to shake things up by hiring new general manager Marc Eversley and bringing in Karnisovas, but LaVine thinks a change starts with the players.
"We're the ones on the court," said LaVine, whose 25.5 points per game was the highest by a Bulls player since Jordan averaged 28.7 points in 1997-98. "Obviously, they're going to go out there and do their job and do the best they can and will work their butt off, but we have to continue to go out there and grow as well.
"We can't continue to make the same mistakes. We have to change our identity and how we're looked at as a team to [having] a winning culture. We had high expectations for this year ... and it wasn't anything like that. I think we competed extremely well. I think we were one of the hardest-playing teams in the NBA, but you need that 'W' in your win column, so we've got to get better."