Bulls handle business on the field, enjoy the Parisian experience off the field

Bulls run business, enjoy Paris experience originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

PARIS — As the Chicago Bulls’ 126-108 win over the Detroit Pistons ended, Zach LaVine gave his game-worn sneakers to a little girl sitting in the Accor Arena bleachers.

LaVine has already given away his sleeve and armband to other lucky fans, who were there to witness just the second NBA regular season game played here in an atmosphere LaVine called “electric.”

When LaVine saw the little girl wearing his No. 8 jersey, the decision became easy.

“It might be the only time we get to play in Paris,” LaVine said. “So show some appreciation for the fans.”

On one hand, Thursday night was all about the Bulls focusing on the task of solving problems against one of the league’s lowest-ranked players, something that hasn’t happened regularly this season.

But more than anything, the players were talking through Thursday night about the responsibility of representing the NBA on the international stage and putting on a show.

Mission accomplished on both fronts.

“Man, it was unbelievable,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Tonight is one of those games, I know for myself, I will look back years and years and realize what a great moment this was. Atmosphere. Having a trustee [Adam Silver] here. Magic Johnson is here. Everyone who attended, it was definitely a wonderful atmosphere and a privilege to be a part of this whole thing.”

The Bulls were not far behind, they led with as many as 22 points and had seven double-digit scorers, led by LaVine with 30 points. DeRozan returned after missing three games with a right quad strain—“it was definitely good,” he said—and posted 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Nikola Vučević achieved his 10th consecutive double-double performance. Derrick Jones Jr. he threw down four dunks. The Bulls shared the ball and shot 54.3 percent.

“We played the right way,” LaVine said.

They also didn’t just entertain the sold-out crowd of 15,885. They absorbed an experience that they could enjoy themselves.

“It’s a unique situation to come here and play,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I think as a league, when you get a chance to go to another country and see people who might be following the NBA in a time-shifting way — and who knows what hours of the morning, turning games or filming games — it’s great for people here in Paris to get a closer look NBA.

“You realize that sports are so closely watched all over the world. It was amazing that the place was sold out and the enthusiasm. It was a great experience.”

Paying tribute to Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic, LaVine noted that “some of the best basketball players in the world are international players,” which he called “beautiful.”

It was clear in talking to all the Bulls that they felt honored to represent the NBA on this stage. And it’s the kind of trip that could pay off as the season progresses, especially if the Bulls continue, as LaVine said, to play the right way.

“The trip was great for us going forward. We spend a lot of time together, we get closer. Everybody saw somebody else’s family,” LaVine said. “It was an overall great experience.”

Then, in a nod to the young sommelier in him, LaVine smiled.

“I’m definitely going back to Paris again, maybe for a wine trip,” he said.

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