CHICAGO — A friend brings you to a blow-out party and you spend the evening sitting alone in the corner, next to a bathroom and the taco tray.

No one talks to you.

No one makes eye contact when you approach.

You feel like you're invisible.

Meet the 2017-18 Bulls, in a total rebuild and predicted to be one of the NBA's worst teams.

Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Doug McDermott are gone from a 41-41 season.

Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser are now the future, plus some assorted pieces hoping to fit snugly in place.

Monday's media day offered few answers, just a simple front-office promise the six-time world champion franchise will thrill fans with effort and its love for the game, or be gone.

Is that enough for hungry fans? It has to be.

"We understand better than anyone what we're ready to embark upon," said vice-president of basketball operations John Paxson. "That's why I keep saying that the most important thing for us is the culture we have in this building.

"It's very hard to define sometimes but you know when you see that it's positive and it's positive now."

We were told by Paxson and general manager Gar Forman that 16 Bulls players had been working out religiously at the team facility since June.

"It's incredible what's happened in our gym with the culture that's been established," Forman said.

Doesn't he know Golden State, Cleveland, Boston and San Antonio live that commitment 24/7?

"We're not going to define our season by wins and losses," Paxson said. "We're going to define it by the professional growth of these young players. There is not a time frame, not a timeline."

It didn't help that Forman had once said it can take "between six and seven years" for a rebuild to take full effect.

Problem is, Bulls fans want a playoff team every season and continue to be very critical of the front office.

"I don't know if we can (win fans back)," Paxson said. "I can sit here and talk about past records and making the playoffs (but) we're now in a position where we have the support of ownership and have defined our direction.

"And that's all Gar and I can do every day."

There were a few other nuggets GarPax threw our way Monday at the Advocate Center:

• Wade agreed to a buyout, reported at $16 million, because he wants to play for a contender and not a rebuild.

• LaVine will miss the season opener and possibly more while he recovers from major knee surgery.

• Robin Lopez will start at center and the other four positions are "up for grabs" according to coach Fred Hoiberg.

• Bobby Portis now has a deadly 15-foot jumper he seldom, if ever, misses, LaVine said.

• Quincy Pondexter, who has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries, dominated offseason scrimmages according to Hoiberg, adding: "He's looked pretty damn good."

Regardless, many NBA websites have the Bulls winning less than 30 games this season.

"As long as we play hard and improve every day, you can take that as an accomplishment," LaVine said. "I don't know what our record's going to be, but at the end of the day, we have the ability to change expectations by the way we play."

Until that happens, this will continue to be a Bears-Cubs-Blackhawks town with the Bulls off in a corner.

Tacos, anyone?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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