1. Fact or Fiction: Derrick Rose says he’s the best player in the NBA. Is it true?
Avi Saini: Fiction times 100. When Derrick Rose answered the question stating he believes he’s the best in the league, my jaw almost broke after hitting the ground as hard as it did. I love Rose and the confidence he’s displaying in his abilities (as any basketball player should), but who is he trying to kid? Lebron James is the best in the league without question. If Rose truly believes that he’s the best player in the league, I wish he would have taken the more political route with his answer by implying he’s the best in the league without blatantly saying it.
Braedan Ritter: Fiction. LeBron James has been the best player in the NBA for a while now, and he doesn’t look like he is going to give up his throne any time soon. But I also think Derrick Rose believes he is the best player in the NBA and I have absolutely no problem with him saying it (Rose also said in the interview that LeBron is the toughest player to defend). The players who have made it to the pros, the smallest percentage of elite basketball players, need this type of confidence. If you asked a lot of NBA players who they thought was the best player in the league, I would guess a good number would say themselves. While that makes them factually wrong, it doesn’t mean they were wrong to say it. Don’t we always complain when athletes throw out clichés in interviews? Now we complain when they’re honest?
Rose hasn’t played in more than a year, so he obviously isn’t going to be the best on the court when he returns in October, but for a guy who struggled with his confidence after being cleared to play last season, I’d say this type of statement is a good sign.
Matt McHale: Fiction. Here’s the thing: you have to actually play in the NBA to be the best player in the NBA, and Rose hasn’t logged even a microsecond of PT since injuring his knee during the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Mind you, that was after he missed almost half of the lockout-shortened season due to a variety of injuries. I’m a huge Derrick Rose fan, but given all the controversy of his non-return and LeBron’s overwhelming MVP campaign last season, his words feel…poorly timed and poorly chosen. After a season of barely talking, this is not what Bulls fans wanted to hear. Rose should be preparing for a comeback for the ages, not channeling his inner Stephon Marbury.
2. Fact or Fiction: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will keep his promise to play Joakim Noah fewer minutes next season.
Avi Saini: Fiction. To cut Noah’s minutes would mean that the Bulls have a solid backup center who could at least maintain somewhat of a paint presence for Chicago. Cutting Noah’s minutes also means Chicago would have someone who could step in and play somewhere from 15 to 20 minutes per game. Chicago has neither of these. Nazr Mohammed is a serviceable player but at his age and with his level of production Mohammed is unlikely to fill either of these needs. Given that the free agent market has already died down and that big men who can play 15-20 minutes per game cost more than a veteran’s minimum, I believe the Bulls will still need to rely heavily on Noah next season and that his minutes will not change.
Braedan Ritter: Fiction. When it comes to Tom Thibodeau and his rotations/minutes load, consider me always skeptical. Thibs knew Noah had injury issues and foot problems heading into last season, but still played him more than 38 minutes per game before the All-Star break. That number only decreased when Noah’s plantar fasciitis came about. And even after the break, Jo was playing better than 32 minutes per contest, with many of those games being meaningless. And don’t even get me started on Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler.
I’m sure Noah was more than happy to play through his injury, but as we have seen in many cases in many sports, players often have to be held back for their own good. I don’t see Thibs holding Jo back and considering the Bulls still don’t have a true back-up center, I don’t see Noah’s minutes decreasing. But I still hope that they will go down to a more reasonable number for a center with an injury history.
Matt McHale: Fact (maybe). If only because Thibs may not have a choice. Mind you, this is all conjecture on my part, but let’s not forget that Bulls executive vice president John Paxson once reportedly got into a physical altercation with then-coach Vinny Del Negro when VDN exceeded a limit on Noah’s minutes that had been imposed by management. More recently, Thibodeau’s top assistant, Ron Adams, was let go. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported on his Twitter feed that the dismissal may have had something to do with Adam’s criticizing personnel moves. And then Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the GM/coach relationship between Forman and Thibs is “easily the worst in the NBA.” Given the team’s financial investment in Noah, and Noah’s difficulty staying healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if management once again imposed some sort of general restriction on Noah’s minutes.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Bulls are done making offseason moves.
Avi Saini: Fact. I don’t want to rule anything out because the Bulls are supposedly still pursuing Marcus Camby, but for the most part I believe the Bulls are done. With the assumed addition of Tony Snell and Erik Murphy Chicago’s roster is already at 12 men. Additionally, the team already cut Malcolm Thomas to avoid paying a little more than $2 million in added luxury tax which indicates that they are likely going to avoid signing anyone else until later on in the season when they can offer non-guaranteed contracts. Unless the Bulls can find a good big man who is willing to play for the minimum, I wouldn’t expect any more noise from Chicago.
Braedan Ritter: Fact. Like it or not, the Bulls big splash this summer was signing Mike Dunleavy Jr. So while they may add a piece or two, perhaps bringing back Malcolm Thomas or signing Marcus Camby, it likely won’t be anything that will make a difference on the court. We’ve seen how hard it is to crack Thibodeau’s rotation, so anything signed at this point will be a spectator.
Matt McHale: Fact. Check the numbers. The Bulls are over the cap and — barring a salary dump trade — will probably end up paying a luxury tax for the second season in a row after having never paid it prior to last season. They won’t be spending any more money. They aren’t going to amnesty Carlos Boozer. And management claims they’re in no hurry to trade Luol Deng. I think the roster is pretty much locked up for the moment.