December 4, 2012
Even as the Bulls prepare to face the division rival Indiana Pacers tonight, good news has arrived in the form of Derrick Rose actually sprinting in bursts at practice.
But wait. There’s more.
There are rumors he could be only weeks away from actually practicing with the rest of the team. According to an unnamed source: “That’s the belief that a couple of [the Bulls'] players are under.”
Well, don’t get too worked up just yet. Returning to practice — if that even happens in the time frame suggested by Mr. Anonymous — is not the same as playing in games. Furthermore, Bulls owners Jerry Reinsdorf has made it abundantly clear that Rose will not return until “doctors tell me that it’s absolutely safe for him to come back.”
Still, any news about Rose’s forward progress is good news.
December 3, 2012
Life without Derrick Rose continues for the Chicago Bulls.
Now they’ll also be living without Rip Hamilton for the foreseeable future.
Hamilton injured his left foot in Saturday night’s 93-88 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. And although Rip returned to knock down some clutch free throws, it was fairly obvious something was wrong.
After the game, Hamilton said: “I was able to put a little weight on it, so I could go back in the game. It wasn’t 100 percent or anything like that, but I felt I could help the team. When I jumped up, as soon as I came up I felt something pop in the bottom of my foot. Yeah [it scared me. The simple fact no one was around. They always say the worst injuries are when nobody is around and you don’t fall down. When it happened it scared me. I felt I did not want to put pressure on it, but it was not a whole lot of pain. [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] did not want to put me back at first. But I’m like, ‘I’m good, I’m good.’ I won’t know what it is until I get an MRI. We’ll see (Sunday).”
That MRI revealed that Hamilton has a torn plantar fascia.
In response, the Bulls issued the following statement: “Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton had an MRI today that revealed he has a torn Plantar Fascia in his left foot. He will return to play as his symptoms permit.”
The words “day-to-day” and “out indefinitely” apply.
Sam Smith of Bulls.com suggested Rip could be back in a week or two, and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune noted that James Johnson missed only one game with a similar injury when he was with the team back in 2010.
Of course, Johnson was in his early 20s and had just entered the league. Hamilton is 34 and has logged 28,878 minutes over 753 games in his 14 NBA seasons.
It’s hard to know how this will play out. As Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times writes: “The team’s statement indicates that Hamilton’s status is day-to-day. But the torn plantar fascia is one of those injuries with a variance of recovery schedules. Some players return in a week. Others take months. Toronto Raptors shooting guard Alan Anderson is out three to six weeks with a torn plantar fascia.”
So Rip is out. He could be back soon. He could be gone for a while. Only time will tell.
Hamilton has been up and down this season. He’s scoring 13.9 points per game. His field goal percentage (45.5) and three-point percentage (37.5) are above his career averages of 45.0 and 34.8, respectively, and he’s knocking down a career-best 93 percent of his free throws. His Per 36 Minutes numbers are on par with his career averages. Ditto for his Effective Field Goal and True Shooting percentages.
However, his Player Efficiency Rating of 13.9 is below the league average and his Win Shares Per 48 Minutes of 0.085 is near a career-worst. At times, Thibodeau hasn’t trusted him to play in the fourth quarter.
Still, losing Hamilton for however long could be a significant blow to a team that was already struggling to deal with the loss of key bench players from previous seasons.
The general consensus is that shooting guard duties will fall to Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler during Hamilton’s absence. That’s the most likely scenario, although Thibs could also use Kirk Hinrich more at the two spot while letting Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague share point guard duties.
Butler is having a fine season. He currently leads the Bulls in Effective Field Goal Percentage, True Shooting Percentage and Win Shares Per 48 minutes (.211). He’s also third on the team in PER (16.8) and has played very solid defense. That said, he occasionally looks lost on offense and seems reluctant to shoot.
As for Belinelli, he’s shooting a career-low 36.8 percent from the field, although his three-point percentage (40.7) and free throw percentage (89.5) are strong. He looks more lost on defense than Butler does on offense — which bodes very poorly for a player in Thibodeau’s system — and his PER of 9.7 is way below “replacement player” levels.
There are no easy answers. Like I said, Thibs could try using Hinrich at shooting guard, but he’s having his worst-ever season and has lost a half step (or more) defensively. And Robinson is a nice change-of-pace, spark-plug-off-the-bench type of player, but he’s woefully undersized even for a point guard and a tendency to either play great or out of control.
The Bulls are heading into a rough stretch of four games in five nights, starting with Tuesday night’s home game against the division rival Indiana Pacers. After that, they head to Cleveland and Detroit before returning home to play the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Once again, the Bulls are going to have to adjust on the fly.
November 20, 2012
The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article about Kirk Hinrich’s shooting slump titled Hinrich not sweating cold spell.
Well, if Captain Kirk isn’t sweating, he should be.
Remember: Despite the fact that Derrick Rose was out indefinitely and C.J. Watson had played well both as a backup and as a starter when Rose was out, the Bulls declined to pick up his $3.2 million team option for the 2012-13 season. Management wanted to save money…chemistry and success be damned. Watson went on to sign a two-year contract for the veteran’s minimum to back up Deron Williams on the New Jersey Nets.
The Bulls then went out and inked Hinrich to a two-year deal reportedly worth around $8 million. This was management’s “big free agent signing” during an offseason in which the Miami Heat stole Ray Allen from the Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers traded for both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
But Hinrich was family. His poor seasons in Washington and Atlanta were excused based on injury and miscasting. Conventional wisdom was that Kirk was better suited to fill in at point guard until Rose returned after which he could slide between backing up both backcourt positions. His defensive acumen, versatility and history with the team made him well worth the expense. Or so the theory went.
The good news:
Hinrich leads the Bulls in assists. He ranks 21st in assists per game (5.9), 19th in assist to turnover ratio (2.94) and 13th in assist percentage (34.6).
The bad news:
Pretty much everything else. Hinrich is having by far the worst season of his career, which is really saying something when you look at the stats from his last season with the Hawks.
Hinrich is averaging only 4.9 points while shooting a cringe-worthy 29.6 percent from the field and an equally gag-inspiring 25 percent from three-point range. Kirk is even struggling to connect on free throws, as evidenced by his frigid 53.3 percent conversion rate at the charity stripe.
According to John Hollinger’s latest stats, Hinrich’s Player Efficiency Rating is a career-low 9.1. That ranks him at 49th among shooting guards and 57th among point guards. And according to the PER reference guide, Kirk is somewhere between “Definitely Renting” and “Next Stop: D-League.”
His True Shooting Percentage is 36.3. That ranks him dead last among shooting guards and five spots from dead last among point guards. In other words, he is one of the worst shooting guards in the league.
His Value Added – the estimated number of points a player adds to a team’s season total above what a “replacement player” would produce — is -4.7.
I could keep throwing Hinrich’s nightmare numbers at you — like his Offensive Rating of 86 or his -0.2 Offensive Win Shares — but the horse is dead. It cannot be beaten anymore.
But it’s only been nine games right?
Said Hinrich: ”It’s such a small sample size. Most games, I really don’t know if I have it going or not because I’m taking so few shots. I’m not worried. I still feel like I’m shooting it good in practice.”
It’s true that Hinrich is taking only 6.0 shots per game. But then Jimmy Butler is taking only 2.8 shots per game…and he’s shooting 60 percent from the field. And 93 percent from the line.
I’m not sure what the Bulls should do. They could start Nate Robinson. After all, Little Nate is averaging 12 points while shooting 40 percent on threes and 80 percent from the line. His PER is currently 17.6 and his assist percentage (32.3) compares favorably to Hinrich’s.
Of course, he has the tendency to overdribble, and the starting unit would then have to hide both Robinson and Carlos Boozer on defense. And then the Bulls would have absolutely no scoring punch off the bench.
All of which means the Bulls will probably just try to wait out Hinrich’s slump and hope he eventually finds his rhythm.
I just wonder whether he still has a rhythm to find.
November 1, 2012
The Bulls celebrated Halloween with some very good news.
And I’m not talking about their season-opening win over the Sacramento Kings.
Taj Gibson and the Bulls have agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $38 million.
So we don’t have to worry about Gibson pulling an Omer Asik next summer.
Said Gibson: “You just do want to see what else is out there (in the free-agency market), but then you look (and think) you don’t want to be in some hell hole somewhere just chasing the bucks. It’s a great team here, family, organization. I just made a decision that would help me and my family.
“At the end of the day, I asked my agent (Mark Bartelstein), ‘What do you think?’ ‘Don’t give me the bullcrap, just be real with me,’ and he was real with me. He said, ‘I don’t want you to turn this down.’ He said, ‘I know we can probably get more this summer, but it’s all about if you’re happy or not.’ And he said, ‘I want you to take this; it’s too much of a risk to go out there, you never know what can happen.’ ”
Added Joakim Noah: ”I’m happy, man. That’s my young boy. Taj is my young boy … I’m really happy. It’s very well deserved. I see Taj’s grind every day. And I know how much he fights every night to represent for the Bulls. That’s just the icing on the cake. I’ve been through it so I know it’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s a very stressful situation, too, because a lot of people are telling you what you should do, what you shouldn’t do. But at the end of the day, there’s very few people that get it. It’s a very unique situation to be in. But with that amount of money comes a lot of responsibility, but Taj is a hard worker and somebody who really deserves (the deal).”
Locking up a key part of the team is always a relief. And, honestly, neither Gibson nor the team needed the whole “impending restricted free agency” thing looming as a distraction all season long. Not with Derrick Rose already slated to miss a huge chunk (or all) of the season.
Still…it makes me wonder…does this extension increase the probability of the Bulls using the amnesty provision to jettison Carlos Boozer’s contract next summer? I guess we’ll find out.
October 29, 2012
The Oklahoma City Thunder have traded super sixth man James Harden (along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward) to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick.
In Thunder GM Sam Presti’s perfect world, this trade never would have happened. Had things gone Presti’s way, Harden would have signed an extension with Oklahoma City and joined Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to form the team’s core for years to come.
Unfortunately, Presti’s hand was forced by monetary constraints. Harden wanted a max deal and Presti — due the potential crippling luxury tax penalties — could not give it to him. The max deal would be around $60 million. Thunder management reportedly believed the highest they could go would be around $55 million.
That $5 million made all the difference. To both sides.
Said Presti: ”We wanted to sign James to an extension, but at the end of the day, these situations have to work for all those involved. Our ownership group again showed their commitment to the organization with several significant offers. We were unable to reach a mutual agreement, and therefore executed a trade that capitalized on the opportunity to bring in a player of Kevin’s caliber, a young talent like Jeremy and draft picks, which will be important to our organizational goal of a sustainable team.”
In all likelihood, Harden will receive his max deal from the Rockets, although teaming with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik won’t bring him the team success he enjoyed with the Thunder.
That’s simply life in the NBA. It’s business, as they say.
Which brings us to the subject of Taj Gibson. The Bulls have until Wednesday to work out an extension and thus prevent Gibson from becoming a restricted free agent next summer.
If the Asik situation taught us anything, it’s that restricted free agency can be deadly to a team that wants to retain its player. After all, the Bulls entered last summer with the firm stance that they would pay top dollar to retain Asik. Then the Rockets offered Asik upwards of $25 million for three years, which included a “poison pill” third-year salary of around $15 million.
That savvy move by the Rockets — who clearly wanted Asik badly — effectively cost the Bulls a valued player. It’s not a stretch to imagine the same thing happening with Gibson.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Talks between the Bulls and Mark Bartelstein, Gibson’s Chicago-based agent, continue. Sources said the roughly $8 million gap over four years isn’t atypical for this stage of negotiations.
The Bulls want to avoid having Gibson become a restricted free agent next summer should they fail to reach an extension, particularly since they were burned when Omer Asik reached that status. But they also have no plans to commit $10 million annually to Gibson, 27, when Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all average north of that figure.
It’s a difficult situation. On the one hand, Gibson is a fantastic defensive player and the de facto leader of Chicago’s second unit. Yet his Player Efficiency Rating last season was 16.9, which ranked him 26th in the league among power forwards. That was just a hair above guys like Gustavo Ayon and Jason Thompson.
I’d be willing to bet you just thought: “Who are Gustavo Ayon and Jason Thompson?” To which I would have replied: “Exactly.”
The biggest worry about Gibson’s game is his offense.
According to Hoopdata, Gibson converted 65.7 percent of his shots at the rim last season, which is excellent. Unfortunately, a great many of those attempts came off uncontested dunks, layups and putbacks. Gibson doesn’t have many post moves and rarely creates his own shot.
Even more unfortunately is the fact that Gibson shot only 34 percent from 16-23 feet which — based on number of field goal attempts per game — is his second favorite location to shoot from.
A quick stat check also shows us that Gibson’s True Shooting Percentage of 52.2 percent ranks him 45th among the league’s power forwards.
Further, according to John Hollinger’s stats, Gibson ranks 26th in both Value Added (the estimated number of points a player adds to a team’s season total above what a replacement player would produce) and Estimated Wins Added (the estimated number of wins a player adds to a team’s season total above what a replacement player would produce).
Mind you, I’m not saying any of this to undersell Gibson or understate his value to the Bulls.
However, some perspective may be necessary. Gibson is a very popular player among experts and Bulls fans. And rightfully so. But while we’re extolling his virtues — which include stellar defense, consistent effort and being a fantastic teammate — it’s also worth looking at his shortcomings. Especially considering that, at 27 years old, Gibson’s game is unlikely to change greatly going forward. In other words, people expecting him to suddenly become a much stronger offensive player are likely to be disappointed.
Which may be an important factor when estimating his dollar value worth to the Bulls.
And that’s what it’s all going to come down to in the end. Like the Thunder, the Bulls will have to make a decision regarding what Gibson is worth based on a) what they have to offer under the current salary cap and luxury tax situation and b) what Gibson is worth relative to other players around the league.
As much extending or re-signing Gibson seems like a no-brainer, it may not be that simple. The Bulls learned this with Asik last summer. The Thunder just learned that with the James Harden situation.
And it could happen again with Taj.
October 26, 2012
Luol Deng recently admitted he was planning to have surgery on the torn ligament in his left wrist…but then stated his rehab program had essentially solved any problems.
Said Deng: ”I had the injury before (in 2004), and for some reason, maybe because it was my first time and I first had it, it felt a lot worse than the second time. The second time that I had it (last season), I asked the doctors a lot of questions.
“I never really lost any range of motion or strength, I just had pain. But as the year went on, I had my mind set on getting the surgery. As the year went on it just felt a lot stronger. I stuck with my rehab, kept doing my rehab, and til now kept doing my rehab and staying on top of it. It’s been good so far. I just got to continue with that and see how it goes.”
While it’s certainly heartening to hear the wrist “felt stronger” as last season progressed (despite a pretty obvious and progressive decline in his shooting stats) and that it’s been “good so far,” I’m worried.
Luol Deng has a history of injuries. And, under current Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, he has a history of logging an awful lot of PT. In 2010-11, Lu ranked fourth overall in the NBA in Minutes Per Game (39.1). Last season, he ranked first (39.4). He’s coming off back-to-back preseason games in which he played 37 minutes. Preseason games.
Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Herald all published stories about how Deng expects to (and is expected to) carry the team’s workload with Derrick Rose out.
When asked whether he expected to see the same kind of longs minutes he has in the previous two seasons, Deng replied: I expect to play the same. My strength, really, since I’ve been in this league is conditioning. I’ve always been blessed to be able to play high minutes. You’ve just got to stay on top of the little things — getting my treatment, stretching. Just being ready for 48 minutes a game, I really prepare myself for that.”
When asked what he expects from Deng this season, Thibs said: “The same thing as last year and the year before — just about everything.”
TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott posted an article about how teams on which players log heavy PT (in the 3,000-minute range) tend not to win titles. And maybe, with Rose likely to miss most or all of the season, competing for a championship isn’t the Bulls’ main concern this season. But it’s something to consider.
Players need to be fresh to compete at their highest levels. Science has proven that athletes need rest and recovery to be at their best. And certainly overuse and lack of rest can lead to injury.
Maybe I’m worrying needlessly. Maybe as long as Lu gets post-game treatment and plenty of sleep in his off-hours, things will be fine. But minus Rose, the Bulls will be hard pressed this season. Losing Deng to overuse injury would be a real blow.
October 4, 2012
When word leaked that Joakim Noah had spent time over the summer working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and master of the skyhook — there was some rather eager anticipation regarding just what Noah learned from the legend. Specifically: Would Jo start dropping skyhooks this season?
The answer: Maybe…but probably not that many.
Noah’s words courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I feel a lot more polished offensively. I worked with Kareem for a couple of weeks, but just because I worked with Kareem doesn’t mean I’m going to be throwing skyhooks from everywhere. I feel like I learned a lot from him, someone who has an unbelievable knowledge for the game and very interesting guy.
“But you know how it is — you work with him and people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to come back with a skyhook.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.”
No. It really doesn’t work like that.
When people hear that somebody has spent time in the offseason working with and being tutored by a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or a Hakeem Olajuwon, they often expect a dramatic makeover in the pupils’s game.
A basketball player’s overall game isn’t created overnight, nor can it be changed overnight. The player might learn a couple new moves or how to better prepare for a game. But it’s more about tweaking than overhauling.
We already know that Noah brings a lot to the table offensively. But we also know that Noah has averaged only 8.9 PPG over his career with a career-high of 11.7 PPG during the 2010-11 season.
Two weeks with Kareem isn’t going to transform Noah into a 15-20 PPG player. A more reasonable hope — considering Rose will likely miss most of the season and therefore his shot attempts will be redistributed — is for Noah to score in the 12-14 PPG range. Although he’ll likely do that in a variety of ways, as he’s always done, including fastbreak dunks/layups, putbacks from offensive rebounds, the occasional post move and a jump shot here or there.
Kareem spent years and years honing and perfecting his footwork, body control, and, yes, his skyhook. Noah has had, what, a couple months to work with the knowledge Kareem shared? And, by Noah’s own admission, he hasn’t gotten much full-strength on-court work in due to recovery from his ankle injury:
“I’ve been trying to do stuff on the court the whole summer but I feel like I was able to go on the court 100 percent maybe three weeks ago, about a month ago. Just staying on it, working on it all the time. Just doing ankle rehab; it’s something that I think I’m going to have to do the rest of my career.”
Personally, I can’t wait to see Jo unleash a skyhook, and I’m really hoping to see an improvement in some of the little facets that comprise a post game (footwork, positioning, and so on). But I’m not expecting an extreme makeover.
October 3, 2012
Due to last season’s lockout-shortened schedule, the Bulls played 66 regular season games.
But Rip Hamilton was available for only 28 of them.
That was a really big deal.
It has been somewhat forgotten because of the many other concerns in the Bulls universe…
…Derrick Rose’s surgically-repaired left knee, Luol Deng’s not-surgically-repaired left wrist, Joakim Noah’s troublesome left ankle, Tom Thibodeau’s thankfully-no-longer-up-in-the-air contract situation, the dismantling of the Bench Mob (goodbye C.J. Watson, John Lucas, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer), the arrival of several new players (hello Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Marquis Teague, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic)…
…but Hamilton was supposed to be The Final Piece in Chicago’s championship puzzle.
Now we’ll never know whether that team could have beaten the Sixers, then the Celtics, then the Heat, then the Thunder (some people forget that the Bulls would have had to do more than just unseat Miami). Almost half the team has been flipped and Rose remains out and probably won’t be fully back until next season. And Rip may not be around by then.
But he’s here now and hoping for a bit of redemption.
Bryan Crawford of NBC Chicago writes:
To help him prepare for a full 82-game season, the 34-year-old hired a physical therapist to not only aid in his body’s healing process, but to give him a leg-up on the younger and quicker guards at his position.
Said Hamilton: ”Last season was very tough mentally. Not being able to play — I lost my grandma last year, too — and not having the game to help put your mind somewhere else, it was difficult for me.
“I used a [physical] therapist to help me with my hips and my legs and to just try and stay limber. I did a lot of sand workouts and stuff like that, so I kind of remixed my regimen. I still run and do all of that stuff, but I’m just trying to get an advantage and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
It’s good to know that Rip was mixing it up this summer and trying to make meaningful physical improvements. I just wonder whether they will matter.
Rip will turn 35 in February (on Valentine’s day actually). His Per 36 Minute numbers have remained solid, but his PER has been on a steady decline since he last made the All-Star team in 2008:
What’s more, his True Shooting Percentage has been below his career average in each of the last three seasons, and his Free Throw Attempts per game dropped to a a career-low 1.9 last season.
Speaking of which, John Hollinger’s player profiles tell a grim story for Hamilton:
Hamilton played only 28 games, so take the shooting numbers with a grain of salt, but of more lasting concern was the demise of his free throw attempts. Without those, he’s a really ordinary player because more than half his shots are long 2s — in fact, he took a higher proportion of his shots from that distance than any other player in the league. In the past he’s been able to draw a fair number of fouls with shot fakes and moves off the ball, but last season only three shooting guards had a worse rate of free throw attempts per field goal attempt; Hamilton had only 37 free throw attempts all season.
The result of that was a 50.0 TS%, which ranked in the bottom 10 among shooting guards and wasn’t anywhere near good enough for a primary offensive option. It didn’t help that his 39.8 percent mark on long 2s wasn’t up to his usual caliber, but that’s a secondary story if he can’t earn any free throws.
In all fairness, over the past three seasons, Rip has been either injured or mired in a bad situation in Detroit. But at some point, all these “bad circumstances” might really mean “decline.” And if that’s the case, no amount of sand workouts will help him.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes:
In the first practice of training camp, Gibson logged some minutes at center, a move coach Tom Thibodeau hinted at during the offseason. Gibson happily reported he blocked one of Joakim Noah’s new sky-hook attempts.
If the Bulls go small at times, Gibson is eager to help.
I’m excited to see Taj get more burn at center. According to 82games.com, Gibson did pretty well when playing center, posting PER of 26.2 per 48 minutes while holding opposing centers to a PER of 6.6. I realize the sample size is small — Taj spent most of his time at power forward — but the overall results seem promising.
Said Gibson: ”I feel great about [playing center]. I played it today against Joakim … I had a great first day playing center. I look forward to playing it some more. As long as my teammates have confidence in me and we play solid defense I don’t have a problem playing (center).”
With Derrick Rose out indefinitely, the Bulls obviously would like Gibson to score a few more points than last season’s 7.7 PPG average. And it appears Gibson has been working on his offense during the offseason.
Said Gibson: ”I just tried to get more consistent with my jump shot. Worked a lot with Thibs right before USA camp, just trying to get more fluid with post work. Get more confidence, get stronger because we lost Omer in the off-season, try to just get more physical.”
I’d definitely like to see a more physical Gibson. I’d much prefer him doing his damage around the basket (where, according to Hoopdata, he converts 65.7 percent of his field goals) than shooting jumpers (where he hits 37.2 percent from 10-15 feet and 34.0 percent from 16-23 feet).
I really can’t get behind the concept of Gibson as a jump shooter. He can hit outside shots…but not efficiently. Back to the 82games.com data: Last season, 54 percent of Gibson’s shot attempts were jumpers. And 83 percent of those attempts were assisted. Unfortunately, his Effective Field Goal Percentage on those shots was 37.4 percent.
So I’m glad Gibson worked on his jumper, because he needs to be able to hit them, but what he needs is more attempts where he at his most effective and efficient: around the basket.
As for the elephant in the room — the Bulls have until October 31 to sign Gibson to a contract extension or else he will become a restricted free agent next summer — Taj claims he’s not worried about it.
Said Gibson: ”I can only worry about basketball. I can only worry about what I can take care of on the court. I’m listening to my agent Mark Bartelstein and I’ll let (Bulls GM) Gar Forman and (Gibson’s agent Mark Bartelstein) worry about that. Right now I’m just worried about getting better with my teammates, and so far it’s been great. … Right now I’m not even thinking about [the contract situation]. I’m thinking about wearing the Bulls jersey for as long as I can. Right now that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
As to whether the Omer Asik situation has affected his thinking — Asik signed that huge offer sheet with the Rockets over the summer and the Bulls declined to match it — Gibson said: ”I’m just happy for Omer. He really just let his game speak for itself. He really didn’t get into, ‘Oh, he wants to leave,’ or anything like that. He just let his agent handle it and let things fall into (place) but right now I can’t focus on that. I can only focus on what I can take care of and that’s basketball and worry about the things that are going (happening) on the basketball court. I can’t worry about things with my agent, what Gar’s going to say about money. I can’t worry about those things right now.”
It’s great that Gibson is talking that way, and it keeps with the current regime’s no-nonsense / all-business attitude, but it would be naive to think that the situation is not on Gibson’s mind. It’s his future, after all, and there aren’t many people who would be able to wipe that from their minds completely.
Said Bartelstein: “At the end of the day, your value’s always what someone’s willing to pay you. So I think there’s no question he’d like to be a Bull. He loves it here. The fans have treated him great.”
“This is obviously a really important contract for him. He’s in the prime of his career. He just wants to make sure when it’s time to sign something, there’s no regrets. He doesn’t look back and say, ‘What if?’ or anything like that.”
Translation: This is business and loyalty likely won’t sway Gibson if he has the chance to make more money elsewhere.
A quick peek at the ShamSports salary numbers will show you that the Bulls have almost $60 million committed to four players next season — Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng — which means extension money will be tight…even if the Bulls use the amnesty clause to dump Boozer’s contract.
The good news is that the Bulls won’t get their hands tied in quite the same way they did with Asik this season. Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald explains:
One significant difference with Gibson is he was a first-round draft pick and is playing his fourth NBA season. That gives him “Bird Rights,” which means the Bulls can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him. They can basically pay Gibson anything up to the maximum salary.
Asik was a second-round pick who had played in the league just two years. That made him what’s known as an “early-Bird” free agent. Since the Bulls were over the cap, they could re-sign him for no more than $5 million and $5.2 million over the first two years of the new contract.
Houston was under the cap and therefore able to tack on the balloon payment. The Bulls could have matched the deal but would have owed a huge luxury-tax bill — quite a price for a backup center.
The reality is this: The Bulls are very nearly a mortal lock to re-sign Gibson, whether it’s this fall or next summer, if for no other reasons than his value (and his perceived value) is high and it’s something of an open secret that the Bulls are simply waiting for the opportune moment to amnesty Boozer’s deal.
It’ll be interesting to see if the situation gets resolved by the end of the month.
October 1, 2012
With Bulls training camp officially under way, we can finally start really thinking about the upcoming season in real terms. There’s been plenty of concern about the dismantling of the Bench Mob — which is reasonable — but the more important subject is the health of the team’s core players.
Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah. Luol Deng.
We keep hearing that Rose is doing very well in rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee. That he’s ahead of schedule even. But the “ahead of schedule” updates don’t always provide an indication of where he is and what he’s actually capable of doing. Well, it turns out he’s about two weeks away from doing any cutting.
Said Rose: ”Right now, I’m not at that stage, where I didn’t starting cutting yet. I’m about two weeks away from that, where I’m starting to cut.”
This is another reminder that we are free to feel enthused about Rose’s stellar progress…but we also need to remember that he’s still several months away from game action. A sentiment shared by Bulls GM Gar Forman.
Said Forman: “Let’s not forget, he’s got a long way to go. He remains focused, committed to what he’s doing. There haven’t been any setbacks. That’s why we say he’s on schedule, but as far as the future is concerned, we’re taking this process step by step. Up to this step, he’s right where we want him to be.”
Actually, “where we want him to be” is “on the court playing,” but we’ll take what we can get.
And what about Noah? Remember: Jo sprained his left ankle during Game 3 of the Bulls’ first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The pain lingered so long that he decided not to play on the French national team in last summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Never fear though. Noah says the injury has fully healed now.
Said Noah: ”I feel great. I feel ready to go. My ankle is good. I spent a lot of time rehabbing this offseason. I had a very hard decision to make not playing in the Olympics. I know a lot of people were disappointed, especially in France … Just to be 100 percent to be ready for this (training camp).”
Then there’s Deng.
Unlike Noah, he chose to play for the British team in the Olympics, which meant not having surgery on the torn ligaments in his left wrist. As a result, Deng will begin the new season suffering the exact same injury he was struggling with when last season ended.
Said Deng: “The wrist is the wrist. It is what it is. I expect to be asked about it all year. I just have to go out and play and do what I can do, whether it’s one arm, two arms or no arms. I’m going to be the best I can be. … If I wake up tomorrow and I need the wrist surgery I’ll let you guys know. I didn’t want to have surgery and miss a lot of games. I’m at a point of my career I want to play in every game. I had a hard time to make that decision to have the surgery and miss that time.”
Not good news.
Last season, Deng had the lowest field goal percentage of his career (41.2), and his splits show how his percentages dropped after he suffered the injury in January. And he shot 31 percent during the Olympics.
For now, though, Deng is tired of questions regarding the lingering injury.
Said Deng: ”I have to say that it’s the most annoying question — I’m going to be honest and say it. I keep saying my wrist is fine but I keep getting asked about it. I don’t know what else I can say. I think I’ll paint ‘my wrist is fine’ on my car so every time I drive, everyone can see it. Maybe they’ll put it on the Jumbotron at the United Center.”
He may get tired of hearing that question, but if his shooting continues to be as woeful as it was in the final months of last season and during Olympic competition, it will continue to be asked.