We already know that defense is the foundation of Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls.
We also know the team is missing its best offensive player in Derrick Rose.
But the offense through the first three preseason games has been worse than we could have imagined.
Game 1 against the Grizzlies:
The Bulls barely broke 90 points while shooting 35.7 percent from the field (including 2-for-14 on threes) and committing 18 turnovers. They also missed nine free throws.
Game 2 against the Cavaliers:
In an even worse offensive showing, the Bulls managed only 83 points on 34.9 percent from the field (including a dreadful 1-for-19 on threes) with 22 turnovers (compared to only 17 assists). This brickfest was highlighted by a 10-point second quarter.
Game 3 versus the Timberwolves:
Things went from worse to worst, with the Bulls scoring a meager 75 points while hitting only 36.8 percent of their field goals, going 3-for-13 from long distance, and bricking 13 of their 35 free throw attempts. They also set a new preseason high with 23 turnovers…to only 10 assists. Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton sat this one out due to “general soreness,” but still.
Except for a couple decent stretches — the third quarters against the Griz and Cavs specifically — these games were hard to watch. Painful even. And, with all due respect, it wasn’t as if the Bulls were facing off against defensive powerhouses. Last season, the Cavaliers and Timberwolves were ranked 26th and 25th, respectively, in Defensive Rating.
The new bench crew has been one of the primary reasons for these poor offensive showings. Against the Grizzlies, they went 12-for-46, which looks even sadder when you subtract Nazr Mohammed’s 6-for-10 performance. Then, against the Cavs, they shot 12-for-45. In Minnesota, they were 8-for-29.
Over those three games, Nate Robinson is 7-for-30. Designated “shooter” Marco Belinelli hasn’t connected on a single three-point attempt (0-for-6) and is 6-for-20 overall. Bench Mob stalwart Taj Gibson is also 6-for-20. I could go on, but trust me, there aren’t any offensive highlights coming from the reserves.
It isnt only the subs, though. Carlos Boozer has yet to shoot 50 percent (3-for-10, 5-for-11, 2-for-7). Kirk Hinrich has played reasonably well, but he’s still 11-for-27 from the field overall and 3-for-11 on three-pointers.
The Bulls D has still been stout — they’ve allowed only 88, 86, and 82 points — but this shooting isn’t getting it done. And it will get them blown out against better competition.
While it’s true that the Bulls aren’t hitting open shots, it’s also true that they aren’t getting many open shots. One of the primary reasons being: they don’t currently have a player who can break down opposing defenses and consistently draw double teams. Movement and crisp passing can create good looks — when you’re not turning the ball over, which the Bulls have been doing a lot of so far, averaging 22 miscues per game in the preseason — but even that can be difficult when defenders can stay home and lock in on their target.
Maybe Thibodeau has some answers. Maybe it’s as simple as the players just getting some of those shots to go down. But in the early going, Chicago is facing a shooting apocalypse.
The Bulls won their first tune-up game in their Derrick Rose-less quest, but all wasn’t bright.
One of the most upsetting things was Jimmy Butler’s 1-11 night. He took a big step back after a promising summer, something I was afraid of when the competition got tougher.
The rest of the bench wasn’t great either, and definitely had many fans longing for the bench of last season, which at the very least shut the other team down. I mean, Jerome Jordan scored 13 points in 13 minutes. I’ll hold on until you Google him… No results? OK, I’ll continue then. Thibodeau still has a long way to go to get this bench playing solid defense.
And the bench’s offense, the part that was supposed to improve, looked very off. If the Bulls wanted missed shots, they could have just resigned Ronnie Brewer and given him break-away dunks. Nate Robinson was 3-8, Marco Belinelli was 1-7 and I didn’t seen any ladies swooning as they did for Korver. Even Taj Gibson was just 1-7.
I could keep whining, but this was just one game of the post-season, the first one of the year, and there were good things that can be built on.
Nazr Mohammed has already made more outside shots in a Bulls’ uniform than Omer Asik did in the past two years. Guess how many field goals Omer Asik made from 10-15 feet in his Bulls career…Nope, wrong. It was two. According to HoopData he made one in each of his two seasons as a Bull. He also only attempted two according to the site, so maybe he should have taken more.
Anyway, Mohammed’s defense is clearly much worse that Asik, but a little offense from the back-up center isn’t going to be the worst thing.
Tonight’s opponent may be a little easier than the Grizzlies, but it’s a division opponent the Bulls will see four times throughout the season (the first game between the two teams is Game 2 of the season for Chicago).
For the first of many times this season, the Bulls will experience something they really aren’t used to. Playing a team with a more talented point guard. With Rose on the floor, you could make an argument against any other point guard. But now with Hinrich, that list is a lot shorter. It may not really be a list, just a piece of paper with Mo Williams’ name on it.
Hinrich going up against rising star Kyrie Irving will be a peek at what the Bulls will be up against during the year at the one spot. Can Hinrich defend top point guards? Can he hold his own on offense? Kirk is pretty smart, so he should be able to use his smarts to get something done.
Things I’d like to see tonight:
-Rip Hamilton get to the line three times. The Bulls are going to need all the easy point they can get, and if Rip’s truly healed, he should be pump faking and trying to take some contact again. Six free throws isn’t a lot, but it would be a start after last season.
-Carlos Boozer shooting better than 30 percent. Booz went 3-10 in preseason game one, and that isn’t going to come close to cutting it for the season. He an Deng need to carry the Bulls on offense.
-I want some more Marko Jaric…or at least more Adriana Lima.
But overall, after the past two season, the Bulls just need to stay healthy, especially in games that don’t count for anything.
Here are some random thoughts about the Bulls’ first preseason game:
The starting unit looked pretty good:
Sure, they appeared understandably rusty during the first half, but the ball movement and effort were there…and things really started to click after halftime. Chicago opened the second half by outscoring Memphis 21-4 — which included a 14-0 run to start the third quarter — and led by as many as 16 points.
The defense was especially impressive. The Bulls’ starters had 8 steals and 3 blocked shots, and basically made life miserable for the Grizzlies’ starting unit, who combined to shoot 10-for-26 with 6 turnovers.
Luol Deng’s wrist injury didn’t hold him back:
Lu really looked like he was playing with a chip on his shoulder last night. He finished with 18 points in 23 minutes. Most impressive was his game-high 11 free throw attempts, a sure sign that Deng was being aggressive.
It looked like Kirk Hinrich never left:
Captain Kirk had a nice all-around game — 5 points, 2 steals, 2 blocked shots, and a game-high 7 assists — and more importantly he just fit in. Looked very comfortable as part of the second unit. And his defense seemed as strong as it was in his heyday.
The only downside was his shooting: 1-for-4 and 0-for-3 from downtown. And a couple of those three-point attempts looked awful. Let’s hope it was just rust.
But, really, Kirk set the tone for the starters, especially on defense and has momentarily quieted the people who openly questioned why the Bulls brought him back.
And his teammates sure seem to like him.
Said Rip Hamilton: “Kirk knows how to play. He really, really makes my job easy. When I run up the floor he tries to get me the ball early so I can try to make a play for myself or one of my teammates. He’s smart, man. He’s one of them guys that really knows how to play and makes my job easy.”
That was the feeling throughout the locker room. If Hinrich can stay healthy, his teammates feel they will be fine without Derrick Rose for a large chunk of the season.
Added Boozer: “He’s got great hands, man. A great feel for the game. He’s still trying to learn everything, everybody’s talking to him. You’ve got 10 different guys in your ear, plus Thibs, which seems like 10 guys in one. But honestly, I think he’s handling it great. A very, very good defensive player. It seemed like he had three or four steals right away in that third quarter, it got us going in the transition a little bit. (He) has a great feel for the game.”
Rip Hamilton looked like Rip Hamilton:
Fairly efficient game for Rip: 20 minutes, 13 points, 6-for-10 from the field, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals. Looked fluid and comfortable. Only one trip to the line, though. I’d like to see Hamilton draw more fouls. I know, I know. It’s a little early to worry about that. Just something I’m keeping an eye on, considering his huge drop-off in FTA last season.
Carlos Boozer didn’t silence his critics last night:
Boozington — who in theory should have primary scoring duties with Derrick Rose out — finished with only 6 points on 3-for-10 shooting. And it looked worse than 3-for-10. On the bright side, he had a game-high plus-minus score of +18 in 19 minutes. But I’m guessing the people screaming to amnesty him won’t be looking at that column in the box score.
Joakim Noah’s ankle looked fine:
Except for a missed dunk, Noah had a strong first outing (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal) despite missing three days worth of practice for personal reasons. His movement didn’t seem impeded by that old ankle injury.
Sadly: no skyhooks. And he still looked a little tentative on offense at times.
After the game, Noah spoke about the passing of his paternal grandmother: “It feels good to be back on the court. I had a really long week last week. It was very hard losing my grandmother. She’s the one who introduced me to the sport of basketball. She was the first basketball player in my family. She played on the Cameroon national team. She was the secretary. She did everything for the team. So even playing for that national team, for France, it’s all for her. It was very, very hard, but I’m happy to be back and playing basketball.”
The new “Bench Mob”…needs some work:
The Bulls’ starters took control of the game in the third quarter…and then the bench tried to hand it back over to the Grizzlies. The effort was there. What was not there was the chemistry and knowledge of the system. That will come with time.
The ugliest aspect of the bench play was, without question, the shooting: 12-for-45 overall and 1-for-8 on three-pointers. And that’s even with Nazr Mohammed going 6-for-10. The primary bricklayers were Jimmy Butler (1-for-11, 0-for-1 on threes, 0-for-2 from the line), Taj Gibson (1-for-7) and Marco Belinelli (1-for-7, 0-for-2 on threes).
And, man, Butler was just dreadful on offense. When he wasn’t getting his shot blocked or intimidated, he was just plain missing. Jimmy will want to forget last night, and fast. He had that “I’M TERRIFIED BUT I MUST TRY!” look most of the night.
Belinelli and Nate Robinson sure aren’t afraid to hoist fast shots. Sadly, they didn’t hit many. Belinelli’s forte is supposed to be shooting, and he was way off last night. But he gave effort and looked attentive on defense. Robinson was 3-for-8 with 3 turnovers and zero assists but, like Marco, was trying hard and seemed (for the most part) intent on initiating the offense.
At any rate, like I said, the bench needs some work.
Said Gibson: “It’s tough. One thing about it, it’s all about timing. That group we had, had great timing. We had been together for awhile and from the jump we had great timing. One thing I’m excited is about guys put forth effort. I know guys were speeding out there, 100 mph at times, but we were just excited to be there, to be out there on the court.”
Nazr Mohammed looked really good:
Nazr had the game’s sole double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He didn’t provide what Omer Asik did on defense, but last night he provided things Omer never could on offense. A backup center who can score? Who knew?
Said Mohammed: “It’s a great feeling, man. It’s something about when you wake up and everything around you is, you feel comfortable, you’ve been there before. Just the setting; you go to a restaurant, or you go out and you walk around and you see somebody you actually know. It’s just different from being in another city. I’m fortunate to be at home playing, but I want to play well and I want to win games.”
Still, it’s important to remember that Nazr is 35 years old with career averages of 6.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. In other words: Don’t expect performances like this every night.
We barely saw any of Marquis Teague:
It’s not easy to be a rookie in Tom Thibodeau’s system. Last night, Teague saw 4 minutes of action during which he missed both of his field goal attempts and finished with 0 assists versus 2 turnovers.
Welcome to the NBA, rook.
Said Teague: “I understand all that I have to learn. It has been good competing and trying to learn the system. I’ve been happy with the way I played. You have to figure out the pace of the NBA and learn how to run the offense. There are a lot of plays and new stuff.”
Still, this is Thibs, which means hard work and productivity can earn minutes.
Said Thibodeau: “You have to learn how to be a pro first,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Then you have to practice well. Then you have to learn the league. Then you have to learn your teammates. Once you do those things and know how to do your job, you may get an opportunity to play. But it’s a big step going from college to pros. Everything is based on performance.”
The three-point shooting was dreadful:
When the Bulls traded Kyle Korver to Atlanta to save some cash, my biggest fear was that the Bulls wouldn’t be able to replace his three-point shooting. That fear came true last night as the Bulls went 2-for-14 from beyond the arc. And many of those misses were ugly misses. I know that shots aren’t going to fall on some nights…but there really aren’t many high-percentage three-point marksmen on this squad. And, in today’s NBA, you can’t get by without outside shooting.
Probably not much of note. Preseason openers usually feature light duty for the projected starters (which, in the Bulls case, will likely be Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah). It’s the NBA equivalent of a mechanic looking under the hood to see what’s there.
One important component of Chicago’s engine may not be there at all: Noah. He’s been missing practice for unnamed personal reasons — although Noah has stated that his grandmother passed away on October 1 — and his status for tonight’s game is unknown.
If Jo isn’t available, look for Nazr Mohammed to get the starting nod.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: ”I feel good about [Mohammed starting]. We have a lot of flexibility. Naz will start if Jo doesn’t go. Of course Taj (Gibson) could play the five. (Kyrylo) Fesenko, so we feel good about that. But we could also play Vladimir (Radmanovic) more at the four and Taj at five. They’re different things we could get to, so we’ll be fine.”
That’s kind of how I imagine Dr. Frankenstein discussing his monster-building plans.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote the annual “Bulls looking to become more of a fast break team” article. I think some version of this article runs at the beginning of every NBA season for almost every team in the league. In theory, fast breaks generate easy scoring opportunities, so naturally every team would like to improve their transition offense. But it’s one of those “easier said than done” things.
Put it this way: If the Bulls weren’t a potent fast break team when Derrick Rose was running the show — he is, after all, one of the league’s fastest players — it’s hard to imagine Kirk Hinrich becoming Magic Johnson 2.0.
Fortunately, Thibs is a realist and it sounds like he simply wants to diversify the offence a little.
Said Thibodeau: “You want to be well-balanced. That’s what you strive for. And there are a number of ways in which you get easy baskets. The obvious one is the fast break, but the second shot is an easy basket, cuts are another easy way, off post feeds, things of that nature, but you have to be well-rounded.
“I’m more concerned with the type of shots that we’re getting. The best teams are not going to give you easy scoring opportunities off the quick break. Most teams are sending three guys back, so when you have defenders back, you have to flow into secondary action. We’re trying to read that better, and hopefully we can get into a flow.”
Probably the most compelling aspect of tonight’s game will be seeing the revamped Bench Mob in action (assuming we can still call them the “Bench Mob”): Jimmy Butler, Marco Bellinelli, Marquis Teague, Mohammed, Nate Robinson and Radmanovic. And I suppose The Battle for the 12th Man Role — between Fesenko and veteran guard Marko Jaric — will be…somewhat interesting.
In this-has-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-this-season news, Bulls prospect Nikola Mirotic suited up with Real Madrid and faced the same Grizzlies squad the Bulls will play tonight. And, as Sam Smith of Bulls.com writes, the kid looked good. Unfortunately, he likely won’t play in Chicago for another few years, but when he does the Bulls could really have a player on their hands. Time will tell.
After a couple months during which most Bulls “news” was limited to theorizing about what might happen in the upcoming season, now things are actually happening.
We’re still weeks away from actual games. But at least the players are working out and talking to the media. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is way more interesting than wondering for the umpteenth time when the Bulls might amnesty Carlos Boozer.
So here we go…
Rose PUSHing through the pain
The latest Adidas video about Derrick Rose’s rehab — titled “PUSH” — has been released:
Key quote: “When I’m working out I always say if it’s painful, see how long you can go through it because a normal person would stop right when they feel pain,” he says. “I try to see how long I can go through it because I try to make myself different than other people.”
Said Thibs: ”I think it’s important. They’ve been friends for a long time. They have a lot of respect for each other so I think it was important to Kirk. But I also think Derrick’s leadership has really grown. He’s gotten more comfortable, he’s been here a long time now. I think he felt it was the natural thing to do.”
Said Hamilton: “When things were going down and C.J. (Watson) left and things like that, I told them, ‘You should go after Kirk, because he’s a guy who can really help us right now
“He was competitive. He wouldn’t back down. Offensively, you try to make a guy quit. You try to make him back down. You’re trying to get an edge. (Hinrich) would always come back.
“You gain respect for that, because sometimes guys back down and they say, ‘I’m not trying to come out and wrassle with you and things like that.’’But he always fought. It’s good to have him on the same side of the fence.”
(And Nate Robinson got Rose the new iPhone 5. Pretty sweet gift.)
Health supposedly not an issue for Deng and Hamilton
Over the summer, Luol Deng opted to forgo surgery on his injured left wrist because he wanted to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. And, obviously, many Bulls fans are worried about it.
Said Hamilton: “I’m just happy everything is regular. I said it from the beginning of the year, with that many games in a short amount of time, injuries were going to happen. I couldn’t get on the floor. Then when I did get on the floor, Derrick went out. It was crazy. This season is night and day, physically and mentally.”
The Bulls will be happy if Hamilton can stay healthy this season.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
After months of hand-wringing and head-scratching by sports writers and fans, the Bulls have finally come to terms with Tom Thibodeau on a contract extension. Let the relief wash over you in an awesome wave.
The Chicago Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau agreed on a four-year contract extension, the team announced on Monday.
The deal is “very close” to the reported $18 million deal Scott Brooks signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder over the summer, a source familiar with the situation told ESPNChicago.com’s Melissa Isaacson. The four years are on top of the option year the Bulls picked up on Thibodeau for the 2012-13 season.
So the Bulls not only got their man — seemingly at or reasonably close to his fair market value — they have him locked up for the next five seasons. That’s great for the Bulls players and the franchise.
Said Thibs: ”Obviously, I’m very excited to be here and very thankful to (owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf) and to (executive vice president) John (Paxson) and (general manager) Gar (Forman) and certainly all our players and our fans. I love being here, I never doubted it would work out. This is where I want to be. Jerry has been great to me from the day I arrived.”
Added Derrick Rose: ”It’s great, man. Just to know that we finally got a deal done, he got his deal done. I don’t know if he has been thinking about it. He hasn’t said anything (to) me. No one has said anything to me about that but you all. I’m just happy that he’s my coach for an x amount of years. He’s a guy that we need around this organization, where he’s pushing everyone in the entire organization to want to be better and try to push this organization to win a championship.”
Thibs is the real deal and everybody knows it. This guy won 100 games faster than any coach in NBA history. He guided his team to the league’s best record in back-to-back seasons with only one true star and scads of injuries to key players.
Now, we could argue all day that this should have been taken care of months ago, but it hardly matters now. The deal is done. Thibodeau will be coaching the Bulls for several years to come.
Now we just need to work in all the new guys, make sure Luol Deng’s wrist and Joakim Noah’s ankle are okay, keep Carlos Boozer healthy while hoping (or even praying) that he can play a little defense, and get Derrick Rose back fully healed and at the top of his game.
You know, that’s all.
“Obviously I’m glad that we got the contract part done, and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead. My expectations are always the same and that’s for players to put everything they have into each and every play, to strive for improvement and then to play our best basketball the second part of the season.
“I don’t know where we’re going to end up, but I like the makeup of the new guys, I like the makeup of the guys returning. I don’t want us to skip any steps. The important thing is to do right things each and every day and results take care of themselves.”