DEERFIELD, Ill. – Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau values loyalty and defense, which explained journeyman Keith Bogans’ starting role for the team with the NBA’s best regular-season record in 2010-11. At age 30, in his eight season, Bogans started all 82 games for the first time, making Chicago’s shooting-guard spot his own by … averaging 4.4 points on 40.4 percent shooting?
OK, not exactly the numbers you’d expect from a key offensive position for a team with serious championship ambitions. But Bogans gave the Bulls’ rotation toughness, he defended hard and, on many nights, it seemed Thibodeau was fine if the veteran guard could hit a 3-pointer near the start of each half and call it a night. After all, Chicago had the league’s MVP in the backcourt alongside Bogans.
But as the Bulls prepared for their first workout Friday at the Berto Center, management pulled him off the practice floor, a source told the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson. His quick story continued:
The Bulls hold a $1.73 million team option on Bogans. … According to league sources, Bogans’ contract officially is non-guaranteed and above the league minimum. With the Bulls exploring other shooting guard options, management is being careful and preventing Bogans from sustaining an injury.
Nevertheless, Bogans, who has been working out at the Berto Center for the last week, wasn’t happy with the move, according to a source.
As much as Thibodeau values what Bogans can do, the Bulls need an upgrade at shooting guard to take some of the offensive burden off Derrick Rose and keep defenses from overloading on the point guard.
General manager Gar Forman addressed Bogans’ limbo status in a statement, saying the team had until Dec. 19 to decide what to do with Bogans.
“Keith Bogans is under contract with the Bulls and we have a December 19th option on that contract. At this time, we are exploring several options in finalizing our roster. We have always respected Keith’s professionalism and we hope to have more clarity on this situation soon.”
Veteran Caron Butler met with Bulls execs as the week began before agreeing to a deal with the L.A. Clippers. Other names mentioned – Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford – might not be viable options for the $5 million in starting salary Chicago can offer, after word of Butler’s three-year, $24 million contract got out.
The Detroit News was reporting that veteran Richard Hamilton, bought out by the Pistons from the $25.2 million left on his deal over two years, might be headed to the Bulls. Denver’s Arron Afflalo would be a nice fit at both ends, but he is a restricted free agent and the Nuggets seem inclined to match any offer sheets. Another name mentioned was Vince Carter, who was waived by Phoenix. But Carter’s defense and Thibodeau’s demands there seem way out of synch.
It’s possible that, upgrade or not, Bogans stays put in a backup role. Or, depending how the market shakes out, the Bulls could go with their committee of Bogans, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, same as last season. Having $11 million tied up in those three players isn’t the same thing, of course, as having one $11 million regular at the spot.
“Keith had a great year for us,” Thibodeau said recently. “The things he brought to our team were exactly what I thought he would bring. He played his role perfectly – great defense, guarded twos, threes, was tough, physical, shot 38 [percent] from [3-point range], took spot-ups. He did his job. So I have no problem with Keith at all. He was a very valuable member of our team.”
Just not a contributing member on a cautious first day of camp, it seemed.