NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Bulls GM won’t overhaul roster, vows no ‘rash decisions’— As the Chicago Bulls and their fans are still getting over losing star Derrick Rose for the season, General Manager Gar Forman is tasked with looking to what comes next and answering questions about the future of the team. In interviews with both ESPNChicago.com’s Melissa Isaacson and Bulls.com’s Sam Smith, Forman reveals that the Bulls won’t be making any hasty moves with the roster and further discusses Rose’s recovery process.
First, here is Forman talking with Issacson on his plans to keep the roster as-is:
Calling Derrick Rose’s torn medial meniscus in his right knee “a freak injury,” Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Tuesday the team is “positioned well” and has no immediate plans to make dramatic changes to the roster.
“With this type of injury, he should come back 100 percent,” Forman said by phone with ESPNChicago.com, a day after Rose had surgery that will sideline him the rest of the season. “With the previous [ACL] injury, that leg is strong and we saw the explosiveness and reactivity and speed, and then it was just [a matter of] getting into rhythm.
“Though this is a severe injury, it’s not as severe as the other. He’ll get over it and be able to get his career back to the highest level.”
Saying Rose is “really out” for the season, despite the Bulls’ potential postseason activity, Forman said it is premature to talk about potential trades or, as much as the team’s fan base and media have suggested, re-building.
“This just happened. It’s too early to start to go down that road,” Forman said. “From an organizational standpoint, our front office, not just this year but every year, we always evaluate our team, where we’re at, how we can get better. …
“We’re not going to make rash decisions. We feel we have a bright future ahead and we’re positioned well. We have good players in their 20s, Derrick is going to come back, we’re positioned well with draft picks into the future and we have some level of flexibility which we haven’t had under this new CBA.”
In an interview with Smith, Forman opens up more about the look of the roster, Rose’s recovery and other topics:
Question: How was Derrick’s surgery and why did he choose this option which will keep him out the entire 2013-14 NBA season?
Forman: This was the best procedure for Derrick’s long-term health. That is our primary concern. Whatever is best for Derrick in the long term as a 25-year-old athlete was our first thought. And what’s best for Derrick is best for the franchise. He’s still young, has a very long career ahead of him and there’s no reason after talking to the surgeons Derrick will not return 100 percent. This particular option gave him the best chance for long-term success.
Question: Couldn’t they have gone with the short-term option to bring him back sooner?
Forman: We are never going to be shortsighted when it comes to a player and his health. The decision had been made to repair it if possible. Once the surgeons saw how good the tissue looked, they stayed with that option. To do otherwise could have made the knee less stable and increase the risks down the road as we’ve seen with other NBA players. Given the circumstances, the procedure and outcome was as good as could be expected.
Question: Last year you never said when Derrick would return and there were updates that suggested it would be before the end of the season. And that was a more serious injury. Why now is he out for the entire season?
Forman: Last year we really didn’t know and Derrick didn’t, either. Remember, Jerry Reinsdorf always said last year we were going to be conservative and that Derrick would not be coming back until he was 100 percent ready. This time it’s clear that he won’t be able to return.
Question: What about this team? Where do you go from here knowing you probably can no longer win a championship this season without Derrick.
Forman: Look, I think Tom [Thibodeau] said it well Sunday. The core of this team has been through this before. And they’ve had a level of success pulling together. That’s what they’ve shown they’re about. It’s obviously tough for them, but that’s why we have so much faith in this team, because of the way these players have responded to adversity and always played at a high level. So we feel they’re the kind of people and players who will pull together again.
Question: But do they have enough to still be competitive?
Forman: There’s still a lot of talent on this team. There’s two guys who were All-Stars a year ago in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, is a high level player who was among the leaders in double-doubles in the league last season, Jimmy Butler when he comes back and we saw last season what he can do, Taj [Gibson], who has had a very good start. There’s Kirk [Hinrich], whose proven to be one of the top defensive guards in the league, Mike Dunleavy, one of the best three-point shooters in basketball. And this will give Marquis Teague and Tony Snell an opportunity grow.
Question: But given you probably cannot win a title this season, why not make changes for the future?
Forman: It’s obviously too soon to go down that road. Derrick had surgery this morning. Look, we are always evaluating our team, just like everyone else does. We felt good about this season, but we were hardly perfect. So we always are looking to get better. Everything we do is geared toward winning a championship and we will continue to evaluate any moves that will help us in attaining that goal.
Question: Why didn’t you at least keep Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson?
Forman: In the summer of 2012, we were putting together a team to play without Derrick Rose. Though there was a possibility he could return, we approached that off season as though he may not. So we added players who would fill in for Derrick as no one can replace a Derrick Rose. But this season we expected to have Derrick. And we had Kirk Hinrich moving to a backup guard position and you’ve been able to see how well that was working with Kirk behind Derrick. Then we added Mike Dunleavy because his stretch the floor shooting fit the best with Derrick, and you can see what we saw in Mike and how well he shoots the ball from three-point range.
Question: OK, now you know Derrick is gone for this season. Why not trade some of your players for future possibilities, young players or draft picks and begin rebuilding?
Forman: It’s still too early in the process and we’re not going to make any rash decisions. We feel there is a bright future ahead and we believe we are positioned well. Look, we fully expect Derrick to come back 100 percent for next season. This basically was a freak injury. This was not due to the ACL or some fatigue of other factor. We have a young nucleus of veterans basically in their 20’s; we have multiple draft picks, including a pick from Charlotte in one of the next three drafts; we have the rights to Nikola Mirotic, who has been the best young payer in Europe the last two years. I know people get tired of hearing it sometimes, but we also have the possibility of flexibility in free agency this summer or next. So we feel we are in a good position, and we will be getting Derrick back.
Question: But can you trust Rose now after these injuries?
Forman: We see no reason not to. That’s what the best doctors in the world tell us. His left knee is strong, as everyone has seen, and his right knee will be strong as any doctor will tell you after this surgery. We’ve seen with many current All-Stars go through the same procedure.
No. 2: Kupchack: No extension talks yet with Gasol — On Monday, the Lakers showed they were committed to making star guard Kobe Bryant a Laker for life by agreeing to terms with him on a two-year, reported $48.5 million extension. The man who helped Bryant to his two post-Shaquille O’Neal titles, Pau Gasol, is a free agent this summer. So is Gasol in line for an extension as well? According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin, both Gasol and GM Mitch Kupchack say they have yet to have discussions about that topic:
“We have not had any discussions with Pau,” Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Tuesday on a conference call with a small group of reporters. “I’m sure I will and where that leads I’m not sure right now. A lot has to do with different variables. I’m not saying that something won’t be considered and I’m not saying that something will be. I’m just saying that it’s not something that came up and it wouldn’t have come up before (Monday) anyway. There was no reason for anything to take place until we signed Kobe. So, we’ll kind of roll with that and see where it leads.”
Gasol, 33, is averaging 14.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season, but shooting just 42.1 percent from the field. His play has been on an uptick of late, as he put up consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound games after dealing with foot discomfort and a respiratory issue for much of the early portion of the season.
The 13-year veteran said that he did not know if Bryant’s deal means that the Lakers will also want to negotiate with him before the season ends.
“I try not to make that assumption,” Gasol said after shootaround Tuesday in advance of the Lakers game against the Washington Wizards. “If I am, I will. If I’m not . . . I’m just focusing on trying to play as well as I can and finish the season as good as I can so I’m in the best position as possible for next year. That’s just my mindset about it.”
Gasol said that he had not spoken to Bryant about the extension yet, noting that the Lakers’ star guard was sitting behind him on the team plane when they took their cross-country flight Monday.
“I think he was soundly asleep,” Gasol said. “I think he was peaceful . . . I’m sure he was happy.”
Is Gasol happy about Bryant taking up $23.5 million of the expected $62.9 million salary cap for next season on his own? Will that leave anything for him to sign for?
“I don’t really think about that,” Gasol said. “I thought it was a good extension for him. He’s the face of the Lakers, pretty much. So, I just think it caught a lot of people off guard unexpectedly without him being back playing and showing how well has he recovered from that injury. Other than that, it was a great extension for him.
“As far as me, or the team which is I’m most concerned about, how can you add other pieces around him and valuable pieces so we can win a title. But that’s the only concern. I’m not good with the mathematics and the numbers of the equation here, but that’s the only concern.”
No. 3: Shaw tries unique method to help Nuggets at line — Our own Jeff Caplan has a great story on Ty Lawson and how the lightning-quick point guard has thrived in new coach Brian Shaw‘s offense that is worth a read if you missed it. While Denver is finding its footing again as a solid team in the West, it continues to struggle with free throw shooting as the Nuggets shoot 69.9 percent from the stripe, third-worst in the NBA. According to Caplan, though, Shaw has tried to create an incentive for players to try and make more foul shots:
Frustrated by more bricks than he can stand from his team at the free throw line, an idea popped into the head of Nuggets coach Brian Shaw at the end of the team’s Monday morning shootaround in Dallas.
“What I did was I joked with the guys that the safest place in the building to stand when we’re at the free throw line is right underneath the net,” Shaw said. “So I gave everybody on the team basically a chance to shoot a free throw with myself standing under the net with my hands down, where if they made it the ball would hit me on top of the head.”
As a team the Nuggets are shooting an abysmal 69.9 percent from the stripe, 28th in the NBA. Four of the team’s starters shoot below 70 percent with J.J. Hickson below 60 percent.
Denver was coming off a 102-100 win against Dallas on Saturday in which they were 21-for-30 from the free throw line. A better showing at the line and the game might not have been such a nail-biter down the stretch.
“At this point I’m trying by any means necessary to get us shooting free throws better,” Shaw said. “The guys who hit me the most — well, Kenneth Faried actually got two hits on me — but the guys that haven’t really had an opportunity to play as much were the ones that were really, really aiming for me.”
No. 4: Sixers credit Brown for creating fitness focus — As of this morning, the Sixers are second in the Atlantic Division and are just a half-game behind Washington for the East’s No. 8 seed. We’re still a long way from clinching playoff berths in the NBA, but worth noting is that Philly is exceeding expectations and much of that is a credit to new coach Brett Brown and the team’s fastbreaking ways. The Sixers lead the NBA in both fast-break points per game (18.3) and pace (102.4 points per 100 possessions), a credit to the emphasis Brown placed on fitness in the offseason, writes Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com:
The ongoing theme with the Sixers when asked about their Maine-born coach with the thickest of New England accents is that Brett Brown speaks nonstop about “career-best fitness.”
While that phrase might have been annoying at first to Brown’s players, that is no longer the case. The Sixers are clearly reaping the benefits of the head coach’s hard stance on being in shape.
“First we had to do a conditioning test and then we had to drop weight,” said Evan Turner, who is down nine pounds and 2½ percent body fat. “He told us what weight he wanted us to be at. He was kind of nice about it, but he wasn’t if you didn’t hit that weight number. That was key.”
For a guy like Tony Wroten, who is in just his second NBA season, Brown’s approach is what the guard grew accustomed to in college at Washington.
“In college, you run around and do a lot of conditioning,” Wroten said. “When I first got here, not only did the coach e-mail me about it but also the strength and conditioning coaches, what summer was going to be like and this is what we are going to do.
“I knew they were serious. At the time, I was like what is this? This is like college, but Coach always says it is going to pay off in the long run and it has. We can run at the end of games. We are still pacing, so working on it in the summer helped a lot.”
Wroten isn’t just drawing on his own experiences out on the court. He has also witnessed the impact of the Sixers’ focus on fitness in his teammates.
“In film the other day, in the fourth quarter you see Mike [Carter-Williams] picking up full court,” said Wroten, who missed Saturday’s game with back spasms. “In the NBA, no one plays full court at all, but for him to be able to do that in the fourth when we only had seven, eight people and he had played a lot of minutes [was key]. It showed the little things.
“Sometimes teams will say to us, ‘Are you guys ever going to stop running?’ And they are serious, but at the end of the day we are going to keep running, keep running and keep running.”
Brown stresses that what the Sixers are doing with fitness is not groundbreaking. He says the NBA’s 29 other teams implement the same mentality but maybe not as strongly.
“It is all about recovery,” Brown said. “Playing 82 games, back-to-back games, how do you back it up? What do you do on a plane if you are flying? It is the people who take care of their bodies and are prideful with their diet, nutrition and hydration and massages and ice down.
“All the programs do it, so it isn’t like we found something tricky. We just want to be responsible with it and proactive with it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Warriors forward Andre Iguodala will miss at least the team’s next three games … Nets coach Jason Kidd gets a fresh vote of confidence from GM Billy King … Jermaine O’Neal apparently gave quite the inspiring speech during Golden State’s win last night
ICYMI Of The Night: Magic rookie Victor Oladipo lets loose with a vicious jam over a couple of Atlanta Hawks defenders …