Posts Tagged ‘John Paxson’

Morning shootaround — Feb. 27


VIDEO: Highlights for games played Feb. 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls hoping for quick Rose return | Paul George returns to practice | Earl Lloyd passes away | Buyouts not working out for Clippers | Rip Hamilton retires

No. 1: Bulls hoping for quick Rose return — When it was announced earlier this week that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose would need knee surgery, many jumped to the belief that he would miss the rest of the season and postseason. But in a press conference yesterday, Bulls management was bullish on the belief that Rose could be back by the end of the season, and be ready for the playoffs, following surgery scheduled for today, writes K.C. Johnson in the Chicago Tribune

The procedure, which team physician Brian Cole will perform, is a removal of part or all of the meniscus. This type of procedure typically is used to address subsequent tears of the meniscus that Rose originally tore in November 2013.

In that surgery, which Cole also performed, Rose’s meniscus was repaired or reattached, and he missed the remainder of the 2013-14 season. A meniscectomy typically involves a shorter rehabilitation period.

The Tribune, citing sources, has reported there is considerable optimism that Rose’s second meniscus tear is small. Until the surgery is performed and Cole determines how much of the meniscus needs to be trimmed, it’s unknown what the timetable for Rose’s return is.

The Bulls said general manager Gar Forman will address that issue after the surgery. At the team’s annual charity event Thursday night, a feeling of hopeful optimism emanated from team officials.

“Nothing’s an easy procedure, but our anticipation is that there’s an area that’s going to get taken care of and the hope is that he will (play this season),” executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said.

Added Forman: “I don’t want to speculate until (Cole) goes in (Rose’s knee), but we’re certainly hopeful.”

(more…)

Report: Relationship between Bulls, Thibodeau ‘beyond repair’


VIDEO: Tom Thibodeau tries to fire up his team during a game against Sacramento

One of the more fascinating coach-management relationships lives on in Chicago, where Tom Thibodeau is either a valuable commodity or expendable as Tim Floyd, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day in the executive office. And if you know Chicago, that wind can get pretty blustery pretty quickly.

At least, that’s our impression, anyway. Anytime the subject is Thibodeau and the front office, the signals are always mixed and nobody’s willing to set the record straight.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that the relationship between Thibodeau and the Bulls is “beyond repair”:

Several times over the years, Tom Thibodeau has reminded all how Tim Duncan averaged nearly 40 minutes in his first six seasons with the Spurs. He did it again Tuesday night before the Bulls’ overtime victory over the Warriors.

Thibodeau routinely has made reference to how Phil Jackson rarely took Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen off the court during the Bulls dynasty. He also did that again in one of his next breaths after his Duncan point.

The Bulls coach has hammered home the theme of needing full participation in practice to build chemistry and continuity from the first day in training camp, when management and the medical staff placed restrictions on players.

But Thibodeau never had done so in such all-encompassing fashion as he did before and after one of the Bulls’ most important victories of the season. And he certainly hadn’t done so since ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy accused Bulls management of undermining Thibodeau, pulling back the curtain anew on that frayed relationship.

“The more you practice, the better you practice, the better you’re going to play,” Thibodeau said after the stirring victory. “That’s time-tested, age-old, however else you want to describe it. That’s what you gotta do if you want to win.”

That Thibodeau said this the night before he merely had a film session and players worked out individually — no official practice serving as his nod to the Bulls’ three-games-in-four-nights schedule — should remind all that a coach can’t spend two-plus decades in the NBA without knowing how to pace a team.

But it also underscored how, despite last week’s team meeting instead of a practice, Thibodeau isn’t going to change, even while the speculation about his long-term future with the Bulls continues. Despite the two seasons left on the four-year extension Thibodeau took several months to sign in the 2012-13 season, several league sources believe Thibodeau’s relationship with management is beyond repair.

And while there are no plans to replace Thibodeau during the season, a mutual parting of the ways after this season wouldn’t surprise many league personnel familiar with the deteriorating dynamic.

Additionally, in a Q&A with Sam Amick of USA Today, Thibodeau stands up for his practices as a coach, which some may consider hard-charging and stubborn:

Yet as Thibodeau made clear, he’s not the least bit concerned with those who keep questioning his hard-driving ways. He’ll charge on, unapologetic and – as always – unshaken.

“You want to be a championship team, there’s a price to pay,” Thibodeau declares. “And that’s what you have to do. There’s no shortcuts. You can’t shortcut your way to success … I’m going to give everything I have each and every day, and I have no regrets.”

Q: What about the idea that no one in the league pushes their players quite like you do? Do you even agree with that premise that has essentially become like gospel?

A: “No. Listen, I’ve been around a long time. There are so many different ways to pace your team. Like everyone, (outsiders) look at minutes but they don’t know what’s going on in practice. They don’t know how much contact you have (in practice). They don’t know what your philosophy is in terms of days off. Is (practice) after back to backs? Is first day of a road trip? Is (practice) a day off after never more than three consecutive days? Whatever it might be, there’s a lot that goes into it. But you also – if you’re looking at performance and how you can get the best out of people – there’s a reason why teams have success over a long period of time. You have to have core values. What do you believe in? Do you believe in hard work? Do you believe in discipline? Do you believe in conditioning? Because those are the things I know that do work.

“So I’m not surprised if the play is up and down and it’s been sporadic in terms of – can you practice or not practice? No, practice is important. The regular season is important. Your meetings are important. Your walk-through is important. Everything is important. You want to be a championship team, there’s a price to pay. And that’s what you have to do. There’s no shortcuts. You can’t shortcut your way to success.”

Then, on Thursday afternoon, GM Gar Forman responded to the chatter thusly:

On the surface, Thibs should be a keeper. His teams win and the Bulls thrive even with injury roadblocks. The players, from what we gather, respect his attention to detail and his devotion. And with all due respect to the Atlanta Hawks, the general vibe has Chicago as the odds-on favorite to emerge from the East this summer.

But man, ever since he got the job, there have been more whispers than you hear in Sunday church.

It usually begins with anonymous sources, or “word has it” or “the feeling from inside the organization” or “the talk among those in the coaching fraternity” or even more blatantly, “Jeff Van Gundy‘s strong opinion. Whether real or imagined (and maybe both are true), there are forces between Thibs and the front office, meaning Foreman and John Paxson  the GM and VP, respectively — which are destined to grease Thibs’ exit this summer if not shortly after.

When he took the job in 2010, it was considered a coup by Chicago. Thibbs was the long-time assistant who was the brains behind the Boston Celtics’ defense, an assistant so respected for his defense that Boston paid handsomely to keep him around. Then-coach Doc Rivers even allowed him to call plays from the bench. Thibs followed Vinny Del Negro in Chicago (who was once physically threatened by Paxson during a disagreement), so Thibs had to be an upgrade all around, right?

Yes, he was. The Bulls improved by 21 wins (yes, it was Derrick Rose‘s MVP season, but still) and ever since have constantly ranked high defensively. Chicago loved the gravelly-voiced coach whose style seemed to fit Chicago: gruff yet fair, hard-working and fiercely competitive. He was the new Mike Ditka.

This is even better: Rose has missed pretty much two full seasons since, and is still rounding into form. Joakim Noah has been in and out of the lineup for two years himself … and the Bulls kept winning. Thibs did his best job the last two years when, without Rose, the Bulls stayed competitive in the playoffs against healthier and better teams.

The fraying began, however, almost immediately. Management forced Thibodeau to fire his right hand man, Ron Adams, two years ago and Thibbs has steamed about it ever since. Foreman has never given a reason publicly about the move, which has only fueled all the speculation between Foreman and Thibbs, who took his sweet time signing a contract extension, perhaps as a silent protest.

Now, suddenly, word is (there’s that clause again) that the front office is unhappy with the minutes Thibbs is giving to certain players, is worried about the Bulls’ defense and is beginning to tell Thibodeau how to tweak his rotation.

And then came the Van Gundy hurricane.

During a recent telecast, Van Gundy, without prompting, began throwing verbal haymakers at the Bulls’ front office. He was essentially calling them out for making it tough on Thibs. (Thibs was once an assistant under Van Gundy in New York.)

The only problem I had was Van Gundy spoke in generalities. If he was so upset, and claimed to have inside info, why didn’t he speak in specifics? If he was so sure Thibbs is being roughed up internally, why not call out Foreman, Paxson or even owner Jerry Reinsdorf and say exactly what was happening? It’s not that Van Gundy doesn’t know. Why did Van Gundy just blame the media, which he accused of being in the back pocket of Bulls management?

Once again the Bulls are in the hunt for a conference title despite injuries. Their offense has always been so-so under Thibbs, and the defensive intensity has waned a bit. But come spring, it’s very likely the road to the title will go through the United Center.

If it doesn’t, does that mean the Bulls will give Thibs the heave? If so, they’d better have a good replacement. Or maybe, with two more years left on his contract, they’ll give Thibs permission to speak with other teams and ask for compensation.

 

Bulls’ Butler a high-volatility stock


VIDEO: Butler plays preseason hero against Hawks

Asterisks abounded Thursday night, when Jimmy Butler went vintage-Derrick Rose – or one-off-Michael Jordan – down the stretch against the Atlanta Hawks.

* Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau had starters, including Butler, on the floor late in the Bulls’ mostly dismal performance.

* His Atlanta counterpart, Mike Budenholzer, was rolling with third-string Hawks.

* Rose, the Bulls player who would normally be called upon at such a point, was on the bench (prompting some predictable hand-wringing from critics who aren’t happy when the point guard plays a lot or when he plays a little).

* It still was the preseason.

* And Butler is in the midst of a salary drive, his performances this month potentially out of character, with the real impact of deal-or-no-deal in his contract extension talks to be determined later.

Still, the Bulls shooting guard did score 29 points – one more than his career high in three NBA seasons – in his team’s scramble back from 21 points to win. Butler got 20 of those in the final 5:11, an explosive stretch that might have been aided by the various asterisks but explosive nonetheless.

He did it, too, in ways that made the worriers feel a little better about Butler’s offense – no one questions his defensive effort or effectiveness – at a position where Chicago needs more oomph. Butler, who shot 39.7 percent from the floor (28.3 percent on 3-pointers), dramatically beat the buzzer from 26 feet in good form. He wound up shooting 8-for-14 and 12-for-16 from the line (9-for-11 in the fourth), and got some big love from teammates.

“We always tell him to take more [shots], but it’s going to be up to him to break that seal,” Rose said. “Thank God that he’s catching his rhythm right now and he’s building his confidence. He’s another threat offensively.”

Not last year, he wasn’t. But Thibodeau played Butler long minutes anyway, for his defense, out of need and in spite of distractions coming at the wing player from Marquette. Butler battled injuries early, played only eight games with Rose before the point guard went down again, then had his role tweaked after the Bulls traded veteran small forward Luol Deng in January.

“Jimmy has grown,” Thibodeau said Thursday night. “He’s more a scorer than to characterize him as a straight shooter. He’s an all-around scorer. He’ll find ways to put the ball in the basket.”

Butler, though you’d wonder where it came from, is said to have arrived at camp 10 pounds lighter. He looks more athletic and clearly has been more aggressive, leading Chicago after five October games with 18.6 points, 60.4 field-goal shooting, 43 free throw attempts and 144 total minutes.

“All summer I worked on my game. The biggest thing is confidence, taking shots I know I can make,” he said.

So, salary drive? Butler has two weeks left to land, per NBA rookie-scale rules, the contract extension available to players heading into their fourth seasons. Two years ago, Bulls forward Taj Gibson felt preseason pressure while his talks played out, and though he got his deal (four years, $33 million), the episode seemed to bleed into a subpar season. Butler has some folks wondering if he might go the other way if he gets paid – throttling back – or be adversely affected if he doesn’t get the extension done.

He said Thursday it hasn’t been a distraction. “Nope. Not at all,” Butler said. “I just try to play the game the right way. The whole contract situation is up to my agent (Happy Walters) and the Bulls organization. I just want to win games. Then the contract will take care of itself, whenever.”

And however much. The market for Butler figures to be as hot as it is fluid. Chicago reportedly would like to sign him now for what’s becoming called “Taj money,” close to Gibson’s 2012 extension. Butler might be anchored more by the three-year, $30 million, take-it-or-leave-it offer the Bulls put in front of Deng before trading him.

Then there’s the unpredictable marketplace of free agency, even with restrictions, should Butler get that far. Gordon Hayward landed his four-year, $63 million max deal that way – offer sheet from Charlotte, matched by Utah – and Chandler Parsons scored a three-year, $46 million contract with Dallas. And if Butler, who will make $2 million this season, were to play this out twice on a year-by-year basis, he would hit the unrestricted marked in 2016 as the new bonanza of TV rights cash officially kicks in.

Bulls VP of basketball John Paxson and GM Gar Forman, who will already have $50 million committed to four players next season (Rose, Gibson, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol), won’t have Thibodeau at the bargaining table, that’s for sure. The coach who has leaned hard on Butler for two years will look to him even more.

Chicago added shooters over the summer but after Rose, Butler is the best choice to put real pressure on opponents, getting to the rim, getting to the line, throwing himself around to wreak havoc and create energy on nights when there’s none, like Thursday. With Deng’s departure, he is the defender who will draw the toughest assignments, the only one Thibodeau trusts to check other guys’ most potent scorers.

Butler was drafted last in the first round in 2011 and still sounds like an absolute underdog. “I’m from Tomball, [Texas],” he said earlier this week. “I’m not even supposed to be in the NBA, let alone be a star player. I just want to be wanted. I just want to play hard. I just want to help [us] win. End of story. Star player, role player, bench player, whatever it takes. Just let me win.”

Oh, Butler definitely is going to win, either with the Bulls or someone else. In this case, the victory will be noted not by a ‘W’ or an * but by a bunch of $’s.

Morning Shootaround — August 2



VIDEO: Paul George’s injury halts Team USA’s scrimmage in Las Vegas

NEWS OF THE MORNING
George has surgery after suffering gruesome injury | Parker signs extension | Rose high on Bulls squad | Wade drops weight

No. 1: George suffers gruesome leg fracture — Indiana Pacers All-Star small forward Paul George suffered an open tibia-fibula fracture during Team USA’s scrimmage and is expected to remain hospitalized for about three days, USA Basketball confirmed in a statement released after surgery was completed. The gruesome injury sent George away on a stretcher with his parents by his side and ended the men’s national team scrimmage early in the fourth quarter. NBA.com’s John Schuhmann was on the scene:

In the first minute of the fourth quarter of the USA Basketball Showcase on Friday, George attempted to block a James Harden layup on a fast break. On his landing, his right leg buckled as it hit the basket support.

Players around George were shaken by what they saw. As George received medical attention on the baseline of the Thomas & Mack Center, his mother and father came down from the crowd and were by his side. Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was also in attendance.

“[George] appeared, like, stoic,” USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said afterward. “They allowed his father to touch him and to comfort him. I thought our trainers did a great job, right away, of making sure, emotionally, he was as good as possible. But Paul reacted well.”

Both teams gathered together in prayer before George was taken away in a stretcher. And there was a universal decision to end the game with 9:33 to go.

“With the serious injury that we had,” Krzyzewski announced to the assembled crowd, “and the fact that we stopped playing for a long time and, really, in respect for Paul and his family, the scrimmage is done. We want to thank you for your support.”

Afterward, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said that there would be no decisions on the USA roster “for a while.”

“We need to just take a step back before we do anything at all,” Colangelo said. “Our first concern, our primary concern is Paul George.”

Colangelo and Krzyzewski said that they would be heading to the hospital immediately after speaking to the media. They had been set to cut the roster down from 20 to 15, likely early Saturday. But the team is not scheduled to reconvene until Aug. 14 in Chicago and there’s no urgency to make any decisions now.

Before George’s injury, Friday night was about the performance of Derrick Rose, who looked as quick and explosive as ever in his first game in almost nine months. But just as the USA and the NBA got one star back, it lost another. George was set to be the starting small forward for the U.S. Team at the World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Spain. And though there are no details on his injury as of yet, it is likely to keep him out several months.

“We are aware of the injury sustained by Paul George in Friday night’s Team USA game in Las Vegas and we are obviously greatly concerned,” Pacers president Larry Bird said in a statement. “At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Paul.”


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses Paul George’s injury (more…)

Shots drop with McDermott, but Bulls waiting for other shoe, too


VIDEO: Bulls land McDermott in Draft night trade with Nuggets

CHICAGO – Doug McDermott plays basketball, an exhaustive Sports Illustrated article told us in March, in a “state of posthypnotic calm.”

The Chicago Bulls and their fans, however, conduct their pebble-grained business these day in a state of near-hysteria.

It would be nice if McDermott’s psychologist-induced sense of well-being and positive visualizations rubbed off on his new NBA team and its supporters. But it’s no small order. They would have to do like Doug – relax, count backward from five to one, then picture themselves at a beach. There, they would unburden themselves of all their anxieties – fears about Derrick Rose‘s long-term health, impatience over the newfound vulnerability of the Miami Heat, doubts about the Bulls’ front office and management’s commitment not just verbally but financially to chasing a championship with this core. Finally, as McDermott’s guru Jack Stark reportedly instructs him, they would pack that stuff in a box, place it on a raft and give it a push out to sea.

Problem is, for Bulls fans, that moment of serenity only would last if they envisioned Carmelo Anthony rowing ashore, right past the driftting box of toxins, flashing a big smile, waving a diminished contract and wearing a red-and-black Bulls uniform.

Or LeBron James. Or Kevin Love.

McDermott’s arrival Thursday night in the 2014 Draft – in a swap-o-rama move in which Chicago turned its Nos. 16 and 19 first-round picks into Denver’s No. 11, the Bulls landing Creighton’s irrepressible scorer and the Nuggets opting for Croatian center Jusuf Nurkic and Michigan State guard Gary Harris – immediately got judged for how it might lead to the Bulls fans’ free-agent imaginings.

If that happens, it will cast McDermott, the Draft, VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman and everything else leading up to the 2014-15 season in a warm, fuzzy light.

If it doesn’t, the switch will flip quickly to overhead fluorescence, the decision judged starkly for what it is and what it isn’t.

But then, why wait? Better to know the floor for how this might or might not help Chicago splice a different ending on the plucky overachievers-turned-early eliminatees movie that’s been playing on a loop in The Loop.

McDermott is a scorer who did so constantly and resourcefully at Creighton, shaking off top-priority game-planning by opposing defenses to amass 3,150 points in his four NCAA seasons. He averaged 26.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting as a senior, including 45 percent from the college 3-point line. He’ll bring his nose for the net to a Bulls club that was offensively challenged, desperate for points in Rose’s absence and determined to spread the floor for their point guard if he does return healthy.

Both Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau all but wagged fingers at media folks who characterized McDermott strictly as a shooter – “He’s a lot more than that,” said Thibodeau, who will find out soon enough at the floor’s other end. But as far as judging McDermott’s addition on the court as a rookie, he likely will look like that deep-threat mischaracterization.

That’s not bad. But it only scratches the surface for why Chicago made this move.

McDermott’s strengths overlap enough with Mike Dunleavy that, now, the 12-year veteran and his $3.3 million salary are in play. Possibly in a sign-and-trade for Anthony, the scorer many Bulls fans believe will complement Rose, solve the team’s biggest problem and propel them back to the Eastern Conference finals.

It’s not just Dunleavy’s salary. It’s the money Chicago saved by turning two guaranteed first-round contracts into one. It’s the cap space it will free up once the Bulls invoke their long-anticipated amnesty cleanse of forward Carlos Boozer‘s $16.8 million.

Rolled together, those and a few minor tweaks could give Chicago about $12 million to $13 million to offer Anthony – or theoretically James, a real long shot – as the starting salary of a four-year contract. Without going backward – shedding key players such as Taj Gibson or Jimmy Butler – in a stab at going forward.

Might it happen? Might Anthony choose to kiss buh-bye a far more lucrative offer from his most recent team, the Knicks (who can pay him $129 million over five seasons)? Might he bank $30 million or $40 million on Rose’s prognosis and, let’s face it, luck, choosing that over new N.Y. boss Phil Jackson‘s proven jewelry box?

Sure. He might. James might go back to Cleveland, too. Love might run off and join his uncle’s band.

But without a big play in free agency, what the Bulls did on draft night won’t rise beyond a modest play for shooting and spacing. Nothing wrong with that, just as there was nothing really wrong four years ago in landing Boozer and a more experienced sharpshooter from Creighton. If McDermott can learn to defend and pass at the NBA level like Kyle Korver, while shooting as well or better, it’s a solid move.

It just won’t induce any state of calm and well-being around United Center, not without pharmaceuticals.

Trading Deng Reinforces Bulls’ Top-Down Reputation

Chicago Bulls v Dallas Mavericks

The handling of Luol Deng could affect Chicago’s free agency appeal. (Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Luol Deng was gone from Chicago sooner or later, so the Bulls were simply taking care of business in a responsible and pre-emptive manner when they made sure it was the former Tuesday, trading Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fungible contract of center Andrew Bynum and several future draft picks.

But… There’s often a but and it’s coming.

Deng and the Bulls already had parted ways, with only the calendar left to make it official. Chicago tried once more over the weekend to sign the two-time All-Star forward to a contract extension – an offer reported to be worth about $30 million over three seasons – and was rebuffed. Deng is determined to test free agency for the first time, convinced his value is closer to the $14.25 million annually he’s making this season. No “hometown discounts” for the Windy City (by way of South Sudan, London and Durham, N.C.) were in the offing.

So the something for which Bulls’ VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman pulled the trade trigger – salary-cap and luxury-tax relief in shedding Deng’s salary (and in cutting Bynum loose immediately) and a parcel of amorphous picks – clearly is better than the nothing they would get back this summer. Better probably, too, than any other offers between now and the February trade deadline.

So no quibble with the move here on that count.

No quibbles, either, about how Bulls’ recuperating MVP Derrick Rose and his camp might react to this veer into “rebuilding,” or how grinding head coach Tom Thibodeau might feel about losing the favorite, all-purpose tool on his belt in Deng.

If not for Rose’s second consecutive season-ending knee injury, the Bulls wouldn’t even have reached this crossroads of now vs. later. By next October, when he’ll try to return again as an elite player, Rose will have been paid about $35 million over two seasons to endure, yes, the physical and mental drudgery of rehab but to play only 10 games before his second knee blowout. That contract – a five-year, 30-percent-of-payroll deal in which the Bulls gave every available dollar – is part of the reason for the cap and tax considerations now.

As for Thibodeau, he and Deng had a solid partnership in which the coach maximized the player’s talents and value at both ends, while Deng did whatever was asked of him – sometimes too much. Injuries followed, along with Deng’s breakdown last spring in which he was hospitalized for spinal-tap complications and took issue with the Bulls’ handling of his room, his doctors and too little TLC from his bosses.

Paxson addressed that head-on Tuesday in a news conference, stating that he and others apologized to Deng over the summer. Yet those close to the 10-year veteran felt it caused a wee more separation from management and made him a little more wary of injuries and overuse this season (Deng missed nine games due to left Achilles soreness, trying to avoid a blowout rather than recover from one later).

Thibodeau? He coaches hard the bodies in uniforms in front of him, which is fine. Anything – like this trade – that makes winning more difficult or, to go to extremes, undesirable isn’t something for which the coach has much time. Even Paxson, in his honest and extended back-and-forth with reporters, acknowledged it, saying “We know what he’s facing. We’re not sitting up here saying, ‘Be happy about it.’ ”

But Thibs isn’t Doc Rivers, either, with a championship ring as a head coach or the lengthy resume of his former Boston boss. Navigating through a rebuild or overhaul or whatever the Bulls eventually label this comes in his job description. It’s his fourth season in charge of a team, he got and still has a better situation than many, and he has room for improvement, too.

OK, here comes the quibble: This won’t help the Bulls when it comes to attracting and signing top free agents.

It will, frankly, have the opposite effect in an area where they already have been underachievers.

And once the dust settles, this Deng trade will become another brick in the wall of Chicago’s player-unfriendly reputation.

Paxson took issue with that characterization Tuesday, but let’s face it, that old Jerry Krause-ism from deep into the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era – “Players don’t win championships. Organizations win championships,” Krause said – still has legs. The perception around the NBA, for a lot of players and their agents, is that Chicago, yes, is a behemoth and a profit monster that packs United Center, boasts plenty of banners and offers an enticing big-market platform for outside interests. But it also is run as top-down as any team in the league, sending messages to the locker room that no one – no player, no coach, not even Jordan in his day – is bigger than the organization.

That message was delivered 10 and 15 years ago by Jordan, Pippen and others to a generation of budding stars such as Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill and lingers to this day. When McGrady and Hill were free agents, Chicago was fine as a place to increase leverage, but did they actually sign there?

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade essentially enacted a similar charade in the summer of 2010, after the Bulls had opened up salary for one or two megastars. Carlos Boozer and a deep bench was a decent fallback position, but as things turned out, it was like finding an Acme tablet under the Christmas tree when you were hoping for an iPad. Then it might as well be underwear.

“I think we treat people fairly, players fairly,” Paxson said, challenging the reputation when it was raised. “I think we have a good way of going about our business.”

The only way to prove that, in the wake of waving goodbye to Deng (who did get a six-year, $71 million deal from the Bulls in 2008), his character and his “glueness” will be to turn all this talk about The Future into something tangible and game-changing for the present. If not James next summer in, sure, a way-way-way-long shot, then stashed Euro Nikola Mirotic and a notable second addition. Then something creative, say, for Kevin Love in 2015.

Paxson talked up the merits of depth and building with Rose rather than leaning on him so much, especially given the unknowns of his game going forward. But he also said: “Let’s face it, the league is a superstar league.”

Beyond Rose and the improbable fall of Ping-Pong balls in 2008, Chicago has been in search of one since 1998, when its titles ended and its management reputation lived on. Finishing multiple times as a bridesmaid in free agency, assiduously avoiding the luxury tax until last year, flushing out the Bench Mob from 2010-11 and 2011-12 for more affordable options, turning what was promised to be a basketball decision on Omer Asik into a financial one, even enabling Rose’s decision not to try a comeback last March or April – all recent examples of business first, winning second.

And now this trade. Some day, it might be the beloved Rose. After all, the respect and genuine affection with which Paxson, Thibodeau and regular ol’ staffers spoke of Deng as a player and, more so, as a person was hard to reconcile with the fact that nonetheless he is gone. He didn’t get an extension prior to the season. And other than by Thibs, he always seemed a little more valued from the outside – the East coaches picking All-Star subs, Kobe Bryant nixing any deal that sent Deng back to L.A. – than from the inside or even the UC stands.

Look, it’s a business for all 30 teams and for 400 players. It’s a business for the agents and the coaches and the media, too, and for everyone else who isn’t shelling out for tickets. Some franchises cloak it better than others. Some that try to buffer that for players wind up getting burned by their conglomerate/athletes. Some segment of the NBA fan base is even good with it all, focused always on what’s next and myriad options rather than the human beings on the court, in the jerseys, on the sideline.

But trades like Deng’s and days like Tuesday shine a harsh light on that, when the sport and passion and emotions benefit more from softer glows. And the Bulls are out there in the glare more than most. Anyone who doesn’t think their bottom-line approach strips the grout away from the tiles, loosening the already tenuous bonds of team and common goals, doesn’t much value intangibles in the first place.

Deng’s and Bynum’s contracts, as they say, were expiring assets. Well, we’re all expiring assets, but it’s no fun being reminded of it.

Rose To Leery Fans: Move On At Own Risk


VIDEO: Derrick Rose remains in good spirits despite season-ending injury

CHICAGO – The question, fairly deep into Derrick Rose‘s first media session of Season-Ending Knee Surgery Part II, hung in the air for several uncomfortable seconds. As camera shutters clicked and the lights burned hot, Rose blinked back and appeared to search. He asked for a clarification and got it:

What do you say to people who think the Chicago Bulls should move on from building around and counting on you?

“Um … what can I say to that?” Rose repeated, and at that instant seemed to stand at the crossroads of hurt and anger. Might he lash out, harsh meeting harsh? Might he tear up, his feeling and loyalty and love of his hometown city grabbing him by the throat?

Rose found a better path.

“Um … you could be a fool if you wanted to,” the Bulls’ hobbled point guard said, sparking some nervous laughter. “I’m dead serious. I know I’m gonna be all right.”

Rose spoke with such assuredness, and even bravado cloaked in his soft, lazy-paced monotone, that it was like lifting a boiling pot of water off the burner. Just like that, things calmed down a little. For the Bulls, for their fans, for a city more than a little battered and bruised lately by its sports teams (minus the hockey club).

After hearing Rose talk, only the staunchest critics and doomsayers would be able to push the blow-up-the-Bulls storyline, at least for a while. And they were the ones who started it in the first place, within hours of Rose suffering a torn medial meniscus in his right knee in the Nov. 22 game at Portland.

Surely this latest injury, layered onto the repaired anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that sidelined Rose from April 2012 until training camp two months ago, meant that the point guard whose game relies so much on quickness and explosiveness never would be as quick or as explosive again. Surely the championship window for this roster of Bulls had closed, and surely the team would need immediately to search anew for a cornerstone player.

Rose was having none of that Thursday, as he sat for reporters and photographers after the team’s shootaround at United Center. The Bulls were prepping to face the Miami Heat Thursday (9:30 ET) in the nightcap of TNT’s doubleheader that had a different backstory from when it was scheduled.

In fact, Rose cracked open the door a couple times that he might, maybe, possibly, could be playing again sooner than expected. Asked if there was any chance he could return to help a Bulls team in the playoffs, he said: “I mean, if I’m healthy and the situation is right, I’m going to be back playing. If I’m healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I’ll be out there playing.”

Say what? Then Rose came with the “but.”

“But, um, if it’s something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want to be, there’s no need.”

Given how cautiously Rose, his family and his agents handled his ACL rehab – blowing past the 8-10 month time frame offered by his doctors to wipe out 2012-13 entirely – and the fact that this time the Bulls’ front office declared him out for the rest of 2013-14, it seems highly unlikely that “the situation” will be completely, absolutely “right.”

But the Bulls, at 7-9 despite losing six of their past seven games, do play in the Eastern Conference. The talent that remains should be good enough to chase down a postseason berth and maybe even advance a round. Rose will be around the team much more this time, he said, compared to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach last season.

If this rehab, physically, gets fast-tracked the way Rose’s last one, mentally, got slow-tracked, who’s to say?

“Last year the rehab part and the training part, it was all new to me,” Rose said. “I didn’t like it. I did it because I wanted to get back on the court. But just going through it is hell.

“This year, I think it should be much easier, where I know what to do. I’m walking, I’m able to put pressure on my leg now. With the ACL I wasn’t able to put pressure on my leg … I wasn’t able to bend my leg for three or four months. I’m able to bend my leg right now after surgery. So this process, I think, should be a lot more smoother.”

This time, Rose said, he would be on the bench regularly. Still not really a part of things but more so, at least, than last time.

“For sure, just being around. Just be a leader. Let ‘em hear my voice,” he said. “I get a chance to look at a game a different way. Especially if I sit on the bench every game. I’ll look at it as a coach and just try to learn everything.”

He has given no thought to the changes that might come in his absence, such as All-Star forward Luol Deng‘s uncertain future (he will be a free agent this summer and thus could be traded before that). Or other personnel moves pursued by VP of basketball John Paxson and GM Gar Forman.

Again, he offered a glimmer of a sliver of … something sooner.

“I haven’t even thought about that,” Rose said. “I’ve just had time to worry about getting my leg together and to cheer on my teammates that I have on my team right now. There’s a chance I could come back….”

See that?

“… so I’m just sharing things on the court that I see and giving them advice and encouraging them to go out there and play well and give the game their all. That’s all I can do.”

Whenever he does – whether it’s four months from now or 10 – Rose will have played a total of just 50 games since the end of his 2011 MVP season. Two knee injuries and surgeries have even Chicago optimists speculating that he might have to alter his style of play, tweak his tendencies and go easier with the cutting, the leaping, the bursting through defensive seams and the attacking of rims.

Though ever affable, Rose wasn’t buying that either.

“That’s the way that I play,” he said. “I have a unique way of playing basketball. I don’t think I can change it.”

Rose said that the two games prior to his injury convinced him he was close to his old MVP form, so close that it was “heartbreaking” to get hurt at that point. He plans to add yoga and more pool time to his physical regimen to loosen up and relax his tightly muscled body.

But he doesn’t plan on grounding himself or settling for jump shots or trying to just be an average, clock-punching NBA player.

“No, not at all,” Rose said. “I believe that I’m a special player. I think people love the way I just play. I don’t try to impress anyone while I’m playing or anything. It’s just the way that I play. I just have a feel for the game. I know my story is far from done. I know it is. He’s just preparing me for something big.”

Rose was talking about faith, at this point. His religious faith and, in essence, the faith Bulls fans need to have through this latest challenge. In fact, asked what he would say to fans, the local hero was quite direct.

“That I’m not done,” Rose said. “I know that He’s preparing me for something bigger. Of course right now when you’re living in the moment, you just don’t understand certain things. But I think if I was to look 10 years from now or so, just being in the future and looking back, I think this is going to be minor.

“It’s something that just happened. And I’m never going to stop. Like I said, if I hurt myself 10 more times, I’m never gonna stop. Never.”


VIDEO: Rose — ‘I know I’m going to be all right’

Finding Things To Play For In Chicago

VIDEO: How the Bulls survive without Rose

CHICAGO – Defeat upon defeat has led rapidly to despair, and a Chicago Bulls team already demoralized by another season-ending injury to star point guard Derrick Rose soon might find itself on the verge of depression. Angry at the basketball gods, feeling sorry for themselves – that’s certainly no way to slog through the five long months that remain in the NBA regular season, months made tough enough in these parts by wind chills and salt trucks.

But a 1-6 stretch since Nov. 18, an exhausting triple-overtime home loss to New Orleans and a no-mercy NBA schedule that brings the two-time champion Miami Heat to town Thursday had the Bulls slumped in chairs and dead on their feet late Monday night. They had left town nearly two weeks earlier, eager to bond, Rose “close” to his pre-ACL surgery form, on their daunting annual “circus trip” (when United Center welcomes the clowns and elephants, sending the Bulls and the NHL Blackhawks on the road each November).

They didn’t come home with even a lousy T-shirt. Rose is gone again, done in by a torn meniscus in his right (other) knee this time. What remains, while a lot, was built to welcome and maximize his return, without alternate shot creators such as Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli. Mike Dunleavy was signed to spread the floor, his deep threat opening lanes for Rose.

This time, there’d been no time to prepare the roster, never mind the Bulls’ psyches, for such an outrageous loss of star power, confidence, swagger and ambition. Pluck? Overachievement? Chicago got its bellyful of that last time around, when the Bulls at least had the carrot of a Rose return dangled through the season’s second half.

This one was gonna hurt, and it has. The Bulls lost in Portland the night Rose went down, got blown out two days later by the Clippers in L.A., and – aside from a character victory in Detroit last Wednesday – has dropped overtime games to Utah and New Orleans and lost in the final seconds at Cleveland.

“In this league, you start feeling bad for yourself and the wolves come,” forward Taj Gibson said after the Pelicans loss. “The wolves aren’t going to feel sorry for you. Every team is going to come in smelling blood and feel like they need to get a win.”

“We’re showing a lot of fight,” coach Tom Thibodeau said, “and don’t have much to show for it.”

Clearly, that can’t continue. If the Bulls hope to make this season bearable not just for the customers and the TV cameras but for themselves – entertaining and successful are pretty much off the board – here are five targets toward which they can strive:

1. Develop your young players. Bulls VP John Paxson said that, whether by design or not, player development invariably looms larger for teams that suffer manpower outages. For Chicago, that means plumbing the skills and potential of rookies Tony Snell and Erik Murphy. Snell already has been tested more than expected, moving into the starting lineup when Jimmy Butler – who benefited from last season’s talent drain, especially late – went out with turf toe. Thibodeau likes Snell’s attitude and effort, and his high-arcing 3-pointers are a welcome variation on Butler’s clothesline attempts.

Developing players also means learning what’s not there, which has been the case so far with point guard Marquis Teague. The team’s first-round pick in 2012, Teague had a typical Bulls redshirt season as a rookie. But he hasn’t earned anyone’s confidence now in his second try and has fallen behind 38-year-old Mike James in the rotation. On Tuesday, Teague was assigned to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League.

2. Remember who you are. Everyone figured the Bulls would struggle offensively without Rose, both throughout the game and particularly at closing time. The other side of the ball didn’t figure to suffer as much, and yet Chicago’s defense has been way too Thibodeau-vexing through the first five weeks. Rebounding hasn’t been reliable and so far, teams have pelted them from 3-point range (the Bulls rank 29th in opponents’ percentage from there, .399). Prior to Monday’s marathon, Thibodeau recited the three tenets of staying close/winning games: Defense, rebounds and low turnovers. It’s who they’ve been, even through Rose absences, and it’s who they need to be again.

3. Lean on the front office. This means more than the obvious keep-him-or-trade him decision on two-time All-Star Luol Deng, who will hit free agency this summer. That one’s been getting the attention from Chicago’s fan base – Lose Deng for nothing? Get something now or take the cap space in July? – but Paxson and GM Gar Forman face other challenges.

Dunleavy, who signed a reasonable two-year, $6.5 million mid-level deal, could attract offers as the February trade deadline approaches. The frontcourt needed more size back when the Bulls were chasing a Larry O’Brien trophy, but the most pressing position now is point guard, where Kirk Hinrich is starting again and almost certain to break down from overuse. Teague and James make some sort of move imperative, whether it’s from the waiver wire, the D-League or off the street.

Longer term, Paxson and Forman face the harsh reality of building around a one-time MVP who will have played only 50 games in three years by the time he’s back on an NBA court. Gibson, Butler, Snell, center Joakim Noah and, if he’s back, Deng still would form a young-enough, talented-enough core. But the Bulls would need their Nikola Mirotic import plan to pan out, put to stellar use the future No. 1 they hold from Charlotte and get Rose back as undiminished as possible as a franchise guy. That’s a lot. And they can’t just rely on the lottery luck that delivered Rose.

4. Spoil other teams’ nights. That never gets old. Remember the satisfaction that came from ending Miami’s 27-game winning streak — without Rose available — at United Center last March? (Of course, payback might pinch a little Thursday.)

5. Remember, someone always is watching. That means possible trade partners and future employers. If Chicago can’t realistically hope to reach The Finals, its players and coaches can find ways to redefine and reinvent themselves. Find the next Butler, in Snell or whomever, who can provide the roster with a bonus player. Discover a closer in Rose’s absence so he has more help when he does come back.

For Deng – a machine since Rose went down – there is a market to make. Maybe for Carlos Boozer, too, if the Bulls finally pull the amnesty trigger next summer and he wants to keep playing. For Noah, it’s the mental chore of soldiering on without “Pooh” (Rose’s nickname). For Thibodeau, add wrinkles offensively (the Bulls already were doing that before Rose’s injury) and somehow manage minutes in a way that doesn’t grind guys to nubbins.

There’s much to be done and accomplished. It’s just … different now.


VIDEO: Pelicans battle past Bulls in triple OT

Schedule Rose’s Nights Off Now


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CHICAGO – If I’m Jerry Reinsdorf or John Paxson, one of the men running the Chicago Bulls and thus responsible for Derrick Rose‘s well-being, I’m picking up the phone sometime in the next two weeks for an advance ruling from the suits at NBA HQ in Olympic Tower.

The question: Is “DNP-precautionary move” an acceptable explanation in the box score for a player’s absence? Which really means, can the Bulls hold out Rose in his return season from knee surgery as they see fit this season, without either the threat of hefty fines from the league or the need to frighten their fan base by stipulating to “soreness” concerns?

If NBA commissioner David Stern is OK with that, then Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau needs to channel his inner Gregg Popovich and start circling in red dates on the schedule when he thinks A) Rose would benefit most from a night off, and B) his team likely could muddle through without the All-Star point guard. Naturally, A is way more important than B if Chicago wants to position itself for a serious postseason run, regardless of W-L record, home-court advantage or playoff seed.

Then again, if Stern were to decree that only injuries, exhaustion or off-court personal matters are legitimate reasons to not have a player on the floor for a regular season game – Popovich’s four-players-short charter flight to Miami last November put everyone on notice, after all – the Bulls still would have an out. They could play word games, citing “flu-like symptoms,” “tendinitis” or various, vague “strains” for the official record, fooling no one and triggering repeated wink-a-thons from November through April.

What they don’t want to do, though, is use that “soreness” explanation the way they did Saturday in holding Rose out of the preseason game against Washington in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Not now, not ever again if they can help it.

Given what the Bulls and their fans have gone through waiting for Rose to return from ACL surgery on his left knee – 75 weeks from his injury on April 28, 2012 to his first game action at Indiana nine days ago – anything even faintly resembling a setback or (gasp!) a shutdown would be borderline cruel. They need to at least feign being pro-active in spotting Rose time off when he needs it, rather than reacting to aches or pains after the fact and lapsing into another endless cycle of injuries in 2013-14.

Rose pronounced himself fine after Monday’s practice and said, had it been up to him, he would have faced the Wizards Saturday in one of the NBA’s high-profile global games. Thibodeau said Rose looked fine and that he expects both the point guard and center Joakim Noah (who has yet to play in the preseason) to face Detroit Wednesday at United Center.

Thibodeau cited multiple factors that played into the decision by the coaches, the team’s medical staff, VP Paxson and GM Gar Forman to have Rose sit. And they did term it a “precautionary move.”

“You’re concerned about anything that would keep a player out,” the coach told reporters Monday. “If he needs rest, he’s going to get rest. If he needs to play, he’ll play. He’s responded well to the challenges that he’s faced thus far. I didn’t like the idea of flying all night [Chicago to Brazil], not well-rested, some soreness – I didn’t want to take the chance of him being out there.”

Still, given the limited coverage and means of communication with the Bulls out of country, the mere mention of “knee” and “soreness” in the same area code, never mind sentence or paragraph, sent tremors through Chicago’s fan base and media. Some were nervous. Others were angry that what might be an expected two-steps-forward, one-back process didn’t start back in March or April, by which time Rose was pronounced healthy by doctors.

Paxson brushed that aside Saturday, and Rose wasn’t looking back much Monday either.

“Nervous, I can understand,” he said of the fans’ reaction. “But at the same time, I have to worry about myself and worry about my health. So as long as I’m healthy … and this is the preseason, to get all the wrinkles out. Regular season, I should be all right.”

Most people are realistic enough to not expect the 2010-11 MVP version of Rose to be on display this season, start to finish. What they’re hoping, though, is that no one is forced to rev up Rose Watch II, the endless daily monitoring and hand-wringing that wore out pretty much everyone last season.

Remember, even before he shredded his left ACL in the 2012 playoff opener, Rose had missed 27 of 66 games in the post-lockout season with assorted ailments. The Bulls were 32-7 when he played compared to 18-9 when he didn’t, and then they went 45-37 last season while not having Rose around at all.

What Chicago wants from them and from Rose will come, if it comes at all, next spring. If they get to that point by spotting him some nights off along the way – Thibodeau says there’s no plan to throttle back on back-to-back games, though that’s a logical place to look – everyone will be happier and this comeback season will go down more smoothly.

Finally getting Rose back in front of a United Center crowd Wednesday night against Detroit will be exciting for them all. Not using him up or pushing too hard in occasional similar games over the next six months simply would be wise. Sixty games, give or take, would seem a reasonable target.

But if Rose’s availability is reactive rather than pro-active (within the realistic bounds of sports injuries, anyway), one tedious season is going to stretch into two.

Don’t Blame It On Rio: Rose Sits, ‘Precaution’ That Revives Knee Issues

Derrick Rose’s return to action for the Chicago Bulls, one of the league’s compelling storylines as the 2013-14 season approaches, offered up its first plot twist Saturday.

Two weeks into the Bulls’ preseason grind of practices and games, Rose was held out against the Washington Wizards with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. The game’s setting – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – merely added an exotic backdrop to what the team claimed was a precautionary, and not unexpected, move.

Never mind what Rose’s absence Saturday meant to the folks in Rio, one of the NBA’s global exhibitions and presumably a little more important than run-of-the-mill October games. What matters is how Rose, his knee and the team respond once they get back to work this week at their Berto Center practice facility in Chicago’s north suburbs.

GM Gar Forman was urging fans and media to remain calm, minimizing the “soreness” that apparently developed in Rose’s knee at practice Friday. Said Forman, as reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

“It’s not a major red flag or a huge concern. He’s got some soreness and we wanted to be conservative with it at this point.”

Being conservative, though, is what has so many fans on high alert right now.

John Paxson, the team’s vice president of basketball operations, treated Saturday’s decision as standard operating procedure for any player returning from surgery as significant as Rose’s. Echoing what medical experts inside and outside the Bulls’ organization have said – there would be good nights, not-so-good nights, sore nights and rusty nights for Rose – Paxson said: “We never anticipated a straight line.”

That, of course, was one argument for having Rose return last March or April even if it didn’t translate into a title run: Work through those ups and downs and get them out of the way before the new season. But the All-Star point guard, his advisors and the team played it cautiously, pushing that necessary part of Rose’s return to now.

Here’s Paxson’s comment to the Tribune about that:

“It’s irrelevant. The decision was made to not play last year and now we’re going through this. Our goal is this season, the regular season and getting to the playoffs. Nobody said this was going to be a straight line. The only way we can get to where we want to go is in this case being cautious and letting him get through this.”

Through the Bulls’ first two preseason games, vs. Indiana and Memphis, Rose had averaged about 20 minutes and 13 points, playing three shifts nightly. He looked quick and confident in his knee, limited mostly by some timing, conditioning and rust issues.

But now Rose’s game-to-game health and availability will be revived as the story of Chicago’s season, sparking a new round of hand-wringing by the public. Ready or not, Chicago opens the regular season Oct. 29 with a marquee game against LeBron James and the two-time champion Heat in Miami.

Any sort of here-today, out-tomorrow pattern for the team’s MVP, on top of Rose’s lost 2012-13 season, could scuttle the Bulls’ season before it begins. And push Chicagoans past the breaking point.

As for the fans in Brazil, one way to look at Saturday’s disappointment is to treat it as an authentic NBA experience. They got precisely what the crowds at United Center endured last season: Derrick Rose in repose.