Posts Tagged ‘John Paxson’

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.

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Thompson not worrying about role | Felton ready to lead | Bulls dismiss talk of Forman-Thibs feud | Caldwell-Pope impressing Pistons

No. 1: Warriors’ Thompson not sweating starting gig: The top debate among Warriors faithful might be over who to start this season: second-year forward Harrison Barnes or third-year guard Klay Thompson? The addition of swingman Andre Iguodala in the offseason supplanted Thompson from his starting role of a season ago and in the preseason, the Warriors have used Thompson as a sixth man while Barnes has started both preseason games. Thompson tells Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune he’s not worrying about starting or coming off the bench, despite the stats seeming to say the Warriors are better with him on the floor more:

After posting a team-high 26 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Thompson was arguably Golden State’s best player Monday in what was a relatively ugly showing by the home team at Oracle Arena. Thompson twice led the Warriors on deficit-erasing runs in a 94-81 victory. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting.

Thompson was so effective that coach Mark Jackson had him back in the starting lineup to open the second half. Thompson’s activity and energy on offense is so evident that his teammates are looking for him consistently. He had a team-high 14 shots through the first 30 minutes Monday, including a left-handed scoop layup for a three-point play followed by a breakaway dunk that put Golden State up 55-52 with just over six minutes left in the third.

“Klay is going to always do what he does best,” Andre Iguodala said. “And that’s shoot the ball pretty well. … I told Klay that when he’s in the game with me, he’s going to get a lot of looks so he’s gotta be ready to shoot the ball. And he is.”

…Through two exhibition games, Barnes has totaled just over 34 minutes. During that span, he was 3 of 18 from the field with five turnovers. He did total eight rebounds and three steals in the same span, but he’s hardly looking like the burgeoning star everyone expects.

Certainly, an ailing foot would slow him, but his early offensive struggles might raise a legitimate question: Can Barnes be effective as the fifth option?

Inconsistency was probably Barnes’ biggest problem last season. He would be great one game and average the next two. Even Barnes acknowledged that he struggled to find his way in the offense as the fourth option.

No. 2: Felton ready to step into leadership role: In a great feature story by the New York Post‘s Marc Berman, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton talks about his struggles in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, his desire to prove that he play well in a traditional backcourt and that he’s ready to assume a captaincy role with New York as well. Felton is expected to be the full-time starter at the point this season, a role he didn’t always have in 2012-13 as coach Mike Woodson often used Felton and another of New York’s point guards — Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni — in tandem with Felton:

But as Felton and the Knicks disintegrated in the second round last May, with the Knicks starting point guard failing to a hit a field goal in the nightmare Game 6 in Indiana, Felton said a new chip has grown.

“The chip is still there,’’ said Felton, who got outplayed by Indiana’s George Hill. “It’s a bitter taste in my mouth the way the season ended last year. The chip is still there. If anything, it’s another chip. It’s now on the other shoulder. I’m still coming out with the same attitude, still with a lot to prove.’’

…Felton admits he puts his off-court leadership on the back burner last season in respect to Kidd. Felton told The Post before camp he hoped a captaincy was in the cards.

“That’s my job this year — I have to step up in that leadership role,’’ Felton said. “I took a step back last year out of respect for my team. Guys hadn’t played with me before. I’ll try to step back in that role of being vocal.

“He’s got to be more of a leader,.’’ Woodson said. “Point guards catch a lot of crap on everybody’s team because we expect so much from them. Ray performed great for us last season. He’s got to be more vocal and show more of a leadership role more than ever with Kidd gone now.’’

No. 3: Paxson refutes talk of Thibodeau-Forman feud: Shortly after Derrick Rose made his preseason debut against the Pacers on Saturday night, Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski had a story that essentially said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman are in the midst of some franchise-altering dysfunction. Since then, Bulls vice president John Paxson has chimed in on the alleged discord between the two men and tells the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley nothing could be further from the truth:

Forman and Thibodeau haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on personnel moves, which has been well documented, but Paxson takes exception to the idea that it’s a feud heading toward a boiling point.

‘‘We’re so far past that,’’ he said. ‘‘To continue to try and keep it going, I don’t know what the agenda is. That’s one thing that we all talked about, really from the beginning of this year: No one has any agenda here.

‘‘If you’re really going to say something like that, then go on the record, be a man, put your name out there. Don’t hide behind that stuff. But from our perspective, from our seat, we’re doing great. The relationship is healthy. We all want the same thing, and that’s to be as good as we possibly can out there on the floor.’’

Chicago saw what a truly unhealthy relationship between a GM and coach/manager looks like when the White Sox’ Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen captured headlines a few years ago.

Paxson snickered at the idea of the Bulls being anywhere near that.

‘‘I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s been blown way out of proportion,’’ he said. ‘‘I think someone other than anyone in our organization has an agenda that really doesn’t suit what we’re all about. No matter what you do in this business, when you’re making decisions, whether it’s based on personnel or anything like that, you’re going to have ideas, different opinions, and that’s what we do. We sit in a room and talk these things through. The thing is, right now we’re all on the same page, and there are no hidden agendas from Gar, myself and Tom.’’

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No. 4: Pistons narrow shooting guard options: The No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, is making quite and impression in Detroit and may have a solid shot at taking the starting shooting guard job for opening night. According to David Mayo of MLive.com, Pope and veteran Rodney Stuckey have made the race for the starting job a two-man one and the pair is having fun competing against each other for the bid:

“He’s not showing one bit of nervousness when he’s out there playing,” point guard Brandon Jennings said.  “It’s like he’s been here before.  Guys want spots.  Guys want playing time.  This right here is how you earn it.”

Head coach Maurice Cheeks said Caldwell-Pope, “has a poise about him that, when he plays, he doesn’t get stressed out, he doesn’t get nervous.”

Cheeks, one day after saying he would use multiple starters at shooting guard during preseason, said the ultimate decision probably comes down to Caldwell-Pope or seventh-year veteran Rodney Stuckey.

Caldwell-Pope and Stuckey have gone hard at each other in early scrimmages and have had friendly discussions about the competition, the Georgia rookie said.

“It’s fun.  We laugh about it, we joke about it,” Caldwell-Pope said.  “At the same time, we’re also serious about it, because we are playing for the same position.  It’s great to compete against someone who’s been here, who’s older than me.  It’s a great challenge.”

Caldwell-Pope’s disadvantages in youth and experience against Stuckey could be alleviated by his advantage in perimeter shooting touch.  Both are solid defenders but Caldwell-Pope also brings a shot-blocking element.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Heat’s Norris Cole tuning out trade talks … The Lakers’ Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre bought a cow together (seriously) … Celtics coach Brad Stevens is still an early riser

ICYMI of the night: While the Warriors continue to weigh whether to start Thompson or Barnes this season, sit back and enjoy what we’re sure to see more of this season — alley-oops to Iguodala …

Rose Talks, Offers Overdue Rehab Update

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CHICAGO — Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls star whose voice has been as muted during his 14-month rehab from knee surgery as his absence has been glaring and chronicled, knows there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

Sprinting the sprint, cutting the cut and leaping the leap are all better still in gauging how successful Rose and the team’s medical staff were in getting him back on the court by training camp this fall.

“Me saying it is something totally different,” the Bulls point guard said in a video interview newly posted on the team Web site. “I think me going on the court and showing ‘em will let ‘em know it was the right decision.”

Rose’s decision not to return for any portion of the 2012-13 schedule was the headline of the Bulls’ season. It defined who and what they were, as well as how far an undermanned, underdog squad could go against the likes of the Nets and the Heat in the playoffs.

It led to an emerging class of Rose critics, too, something new for the Chicago kid who previously had delivered more, sooner, than most expected. Once Rose’s rehab dragged into and through the 8-to-12-month estimate offered in May 2012, questions and even suspicions began to pop up: Is it Rose’s knee or his heart? Doesn’t he see his teammates gutting out huge upsets despite injuries of their own? How much influence does brother Reggie Rose, the player’s agent, and a fleet of adidas marketers have over the kid?

Rose’s presence in Bulls pregame warm-ups, working on his jump shot and moves to the rim, looking pretty healthy, only made people wonder more. And his near-blackout of the media – endorsed or at least tolerated by Chicago management — exacerbated the situation, because in place of Rose’s words, critics reached their own conclusions.

This sitdown with BullsTV might be a reach for the reset button.

“I didn’t want to do anything, to tell you the truth,” Rose said of media interviews in general during his layoff. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to rebuild my leg and be around my son [P.J.]. That was time where, me having a son, is huge. … My father wasn’t ever in my life, so he’s first now with anything.”

Scheduling sitdowns with reporters once a month to track his rehab progress wouldn’t have tampered with either his focus or his Dad time, and would have shown respect for the media that otherwise respected Rose’s challenge/ordeal. More so, it would have been good for the fan base that kept buying tickets.

If a little more accountability sapped any drama from adidas’ series of shoe commercials (“The Return”), too bad — Rose didn’t make good on that script anyway. And the Bulls’ media relations experts, working up through vice president John Paxson and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, if necessary, should have spelled that out to Rose.

But this BullsTV interview offers a fresh start. Now, instead of some random sessions with USA Today or furtive Q&A grabs in the postgame locker room in Boston, Rose needs to make himself available to reporters on an occasional basis.

Not every question got asked or answered by Bulls.com, such as:

  • How will you simulate game conditions over the summer, when you’re in Chicago, in Los Angeles or on the adidas tour through Serbia and other European destinations?
  • Did the criticism of you, your family and your business partners surprise you? Bother you? Change your view of Bulls fans?
  • When will you know you can trust — really trust — that left knee?
  • How will you cope with what most medical folks say will be ups and downs, good nights and bad, as you work your way back?
  • Specifically, how do you think the layoff has benefited your game?
  • What adjustments do you plan to make in how you play — or at least, what are you prepared to do if your explosiveness isn’t what it was?

And about a dozen more, ranging from Rose’s views on the Bulls’ draft and free-agent acquisitions to lead assistant coach Ron Adams‘ departure.

Among the questions that did get answered? Here are the highlights:

On missing the entire season: “It was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life. After surgery, when you start runnin’, when you have an injury like this, it’s phases you have to go through. I’m still going through my phases. I’m not done yet. But I think this is the most I’ve ever worked on my craft and the most focused I’ve ever been in my NBA career.”

On not coming back: “I’m not a selfish guy at all, but having this injury and knowing what I had to go through, and being smart, this is something that I had to be selfish with. I couldn’t worry about anyone else but myself and my health.”

On reports that he was “dominant” in practices: “When you’re in practice, of course it’s not like game-like speed unless it’s training camp. Game-like experience is totally different. Where you’ve got strategies, you’ve got this-or-that double-teams – when I play I get double-teamed a lot. We [practice] the same defense that we play in the game, so there wasn’t that many double-teams. So I was able to go around freely. In the game, I wasn’t able to take on that double-team yet.”

On his knee’s progress: “Every day I was working out like my leg is going to feel better. I was pushing myself every day. And trying to take care of my body to be out there as soon as possible. But it didn’t happen.”

On the Bulls’ season without him: “I was very, very impressed. It seemed like they were fighting for me. They saw how hard I was working at practice, just trying to rebuild my leg. All my teammates that were going through injuries, they used to tell me, ‘Don’t rush back’ just because they were going through stuff. So just to hear them say that, they knew I was trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible. They made a good run of it. When they were playing, I would tell them some things that I saw if they didn’t see. I was working with them just to show that I really cared about the team.”

On his close relationship with coach Tom Thibodeau: “With Thibs, we’re super-cool right now. We talk at least a couple times through the week. I missed his call a couple times – he hates when I do that – I’ve got to call him back. But he’s someone who loves the game almost as much as me and that’s pretty hard. If you love basketball more than I do, I have to take off my hat to you.”

On his personal goals for 2013-14: “There’s only one goal and that’s to win a championship.”

It’s good for Rose, for the Bulls and for the fans to have the team’s star and leader accessible again. He needs to stay that way.

Rating Ray Allen’s Big 3-Pointer





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Ray Allen‘s clutch corner 3-pointer that sent Game 6 of The Finals to overtime didn’t even rank among the top three impact plays in the final analysis of that epic contest.

My main man and NBA.com’s analytics expert John Schuhmann said something about the shot only increasing the Heat’s win probability by 10.8 percent, from 22.0 percent to 32.7 percent, or something like that.

But if the measurement was “Most Memorable 3-pointers Made in The Finals,” Allen’s shot that saved the Heat’s season (for at least 48, or more, minutes) has to rank among the best clutch shots from long distance anyone has made.

Win Game 7 Thursday night and, years from now, Allen’s shot will be the one that sticks out. It’ll rank right along some of the greatest clutch 3-pointers in the history of The Finals … shots like these:

Big Shot Bob (aka Robert Horry)’s dagger for the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 …


John Paxson’s crunch-time strike for the Chicago Bulls in 1993 …


TNT’s Kenny Smith’s money shot for the Houston Rockets in 1995 …


Dirk Nowitzki’s long-range shredder for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 …

Jerry West’s 60-footer (it was only worth two points then) for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970 …

And finally, Ron Artest’s (now Metta World Peace) game-saver for the Lakers in 2010 …

Time To Shut Down Derrick Rose

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CHICAGO – Derrick Rose wants to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. He has been clear about that from the start of his long, painstaking rehab from knee surgery last spring, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Chicago Bulls are going to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. That has been their default position whenever the topic has come up, which only has been every day, repeatedly, for the past 10 months.

Fans of the team should want all parties involved to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. They have been bystanders, cheerleaders and skeptics through this process, investing both money and emotions into the lengthy wait, constantly weighing the short-term against the long-term and mostly coming up stumped.

So let’s make it easy for them here and now:

The Bulls should shut down Derrick Rose till October.

Enough already. The networks and affiliates have more footage of Rose working out and shooting jump shots before Bulls games, locked in eternal preparation, than they ever will be able to use. Fans who arrive early see him out on the United Center court looking so much like the guy they remember, save for the practice gear, and then – poof! – he’s gone. They and everyone else spend much of each evening there bandying about his fate, and then some of them call talk shows or post comments on Web sites and vent as if Rose has changed his name to LeBron or something.

Where Rose’s brother Reggie once laid blame on Bulls general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson for somehow contributing to this limbo with their roster management, the player himself recently thrust the timeline of his return into the hands of his deity, whose “honey-do” list already was a little long.

Sorry, but this decision – should he or shouldn’t he? – has to stay between Rose, his doctors, his coaches and the team, erring always on the side of caution.

They’re there now. Shut him down.

The Bulls have only 14 games left on their regular-season schedule. One comes tonight in Minnesota, the tail end of a back-to-back. The next comes Wednesday against the barreling locomotive that is the Miami Heat. After that, it’s down to a dozen, a small window – more of a transom, actually – for Rose to work his way into NBA game shape and pace, for his teammates to adapt, for head coach Tom Thibodeau to fight his orneriest instincts and manage Rose’s minutes for the player’s benefit rather than the team’s.

Three weeks from next weekend, the playoffs begin. Chicago is mired in that pack of five East wannabes-to-also-rans (some would say seven) who are neither good enough to seriously challenge Miami nor, with No. 9 Philadelphia sputtering at 16 games under .500, bad enough to fall out of the seedings. The Bulls look like a one-and-done team without Rose; with him, still rusty and maybe on a slightly longer minutes leash, they could push it to the second round.

That is not worth it. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls’ other owners don’t need and shouldn’t want two or three extra home gates that badly. Fans in Chicago, who have deferred their gratification this long, surely can wait a little longer – they’re good in this town at the wait-till-next-year mantra. And Rose, when he does come back, needs to be on the floor as a recovering knee-surgery patient in the final stage of his rehab, not as a savior or a leading scorer or as the hero of a slick campaign of sneaker commercials.

Look, it was one thing when doctors’ pegged Rose’s return, on a purely physical timeline, at late February or early March. That left 20 or more games to adjust, assimilate, navigate some lows along with some highs.

It was different, too, when the Bulls were a team in waiting, all pieces in place, ready for Rose’s return to chase the same prize they’d have been eyeing had he never gotten hurt at all. But that team doesn’t exist anymore. Several of his teammates are broken down physically, most recently center Joakim Noah missing this weekend with a flare-up of some persistent plantar fasciitis. Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton have been eternally banged-up. Rose himself, like others who undergo ACL procedures, always figured to need a full year or more to regain all or most of his powers.

Meanwhile, some of those not hurting physically beyond the NBA norm for March have been wrung out by the heavier load they’ve lugged in Rose’s absence. And frankly, by the moving goal posts of his return. Luol Deng wouldn’t be making any All-Star teams off his low-ebb performances this month.

Bottom line: The team he would come back to isn’t worthy of what Rose would be expected, or would try himself, to do if he returned this late. Does anyone want to see the Heat’s Dobermans set loose on Rose in his uncertain state for anywhere from four to seven games? Even a feisty George Hill, a rejuvenated Deron Williams or a tenacious Avery Bradley might be too much in a playoff situation and put Rose in harm’s way.

Compared to that, the opportunity to work his way back through eight meaningless games in October when his teammates are fresh and everyone is coming off a layoff of his own (three months if not 15) holds great appeal and all the common sense.

Shut Derrick Rose down. Now.

Brother’s Remarks Spark Doubts Of Rose’s Comeback Motives

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CHICAGO
– Impatience with Derrick Rose‘s injury is one thing.

Impatience with Derrick Rose himself, that’s quite another.

It’s also a new and potentially unnerving chapter in this city’s unabashed love affair with the Chicago Bulls’ All-Star point guard and humble native son.

The long wait for Rose to return from surgery in May on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee had ground along uneventfully for most of the past nine months. But if Rose’s comments in a couple of interviews last week cracked open the door that something other than his physical condition might dictate his return – or whether he plays at all in 2012-13 – his brother Reggie kicked that particular door down Thursday.

Expressing frustration that the Bulls haven’t significantly upgraded their roster since before his brother went down in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring, Reggie Rose told ESPNChicago.com that the team’s roster could be a “big factor” in Rose’s decision whether to return this season. “It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him,” Reggie Rose said. He said he was speaking for himself, not his younger brother, but the two are tight and Reggie is known as the Bulls guard’s “manager.”

Reggie Rose acknowledged the All-Star seasons that forward Luol Deng and center Joakim Noah have had. “But you need more than that,” he said. “You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much. It’s up to the organization to make them better.”

The older brother was frustrated too that the Bulls made no moves at the NBA trade deadline Thursday, though truth be told, had they done anything, they might have shipped out veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton to reduce their payroll. The Bulls are carrying salaries of about $74 million, which puts them both beyond the salary cap and into luxury-tax territory.

Many Bulls fans have bemoaned management’s apparent priority of finances over basketball – letting center Omer Asik leave as a restricted free agent last summer, for example, or their overhaul of the bench. They still see Rose having to carry too much of the burden, and drawing too much defensive attention, when he does come back. (more…)