Posts Tagged ‘Media Day’

Suddenly, Rose’s Return Looks Right On Time For Bulls

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DEERFIELD, Ill. – Derrick Rose’s
back.

And the Chicago Bulls have it.

Rose participated in the Bulls’ Media Day Friday afternoon at the team’s practice facility, coming out in his home whites same as last year. Only then, he was a hardwood version of Punxsutawney Phil – that was the last anyone saw of him in uniform for a full year, until he popped out again Friday, his rehab from left knee surgery lingering through the entire 2012-13 schedule and postseason.

While Rose’s game was warehoused, his reputation took a hit – the Bulls and the medical experts had talked of a return in “eight to 10 months,” which would have had back in the lineup sometime around the All-Star break, supposedly by March. When that didn’t happen – when the organization still was playing the will-he-or-won’t-he game into the Eastern Conference semifinals against Miami – some in the public questioned his commitment, his courage, you name it.

Rose knew it. His teammates and coaches knew it. None of them wavered in their belief in the 2011 MVP and his timeline, and they met it head-on Friday.

“People are going to have their opinions,” Rose told NBA TV. “There’s nothing I can do about that. For me, all I had to do was worry about my injury and worry about my health. Of course I could have came back, but if I would have came back and I wasn’t the same player, they would have been talking even [worse] about me.

“Getting back to my old self was my biggest concern. So I had to think about myself and kind of be selfish with it.”

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was even more direct. “The people that criticized him, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” he said.

As badly as Thibodeau missed having his All-Star point guard, as much scrambling as he had to do with the Bulls’ game plan to use Nate Robinson as Rose’s surrogate, he stuck with the company line that was set by team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who made it clear they all would err on the side of caution – and delay – in Rose’s comeback.

“Jerry made it clear he did not want him coming back until he was completely healthy, 100 percent,” Thibodeau said. “And that’s exactly what he did. He kept pushing and pushing but he never felt comfortable enough to play at the level he wanted to play at.

“Then when you look at who Derrick is as a person, there’s not a more loyal, hard working, team-first guy out there. For him to take that criticism on, I think was unfair. It was a tough decision he had to make but it was the right decision.”

Said forward Luol Deng: “The whole year, I knew how bad he wanted to play. So I never questioned it, when he made his decision on [not] coming back. I knew that he would know before anyone when he was ready.”

The difference in Rose, from other ACL patients such as Ricky Rubio or Iman Shumpert, was his reliance on explosion, torque and cutting. “Could he play in a game? Well, maybe,” Thibodeau said. “But he couldn’t play the way he likes to play. And the way he’s capable of playing. His game is very different. Very explosive. Change of directions, things of that nature.”

The Bulls begin two-a-day sessions Saturday. No one – not Rose, Thibodeau, general manager Gar Forman or anyone else – has specified a minutes limit for him in practice or in games.

The games, of course, will be the real test. Rose practiced with the Bulls since early last winter, so when Chicago faces Indiana Saturday night at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, one of the most closely watched comebacks in the NBA this season will meet its first hurdle.

“My knee is good,” Rose said. “My confidence is steadily growing in my knee. I don’t have any worries at all. When I’m practicing, I’m reacting instead of thinking. Anyone who’s had these injuries would know you want to react instead of think while you’re on the court. So I’m feeling good.”

In a sense, Rose is in a no-lose situation: If he returns like his old self, people will argue that his decision to wait through the summer – and his annual tune-ups in Los Angeles – was the right strategy. If he shows rust or has off-nights – as most who return from his particular injury do – folks can say, “See, how could he have come back in the playoffs?”

But there will be no rust, if Rose has his way.

“[Doctors have] said it, but at the same time, I have confidence in myself,” he said. “I know what type of player I am. I know how my training has been. For me going out there to play, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I believe in myself.”

The Heat Has Landed

Fort Walton Beach, Fla. – The male bonding experience known as NBA training camp will begin today for the Miami Heat on an air force base, strange in one sense, appropriate in another. Isn’t this the team everyone expects to take off?

The club landed late Monday night at Eglin, tucked away on the Florida Panhandle and far removed from the ruckus the Heat left behind in Miami. Although the escape will be in the physical sense only. A media swarm that numbered at 350 for Media Day on Monday afternoon will shrink only by 150 this week at Elgin, because as coach Erik Spoelstra correctly noted, “this team wasn’t built to go under the radar.”

Heat vs. Pistons on NBA TVThe Heat will stay until camp breaks Sunday. And yes, they will stay on the base, bunking up in rooms that are less spacious and luxurious than most millionaires are used to. Their practices are closed to the media, and since the general public isn’t allowed on the base, peace and security will be the order. And that’s an order!

Each media member was put through a security and criminal check that lasted anywhere between 24 and 48 hours, or roughly the length of the longest Heat losing streak this upcoming season (you think?). Reporters will be bused to the base daily for interviews, which will last no more than 20-30 minutes. Then it’s back on the bus and toward the exit for the scrum while the players do whatever one does on an air force base.

“We look forward to it,” said Spoelstra, “spending time with the men and women who protect us and embrace sacrifice and service commitment. We can learn a lot from them, in that sense.”

An intra-squad scrimmage is scheduled for Thursday, which raises a question: How do you evenly split up the Big Three, so the sides are fair? Figure LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be placed on separate teams, and maybe Chris Bosh will change jerseys at halftime.

Anyway, the idea was to spend a week in isolation, perhaps the last stretch of tranquility  before the Heat spend 6-plus months traveling like rock stars.  Where the beds will definitely be plusher.

Watch the Heat’s first preseason game, Tuesday at  7 p.m. on NBA TV.

LeBron Has Plenty Of ‘Motivation’

Coral Gables, Fla. – Remember that “hit list” LeBron James was supposedly keeping? The one he posted on Twitter, saying he’d remember each and every knock he took this summer, and those who delivered them?

Well, maybe on his way to taking his “talents” to South Beach, LeBron traveled the high road, because any anger he felt from the backlash was suspiciously missing on media day.

He had nothing for Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson who, in so many words, chastised LeBron for taking the easier way to a championship. And nothing for Charles Barkley, either, even though Charles used edgier words to describe the way LeBron left Cleveland.

Heat vs. Pistons on NBA TV“It’s all in the past” was a common response from LeBron whenever the fallout from “The Decision” was raised.

“I’ve heard everything this summer,” he said. “Things I expected. Some I didn’t expect. Well, I make my own decisions and live with them. I still respect Mike, still respect Magic, Charles and the rest. They paved the way for guys like myself, on and off the court.

“But I can’t live through those guys. This is the path I chose to go.”

Agreed. While the greats certainly made their points about competition and wanting to beat the best, rather than join the best, there’s also another way to see LeBron’s choice to align himself with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. How many of those same players would bury their ego in this manner and give up being the focal point of their team? Also, it’s easy for Magic (and Larry Bird) to say what they wouldn’t do; they were surrounded by talent much of their careers. So there was no need for Magic to ponder being Bird’s teammate, or vice versa. They weren’t pressed for championships; they already have rings. LeBron doesn’t.

“It’s funny how things happen and how people react to it,” LeBron said. “A lot of people try to tell you what to do with your life and they don’t even have their own life in order. That’s funny to me.”

If LeBron is simmering underneath from the treatment he took, going from a respected and generally adored athlete to something more sinister, it’s well hidden under his tattoos. And maybe we’ll have to wait until next June — assuming Miami wins it all — for him to flush it out.

“I’ve got a lot of motivation inside me,” he said. “Put it that way.”

Watch the Heat’s first preseason game, Tuesday at  7 p.m. on NBA TV.

New coast, new world for Lee

OAKLAND – David Lee officially began life as a Warrior, and an ex-Knick, on Monday as Golden State opened training camp about 2,500 miles away from the world he at once loved and is glad to escape.

Lee spent the last five years amid the draining madness of the Knicks and the embraceable chaos of New York City. So the sign-and-trade that brought him across the country with an $80-million deal involves much more than a different coast and a different team.

It’s a different world.

“I don’t want to say anything about New York because it’s given me some great opportunities and I had some unbelievable times there,” Lee said. “But it’s going to be a big change out here. I think being able to get down to basketball and getting down to just worrying about winning and worried about getting better every day, not only my game better but our team’s game – I think that’s going to be a lot easier when there’s fewer distractions. I love New York. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity out here, though. I’m very excited to be here.

“There was always a lot going on, on and off the court. I think everything there is under a magnifying glass, and that’s something you come to expect when you sign on in New York. Out here, I’m really kinda getting a breath of fresh air as far as I think it’s going to be easier just to focus on basketball and get to the task at hand, which is winning ballgames. I’m happy that I went through what I did for five years in New York, because I feel like now I’m really prepared for anything that comes my way. I played for Larry Brown my rookie year, who is very tough on rookies. I played for Isiah Thomas for a couple of years, which was interesting, and played for coach [Mike] D’Antoni, who runs a similar system to what we’re going to run here. I’ve really experienced – from a coaching standpoint, from an organizational standpoint – a lot of different things.”

Isiah Thomas. Interesting.

How very diplomatic.

“I’ve seen about 25 years of drama in a five-year period that’s for sure,” Lee said. “When you consider on-the-court stuff, off-the-court stuff, I think there were 53 players, three coaches, two general managers since I started five years ago. Eddy Curry and I were the last two around. I’m looking forward to a new beginning here.”

Remember the Alamo and the Spurs

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been three years since they last collected a set of expensive, flashy rings like the Lakers will pick up on opening night. They didn’t boost their roster over the summer with the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They didn’t land a future Hall of Famer in Shaquille O’Neal.

But the Spurs, who finished as the No. 7 seed in the West last season, feel that they should be on the short list of championship contenders.

“I think so,” said Tim Duncan to a gathering of reporters at Media Day. “I think it is definitely a year we can do it. Of course, that’s talking without even having a practice under our belt. I think we’re a better team than we were last year. We were in the mix last year, obviously at the lower end. We come out and we get a first round win and a lot of the teams, especially in the West, I don’t know that anybody’s gotten that much better. So I think we’re right in the mix.

“I think it’s the way we ended last season. Not losing in the second round, but playing well in the first round and feeling that we didn’t even play our best basketball. So we come in this year and we have a whole ‘nother season to get everybody in line and get everybody playing the way we want them to. That gives me the hope.”

The Spurs are buoyed by the fact that it’s the first time in several seasons that Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are both healthy and feeling fit as training camp begins.

“I think we have a shot. I truly believe it,” Ginobili said. “We are probably not the No. 1 favorites. But heading into the playoffs, we can beat anybody. Nobody’s that much better than us. So if you play well, you make the shots you have to make, you always have a chance.

“I trust this organization. I trust our talent and so far all nine times I’ve been in this situation, I’ve really thought we had a chance to win it. So I don’t see that changing.”

Big Three Act as One

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The first assist of the NBA season was recorded at roughly 2:43 p.m. EST, in a makeshift conference room on the University of Miami campus, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh deferred to Dwyane Wade.

It came in response to a media day question about the Heat being perceived as a team of “villains” and how exactly, Big Three, do you plan to deal with that?

And so LeBron and Bosh both passed their microphones to Wade, literally caught in the middle on the podium.

“Appreciate you passing the ball,” Wade said to both.

So there you have it. So much for the notion that these three players, all former All-Stars, all used to carrying a team, would be reluctant at times to defer to the other.

“Your welcome,” said Bosh.

Wade, LeBron and Bosh are already 1-0, having aced their first preseason news conference of the season. They sounded great, looked great, left folks with the notion, anyway, that this will turn out just fine. Of course, we’ll reserve judgment until the heat of the moment, when emotion is running high and something is actually on the line. But they said all the right things today, even LeBron.

Oh, and as for Wade’s answer? A good one, actually.

“Chris, Bron and myself, we’re gong to be very unselfish. It’s our job to build confidence in everyone around us. When the ball hit’s your hand, you let it go.”

You let it go. Which is what LeBron is practicing these days, with regard to the flack he took for “The Decision” and leaving Cleveland.

“I’m standing tall,” he said. “I’m cool, man. I’m cool. At the end of the day, you’ve got to win. I’m going to let my play do the talking. All this hero-villain stuff, it’s bizarre.”

Not sure how you feel about these three, and what they’re capable of doing this season. But please, this isn’t about being selfish. They wouldn’t be here if they were.

Watch the Heat’s first preseason game, Tuesday at  7 p.m. on NBA TV.

A Slimmer Elton Brand

Slimmed down and ready to go. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers have six new players on their roster. And that guy wearing No. 42 doesn’t look too familiar either.

Elton Brand is listed at 254 pounds on the Sixers’ roster, but he admitted in his Media Day press conference on Monday that it’s been “a few years” since he was last that light. And if you’ve watched Brand in his first two seasons here in Philly, the word “mobile” was not the first that came to mind.

So when new Sixers coach Doug Collins met with Brand early in the summer, he gave the power forward a goal: Get back down to 255 pounds by early in September.

When Brand checked in a few weeks ago, he was a few pounds under the 255 mark. Today, if you didn’t see his face or uniform number, you might mistake him for Thaddeus Young. His whole upper body is noticeably leaner.

In addition to slimming down, Brand took a different approach to his summer work. First, he was just happy to not have the word “rehab” on his daily schedule since he ruptured his left Achilles tendon in August of 2007. And with the advice of Collins and Sixers trainer Kevin Johnson, Brand didn’t start playing basketball until later in the summer.

“I feel the dividends from that now,” he said. “My legs feel great.”

A more mobile Brand would obviously be a better fit with the Sixers than the Brand we’ve seen over the last two seasons. This is a team that wants to take advantage of its quickness and athleticism on both ends of the floor.

Noah on Heat: Very scary!


DEERFIELD, Ill. — Chicago center Joakim Noah inadvertently painted a target on his back last spring during the Bulls-Cavaliers first-round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs with some throwaway remarks about Cleveland.

He didn’t say anything similarly snide about Miami Monday. Either the city or its newly constructed, superstar-laden, widely criticized basketball team. Quite the opposite.

“There’s just been so much talk this offseason,” Noah told media at the Bulls’ Media Day. “I just feel like all we’ve been doing is talking. I’m really ready to go out there and play. Who knows what that’s going to look like? Who knows what D-Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron is going to look like?

“Me personally, I think it’s going to be pretty good. So our mindset has to be, be the best that we can be and then see if we can compete with those guys. Who knows? Is it going to be good? Is it going to be bad? I know a lot of people want it to be bad because it could also be very, very scary.”

People who question the Heat’s ability to instantly create a championship-caliber team, Noah said, forget that plenty of teams have made significant changes this offseason. Chicago included.

“Can we compete with those guys? I hope so,” said the 6-foot-11 center, who averaged 10.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in his third season. “I think we have the potential to. But there’s a lot of question marks about this team right now. we have a new coach, we have a lot of new players. The same things that people are saying negative things about Miami, we have very similar issues.

“Are we going to be able to gel together? Things like that are things that people tend to say, ‘Oh, the Bulls have all figured out. But Miami doesn’t.’ There’s a lot of talking. Let’s go out there and play and see what happens.”

Noah, addressing trade speculation that had him among possible packages for Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, said he was happy to still be in Chicago. He declined to comment on talks with Bulls management about a contract extension, which can be negotiated until Oct. 31.

Nellie’s long walk on thin ice

OAKLAND – There is a good chance Don Nelson would have been fired as coach of the Warriors even without the natural opening of an ownership change, general manager Larry Riley said Monday in officially announcing the move from Nelson to Keith Smart as the team reconvened for the start of the season.

“Possibly so,” Riley said when asked if the same move would have been made if Chris Cohan would have still been the owner. “Quite likely.”

The difference, Riley said, is that any change would have been made earlier in the offseason instead of at the start of camp, an awkward timetable because the sale of the Warriors from Cohan to a group headed by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber is not expected to become official until next month. The comments by Riley, though, strongly indicate Cohan was ready to break ties with Nelson as well, even while eating the $6 million due for 2010-11.

Then there’s the other question: Did Nelson want to come back?

He clearly would have when the option was walking away from the money. But Riley, a longtime close friend and former Nellie assistant before moving to the Warriors’ front office, conceded Nelson’s heart may not have been into the job.

“I think part of him maybe did [want to come back] and I also think part of him did not,” Riley said. “I think he felt that with all the things that were happening, it was just the opportune time.”

Bulls have a sense of newness

DEERFIELD, Ill. — No LeBron James. No Dwyane Wade. No Chris Bosh. Definitely no Carmelo Anthony.

For all the excitement about the Chicago Bulls’ successful offseason — and it was successful, getting strong “grades” for the addition of players such as Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans – there still was a sense of what might have been. And a reminder who wasn’t at the team’s Media Day at the Berto Center.

On draft night, with media assembled at their practice facility same as Monday, the Bulls made their splash by freeing salary-cap space to pursue the biggest names of 2010 free agency. They got Boozer, a Top 5 free agent, to plug in at power forward. But they didn’t get James or Wade or Bosh, so they didn’t get the national spotlight now shining so brightly on Miami. It’s as if the Bulls are the earnest fourth-grader who picked the freshest, brightest, reddest apple out of the grocery bin to give to teacher, only to show up in class to see her lavished with flowers, chocolate, jewelry and a spa certificate from Pat Riley.

With only five players back from this spring’s playoff roster and just assistant/advance scout Mike Wilhelm back on new head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s staff, there was enough newness to last one or more preseasons. Just not the newness some had anticipated. It’s on the Bulls — Boozer, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and the rest — to prove that they’re more than solid “B” students deserving of a pat on the head this season.