Chicago Bulls: Nick Friedell
The Bulls added veterans Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks, European star Nikola Mirotic, and rookie Doug McDermott while re-signing Kirk Hinrich to go along with a core led by All-Stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
One new guy who likely isn't headed to Chicago is Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love. ESPN.com reported late Wednesday night that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team in serious negotiations at this time. Forman spoke to the media hours before the latest Love report came out.
"It's become a 12-month cycle," Forman said. "And the NBA, it used to be this time of year things would just kind of die. The sense is it's not like that anymore. There's always some talk. That's our job. We're always going to try to talk to people around the league, get a feel for what's going on in the market. And if there are opportunities, we'll look at them. With that said, we really like the group that we have, and we're looking forward to getting going in October with that group."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau likes the group, as well, but he said his team must prove itself on the floor.
"It looks good, but we have to see how it unfolds," Thibodeau said. "The team that won 62 games and won 50 in the lockout season, they did it on the floor so we can talk about it but we got to put the work into it and then we got to see what it looks like when we're on the floor. But I think we have quality depth. I love the players that we have, so we're looking forward to the challenge."
Forman, who said the Bulls were "aggressive" in their pursuit of free agents, and Thibodeau know the Bulls are only going to be able to contend for a title if Rose stays healthy. That's why they are so pleased with what they have seen from Rose during Team USA's camp this week.
"I think he's been terrific," Forman said. "He looks strong, he looks confident, he looks explosive, he's been in a real good rhythm. He's playmaking for himself and others. It's been really, really encouraging."
LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose is on a mission.
The Chicago Bulls star wants to prove to all of his critics that he can still play basketball at an elite level. He wants to prove to his doubters that his body can withstand the grind of an NBA season after suffering two career-altering knee injuries that wiped out all but 49 games the past three seasons. He wants to prove to the city of Chicago, his hometown, that he can still be the man -- on and off the floor -- that they always wanted him to be.
But as Rose gets set for his second comeback, the most important lesson he wants to teach this season isn't to all his doubters. Rose wants to show his son P.J., who will be 2 in October, that his dad didn't give up when times got tough.
"I know how special I am as a player," Rose said. "I know I take the game serious. Basketball is my life so I can't give up. I have a son that's looking up to me, and when he gets older and realizes what's going on he's going to look back, and hopefully that gives him a little bit of motivation knowing that I had to go through so much. And I hope that pushes him to become a great individual."
That's part of the reason Rose's outlook has changed as he tries to make his way back from a torn meniscus in his right knee. He is playing for more than just winning basketball games this time around.
Rose admitted for the first time on Wednesday after a practice with Team USA that he wasn't having very much fun on the floor last year during his comeback from a torn ACL in his left knee. He played seven preseason games, and through 10 regular-season games he was averaging 15 points and shooting 35 percent from the field.
"I felt like, the first time I came back, I felt like it was damn near like a job instead of just going out there and having fun," Rose said. "When I came back last fall I felt like it was a job. I wasn't smiling, I wasn't enjoying the game, I was trying not to mess up, and with me I usually just go out there and play. Me playing at least is something good, but at the time it was just too much going on, and I think that was just a dark side for me. Just a dark period of time."
In hindsight, it's easy to understand why Rose felt that way. After the nonstop speculation regarding his return to the floor -- fueled by a major advertising campaign from his shoe sponsor, Adidas -- Rose never played during the 2012-13 season despite being cleared by team doctors. That decision made fans question Rose for the first time, but it's a choice that he wouldn't change looking back on it over a year and a half later.
"I knew in my mind, if I wasn't right I wasn't playing," Rose said. [Bulls director of sports performance] Jen [Swanson] and everybody was on the same page, from the front office all the way down to the strength and conditioning coach, Nick [Papendieck]. Everybody knew that I wasn't ready at that time, and we kind of kept [the information] in. But I kind of let them know every day that I wasn't ready."
Rose heard the criticism and the second-guessing, but he didn't care. Rose knew he had to be "selfish" for one of the first times in his career. The man who always wanted to please everybody had to look out for himself.
"I would hear about it, but I wouldn't pay attention to it," he said of the criticism. "People would come ask me about it. I'm thankful that my teammates didn't ask me about it because they kind of knew that I wasn't ready, or they probably saw that I was able to play but they left it up to me, so I appreciate that."
When Rose did come back to start last season, he struggled to find a rhythm early in the campaign and internalized all the pressure surrounding his comeback. It looked as if he was pressing during games, a fact that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, among others, has acknowledged recently.
When Rose went down with the torn meniscus on Nov. 22 in Portland, just 10 games into his comeback season, it felt like Groundhog Day for everyone involved. He stood in front of a mirror in the visitors locker room in the Moda Center and couldn't believe what he was seeing while holding himself on crutches. But Rose said things started to change for him soon.
"It changed with the second injury," he said of his mindset. "I knew that I couldn't be mad or be in that place for a whole year again. So I really attacked my rehab and it really was fun this time. The first time it was hell … this time it was hell, too, but I was able to enjoy it a little bit more seeing that improvement."
Rose spent more time around his teammates the second time around. He tried to stay more involved with the Bulls on a day-to-day basis, and he believes that helped him stay upbeat. He also got to spend more time with P.J., and that kept him balanced throughout the most trying part of his career.
"My son is huge," Rose said. "He's everything, man. I think he's my No. 1 fan. Me being around him almost every other day, it's a blessing ... I'm just going to use as motivation."
Those closest to Rose can see the subtle differences in his personality, as well. Life experiences, especially becoming a parent, change everyone in some way, and Rose is no different. He seems much more comfortable in his surroundings this time and more relaxed about his situation.
"He's matured every year," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who coached Rose at Memphis. "[All players] do. It's funny, the one thing is, he still doesn't pass on a chance to say, 'I love ya, coach.' But as they get older, they become a little more aware. I think what his family did, which was a great thing, is they let him be a kid. What's happening to a lot of these kids right now, they're having to grow up too fast. His family kept everybody away from him: coaches, everybody. Mom [Brenda] was strong, [his] brothers, and he was able to be who he was, and now he's coming into his own. People forget how young he is. Look at him, he was the MVP [at 22]. What are you talking about? This kid's got 10 years of playing left and probably eight at a high level. But I'm happy for him; he hasn't changed, in my mind. He's still the same guy."
“Rose still has the same confidence and fire on the floor. He still believes he is the best player each time he comes into a game. The difference now is that he doesn't appear to be as concerned about the perception around him.
People forget how young he is. Look at him, he was the MVP (at 21). What are you talking about? This kid's got 10 years of playing left and probably eight at a high level. But I'm happy for him, he hasn't changed in my mind. He's still the same guy.” -- John Calipari on Derrick Rose
"I think it's who Derrick is," Thibodeau said of Rose's maturity. "I think each year, I'm going into Year No. 5 with him, and each year he's been a lot different. So I think the type of person that he is, he'll continue to grow. I think he learns from each experience. When you look at his first three years in the league, it's pretty amazing. Sometimes people forget how good he actually is. And then he had the misfortune of the injury, and then getting reinjured. So it was a setback, but he never changed. He always had the belief that I'm going to come back, and I'm going to be great again, and I believe he will be."
That's the biggest key for Rose as he starts the long process of changing the perception around him. He never doubted himself while most of the world did. He trusted in the process and he believed he would overcome anything that got in his way.
"I don't think I have to prove anything to myself," he said. "I think just coming on the court, I think after the first day I'm fine, to tell you the truth. I know that I can play with these guys. It seems that everyone's been working on their game, and me seeing them shoot and seeing them improve is going to make me go back after I leave here and work even harder."
Nothing will make him work as hard as remembering that he is now playing for his son. Rose already accepts the fact that his son will have a lot of expectations placed upon him because of his famous father. With that in mind, Rose is trying as best he can to write a different story for his son to follow.
In the short term, the proud papa is trying to enjoy this latest comeback with his favorite wingman by his side.
"It means everything," Rose said of having P.J. "Just seeing what I'm going through. And just seeing him growing up, he's going to have so much pressure on him just from me and what I achieved. I think he has the right attitude because he's real firm with his decisions right now. He's real independent, and I think for him, that's what he needs growing up because he's not going to take no [crap] from nobody."
Just like his daddy.
"I think this is the most talented team I've played on in my NBA career to tell you the truth," Rose said after Team USA's practice Wednesday. "With all the players that I have, with the experience that everybody's bringing to the table. And the way that everybody's working out individually during the offseason and what I've been hearing."
Rose is pleased with the efforts made by general manager Gar Forman and executive VP John Paxson in upgrading the roster.
"I have that sense that they went for it," Rose said. "That they gave their all. We got who we could get and who wanted to come. And that's who we have to ride with. We have a lot of confidence in the players that we just signed and we know that the guys that's already there is working out very hard. So it's just a matter of getting in the gym, working out together, jelling very quickly, since we're not going overseas early."
Rose, who is in Las Vegas this week as part of Team USA's training camp in advance of the FIBA Basketball World Cup that starts next month in Spain, acknowledges that he is motivated by seeing the work his teammates have been putting in over the past few months.
"Just seeing [second-year forward] Tony Snell bust his [butt] in the gym the whole summer, seeing Doug [McDermott] come in and do the same thing and they end up playing well, it kind of gave me a boost and let me know that hard work pays off," Rose said. "So I'm watching them playing summer league a couple of times seeing them play with a lot of confidence, it just gave me confidence coming into this trial actually. But I think that we have a deep team, and we've got players that have one goal and we'll do anything to get there."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is excited about the possibilities of his team, but he also understands that the success of this group revolves around Rose, who is making his way back from two serious knee injuries.
"We're excited about our group," Thibodeau said. "I think the way [Joakim Noah] and [Taj Gibson] played last year is a huge plus. The addition of Pau [Gasol], getting a stretch 4 like [Nikola] Mirotic, picking up McDermott, [but] the biggest thing is Derrick. Obviously that's huge for our team and we can never lose sight of how important he is to our team."
That's why several members of the Bulls front office and training staff have been watching Rose work all week with Team USA. Forman watched Wednesday's practice and was very pleased with what he saw. Forman is hopeful that Rose can knock off a lot of the rust that hampered his game during his first comeback last season.
"I think it will help," Forman said, in regards to Rose having this experience with Team USA. "He's been playing 5-on-5 now for a couple of months. But to do it in this setting that's very structured, and to do it against the level of competition he's doing it against is a real plus. And I think it will be a plus for him going into camp in October, and obviously a plus for our team."
Rose has impressed seemingly everyone through three days of Team USA camp and is trying to take all the hype surrounding his return in stride.
"It feels good knowing that people see that I've been working my butt off," Rose said. "If anything, it's going to push me to keep working because I'm a hard worker. It feels good when your teammates hit you up or text you. Like Joakim's been texting me a lot saying how he's been hearing about how I've been playing, and it's pushing him to go into his rehab with his knee even tougher. So it goes a long way."
Rose said he got Gasol's number during the free-agency period and talked to him about coming to play in Chicago.
"I talked to him before he signed," Rose said. "And he said when we get to Spain that we can probably get something to eat so I'll probably catch up with him and get dinner or something. But if not I'll see him when he gets to Chicago."
The Chicago Bulls star must prove to himself -- and the rest of the basketball world -- that his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season. He knows that plenty of people are doubting whether this can happen, but he is ready to embark on the long journey because he is confident he can't do any more to prepare his body for what is to come.
Rose understands that after missing most of the past three seasons, and playing in just 10 games in the past two seasons, he is going to have some tough days. His teammates and coaches have raved about his performance during the first two days of Team USA camp, but the 25-year-old Rose knows that every day will be different. That's the reason why he's trying to stay even-keeled about the expectations surrounding him.
"But getting through them down days, that's what going to make me a stronger player I think," he said. "I can't be down on it, just like (Monday). Yesterday is yesterday and today is in the past now, too. I got to look forward to what we got going on tonight, I got to get acupuncture, I got to get a massage. (Wednesday) I've got a practice and it starts all over again."
Every step Rose takes on the floor this week in Las Vegas is being watched carefully by Bulls personnel. Bulls' Director of Sports Performance Jen Swanson is in town to work with Rose. Bulls executive VP John Paxson was on hand Monday to check on Rose during Team USA's first practice. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who also serves as an assistant coach for Team USA, is constantly checking on his star player during practices to make sure he's feeling OK.
The Bulls are doing everything they can to protect Rose from another injury which makes the physical and mental preparation beforehand even more important. But even Rose acknowledged that when those rough days eventually come, it likely will be because of something that he's dealing with physically instead of what he accomplishes on the floor.
"To be honest, I get asked about it," he said. "I don't really ask anyone. I try and stay off Twitter, and I think a lot of people ask me, text me, some of my friends, but I just ignore it, and whatever happens, happens."
The speculation regarding McDermott's future intensified after his stellar performance in the Vegas Summer League earlier this month when he averaged 18 points a game and showed his shooting range. But the 22-year-old McDermott is trying to take all the talk in stride.
"I didn't really pay attention to it much," he said. "I think rumors happen a lot. There's been a lot this offseason. So you just got to stay patient, you can't really read into that stuff. I'm just focused on what I can do to become better."
What that means is that McDermott will continue to make a bigger name for himself by doing what he did throughout college: knock down jumpers. His close friend and fellow Creighton alumnus Kyle Korver believes McDermott is mature enough to handle anything that's thrown at him.
"He takes the game very serious," Korver said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays with an edge. He wants to be really good, and he's going to work for it. He doesn't just want it. He wants to work for it. He's got a great skill set, obviously, in how he can shoot and how he sees the floor. He dealt with every kind of defense [in college]. He's been prepared for the NBA in so many ways just in how he was guarded all the time, the pressure that was on him in Omaha at Creighton. He's a younger guy, but emotionally he's very mature."
McDermott is just trying to enjoy the experience of playing with some of the best players in the game this week in Vegas.
"It's definitely a challenge, but it can only help a guy like me who's getting his NBA career started," McDermott said.
Less than 24 hours later, Krzyzewski had seen enough of Rose to know he can count on the former MVP, who, along with Durant, James Harden and Anthony Davis, is one of the few players on the roster with significant, competitive Team USA experience now that Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook have withdrawn.
"He's found himself," Krzyzewski said Tuesday. "I think the main thing for Derrick leadership-wise is to be Derrick. And then he'll flow into what he's doing. Guys look up to Derrick because they know the last couple years what he's been through. And then when they see him playing like he is right now, you get the respect of everybody but also a lot of confidence in playing with him."
Just four short years ago, Rose's name was being mentioned as one of the faces of USA Basketball. After all the ups and downs his career has taken since then, a leadership role on his national team is something he is embracing.
"For sure," Rose said. "I think that's going to help me next year with our team with the Bulls. Being more vocal, talking to the guys, just inspiring guys when I'm on the court. I don't talk as much, but when I talk, guys listen a little bit, so I'm starting to pay attention to that and use that in a way to change the game."
Rose's ability to lead on the floor without having to say as much has impressed Durant for years. The Oklahoma City Thunder star has always respected Rose's approach to the game and believes his teammate is better than he was during the 2010 world championships when Rose started all nine games, averaging a team-high 3.2 assists as Team USA won the gold, its first since 1994.
"Different guys lead different ways," Durant said. "Derrick is not like a 'rah-rah' type of player, screaming in guys' faces [or] yelling. But he leads by example by how hard he plays, how much he cares. He'll be vocal here and there, but you could tell when it's time to go, he's going to be ready. It's great to play alongside him."
Krzyzewski seems to relish the chance to coach Rose. He has beamed with pride while discussing Rose's game over the past couple of days, and he knows he has a role in helping Rose return to form on the floor.
So how does Krzyzewski help Rose find himself?
"You try to help him to not overplay him," Krzyzewski said. "In other words, not minutes, but give him the freedom to follow his instincts. Derrick has great instincts, and you don't want to play defense on him by making him just a half-court player or calling out plays and stuff. You still want to do part of that, but you also want to let him go, and that's what we're trying to do. That's what I told him, don't be perfect. You don't have to perfect. Just play, follow your instincts. He wants to please so badly. I love Derrick. I loved coaching him in , and we have a great relationship. And he's been fabulous in these two days, which is a big pick-me-up for our squad."
Rose has tried to brush off some of the praise coming his way, but it's evident in the glowing reviews he continues to get from his peers that he is at the forefront of Team USA's plans. Those closest to him just want to make sure he isn't putting too much pressure on himself on and off the floor.
"I think that's the biggest challenge for him is just showing more patience and finding the rhythm of the game," Bulls head coach and Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau said. "When he does that, the game is a lot easier, and that's the way we really want him to play, and I think he has the benefit of having gone through coming back last year. And so I think he learned from that. I think he's better prepared this time around. His body looks great, and he says he feels great. So you just keep going day by day."
That's music to Krzyzewski's ears. He isn't shocked by the fact that Rose has returned to form so quickly. He's just hoping that Rose can take the next step in his leadership development as well.
"I don't know [if I'd say] surprised. Happy," Krzyzewski said of Rose's play. "Very pleased. Nothing that he does will ever surprise me because he's one of the elite players, and he's a fabulous kid. Not a good kid. He's a fabulous young man. ... He's a fabulous guy. A team player."
In Rose's words: On the biggest difference he felt in his game from Monday to Tuesday: "I think it was the same. Just trying to keep on improving and just happy to be here. Happy that the USA team gave me an opportunity to be here and show everything. And just trying to get in a groove with my guys, learn guys' tendencies when I'm playing with them because the coaching staff has been switching up teams and really just trying to live it up."
In Thibs' words: On Rose's day: "The biggest thing is each day for him to get more comfortable. I think he's found his rhythm. There's a lot of guys out there doing great things. I think the thing that makes them all so special is their willingness to make plays for each other."
On Rose's game evolving: "I think that's the biggest challenge for him is just showing more patience and finding the rhythm of the game. When he does that the game is a lot easier and that's the way we really want him to play and I think he has the benefit of having gone through coming back last year. And so I think he learned from that, I think he's better prepared this time around. His body looks great and he says he feels great. So you just keep going day by day."
In Coach K's words: On the differences between Rose's game on Monday and Tuesday: "He was phenomenal [Monday] and he was today, too. He hasn't held anything back. The neat thing about today was we went hard [Monday] and we went hard today and he hasn't been in this [practice] environment and he was as good or better today."
Teammates' reaction: Bulls rookie and Team USA Select member Doug McDermott on Rose's performance: "He's looked really good. He's one of the best players here and he definitely showed that the last couple days so it's great to see obviously."
LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose's game is going to change as he tries to make his way back from yet another knee injury, but it hasn't altered the Chicago Bulls star's mindset on the court.
The former MVP still believes he is the best player on the floor.
But even Rose, 25, knows things will be different with this comeback. After playing in only 49 games the past three seasons, and only 10 in the past two seasons, things have changed.
So what are some of the biggest differences between today's Rose and the one from a few years ago?
"Body control," he said. "I'm able to control my body a little bit more, using my speed. Being smart with my speed, instead of just running wild out there. Just being smart. I'm a smarter player, but I'm mad it took me seven years to learn that."
Rose's outward confidence hasn't been shaken, but his game has shifted. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Rose won't try to force contact as much as he has in years past, a smart move, given his injury history.
"I think you will see that next year," he said. "Just trying to [keep] people off my body. I'm using a lot of floaters, using a lot of pull-ups, stuff like that so that I won't get touched as much."
The biggest key in the minds of Rose and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is that Rose is playing with more patience.
"I think when I came back last time I wanted it too bad," Rose said. "I was trying to force the game. And this time around I'm just trying to let the game come to me. Of course, be aggressive, but at the same time have control of the game and be smarter. And being able to run the team at the point guard position."
Rose emerged as a superstar in the 2010-11 season when he became the youngest NBA MVP in history after averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists in leading the Bulls to the best record in the NBA. After missing the entire 2012-13 season after ACL surgery, Rose's comeback lasted just 10 games last season. He showed flashes of his old explosive self in averaging 15.9 points on 35 percent shooting but was still trying to get his game back when he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in November 2013.
After practicing with the Bulls late last season, he has continued to rehab the knee, with the Team USA training camp his latest step. Rose is not assured a spot on the team, which also has fellow combo guards John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry.
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski came away impressed by Rose after the first day of practice.
"I was ecstatic about watching him today," Krzyzewski said. "He's better than four years ago. Four years ago, he was 21, and he was just on the verge of becoming who he was going to be. But he had a great practice today. You don't practice like this [every day]. He hasn't been in practices like this. Now [we'll] watch what he does for the next few days."
"Derrick's very bright," Thibodeau said. "I think he's learned from each situation that he's been in. So that was his first comeback really [last year], and I think he had the opportunity to look back and say, 'OK, this is how I want to approach it this time.' So I think he's grown from it. I think the adversity has made him a lot stronger mentally and he's playing patiently. I think he understands exactly where he is."
When he returns to the Bulls in September for training camp, Rose is excited about the prospect of spending even more time playing off the ball with Kirk Hinrich or new acquisition Aaron Brooks running the point. That can only help take some of the pressure off Rose.
"Catch and shoot," Rose said. "Hell yeah. I've been doing a lot of catch and shooting, running off floppy [sets]. Just trying to make the game simple. Find ways to score, or find ways to affect the game by not scoring. And me playing the 2 sometimes, coming off a floppy, catching the ball getting to the hole, throwing [alley-]oops. Get other people open with just a live dribble. I think this year will be the first time I have played the most in my career with catching the ball and having a live dribble."
As Rose enters his seventh NBA season, he certainly has a lot to prove with a Bulls team, bolstered by offseason acquisitions Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and first-round pick Doug McDermott, that has title aspirations. Rose knows what it has taken to get back on the floor -- again -- and he seems at peace with his evolution as a player.
"I'm a totally different player, but it comes with experience," he said, "Just playing, playing through your mistakes. Just playing in an NBA game, you're going to learn. So I'm happy I have people around me to give me advice, learn from people, and I'm happy I have the IQ to actually learn."
Gasol is signed for three years and made it clear during his introductory news conference that he believes the Bulls can compete for a title and he still has plenty left in the tank.
By all accounts, Gasol is a solid teammate and the type of player who will fit in well with any locker room. But how would he handle coming off the bench on the back end of a storied career? If he knew the Bulls were going to add Love, would that have changed his thought process in free agency?
When former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni decided to use Gasol in a reserve role at times during the 2012-13 season, the former All-Star expressed his displeasure.
"I'm not excited about it," Gasol told reporters after a loss to the Bulls in January of 2013. "It's not something that I've ever [done], coming off the bench. But right now I'm more worried about us as a team and us struggling, so it would be selfish of me talking about how I feel of something in particular."
The end of that quote may prove to be the most important for Gasol and the Bulls moving forward. He's also proven to be a team player in the past and would be best served leading the second unit in this scenario. Love is just 25 years old and is one of the best players in the game. Gasol could still be an important member of a championship-caliber team, he just wouldn't hear his name called at the beginning of games.
After losing out on Carmelo Anthony in free agency, the Bulls made the right move to go after Gasol as a contingency plan. Now that Love remains stuck in limbo in Minnesota, the Bulls are making the right play by continuing to go after him. If the Timberwolves accepted a deal for Love of Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, as Sheridanhoops.com reported earlier this week, Gasol would fortify a group off the bench that would still be strong. Gasol, Tony Snell or Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks would be at Thibodeau's disposal in what would remain a deep roster.
Gasol surely wouldn't be happy coming off the bench, but if Love were to come to Chicago then Gasol should take solace in the fact he would be on a better team than even he could have imagined when he signed his Bulls contract last week.
"Derrick's been having a great summer," Gibson said on Wednesday during an appearance for his basketball camp. "He's sacrificed, stayed in Chicago all summer to work on his game. He wants to let his game speak for itself. He's staying away from all the negative stuff, just working on his game. Every day I go in the gym he's there and moving forward. He's going to come back dominant."
Frontcourt depth is 'shocking': Like many within the Bulls organization, Gibson is looking forward to the opportunities that come with the additions of Pau Gasol and European star Nikola Mirotic. He is confident he and the new players will work great alongside All-Star center Joakim Noah.
"It's shocking," Gibson said. "It's scary at times when you think about the potential of the front line and the depth. Our young guy from overseas (Nikola Mirotic), he's going to be extremely good. We've got Joakim, we're not going to have to put so many minutes on him. Every year late in the season he's always banged up."
Gibson believes the addition of Gasol is really going to help the Bulls in a lot of areas.
"I think it's a great addition for our team," he said. "It gives us more depth. I think we have more size up front. One thing about our bigs, Thibs is going to have so many different options. He can go small, he can go big, we have a lot of different lineups."
The last word: Gibson, on if he wants to stay in Chicago -- "Without a doubt. I'm a nonchalant kind of guy. I'm not a talkative kind of guy, just let my game speak for myself. But this place has been home for me, a lot of good things. I'm looking forward to the future, but we got to see what happens."
Like the rest of the organization, Thibodeau was disappointed that the Bulls were unable to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, but the next best option was to land several players who should make the Bulls a stronger team from top to bottom. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson believe they have done that over the past few weeks when they signed four-time All-Star Pau Gasol and European star Nikola Mirotic and drafted college player of the year McDermott.
On paper, the Bulls' 2011-12 roster was deeper heading into the season. That one featured Derrick Rose coming off winning the MVP trophy the season before, Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng in the starting lineup with Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Jimmy Butler, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson, among others, coming off the bench.
While the 2014-15 roster can't match the talent right now, it may come close over time. Thibodeau has the chance to go 11 deep to start training camp, which makes the Bulls one of the deepest teams in the league. Rose will be back in the starting lineup alongside Noah, while Gasol likely fills out the rest of the group with Dunleavy and Butler.
The bench consists of Hinrich, Tony Snell, McDermott, Mirotic and Gibson. With the addition of veteran combo guard Brooks, a move that is likely to be finalized in the next couple days, the Bulls have the type of depth that every coach in the league would love. Brooks gives the Bulls an insurance policy should Rose or Hinrich go down with an injury and could be even more valuable if Thibodeau decides to play either of those two off the ball more this season.
The only other real question for this group on paper is at the center position. Forman and Paxson will continue to look for another backup big man to play behind Noah, who will turn 30 years old this season and needs to save as much energy as he can for the grind of the playoffs. Veteran Nazr Mohammed has said he would love to be back in Chicago for his third year. Rookie Bairstow may prove to be an answer for a few minutes each night over time, but the Bulls would be best served to bring in one more big man to back up Noah, Gasol and Gibson.
In the meantime, Forman and Paxson can take solace in knowing that they have created a luxury for Thibodeau in regard to a deeper roster. It will be up to Thibodeau to take advantage of that depth over an 82-game regular season.
The Bulls have Bench Mob 2.0 in place. It will be interesting to see if it can be as successful as its predecessor.
The 33-year-old Hinrich has spent nine of his 11 NBA seasons with the Bulls, including last season when he averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 assists in 32.3 minutes a game.
Bairstow was selected with the 49th overall pick in last month's draft.
"We like Cameron's combination as a player with his size, energy and physicality," said Bulls GM Gar Forman said in a statement. "He is a hard worker who will only get better with time."
It is still unclear how much of a factor Bairstow will have this season, but Bulls executive VP John Paxson said the organization fielded several offers for draft night swaps when Bairstow was selected.
"We were getting calls leading up to that pick with teams offering us a ton of cash," Paxson told ESPN Chicago 1000's "Waddle & Silvy Show" last month. "For people that sit there and say that the Bulls always make decisions based on money -- we never even considered taking a deal like that [on draft night]. And [owner Jerry Reinsdorf] is sitting there in the room -- because we were looking at a player that we think can maybe play a role for us down the road. And we sat there and bypassed [the offers]."
With Bairstow's deal on the books, now the Bulls must officially sign first-round pick Doug McDermott and free agent Aaron Brooks. They also must continue to look for another backup big man to take the pressure of Joakim Noah. Bairstow may eventually fill that role, but that will be determined over time.
"I don't think it changes at all," Thibodeau said. "As I've spoken with all three, they're all going to have significant roles. How it plays out, we'll figure that out. We won't know that until they're on the floor and we look at how they work together and what's best for our team. We're always going to do what's best for our team. But they're all going to have a significant role."
Thibodeau was asked specifically if Gibson would be used as a starter to begin the season.
"I'm not ruling it out," he said. "I want to see what happens. I want to see how it works together, what's best for our second unit, what gives us our best chance. How are we going to finish? How are we going to start? How are all the minutes going to work out? But they're all good problems to have."
"To be honest with you, we were offered a couple picks in the top 10 for his rights," Forman said on ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show" on Friday. "So I think he's a pretty high-level player. He's got a chance to develop into one. He's 6-foot-10, he's got a motor. He can play inside and out and he can shoot the 3-ball, so that's a good skill set to have as a young player."
Mirotic was officially signed by the Bulls and introduced Friday at the United Center. The organization is hopeful that Mirotic will be able to come in and contribute right away, but the front office doesn't want to put too much pressure on Mirotic too early.
"Obviously there's going to be an adjustment coming from Europe," Forman said. "With that said, he's a little different than the average college player coming in because he's been a pro since he was 16 years old. That's been his job. He's played at a very high level; the ACB league in Spain is the second-best league in the world outside of the NBA and he was the MVP of what they call the Spanish Cup, which is the big tournament they have every year, and he's been the MVP of the Spanish league.
"So I think he's got a chance [to make an immediate impact], it will just be how quickly can he make the adjustment. First of all, coming to the States, coming to the NBA, and then within our system. But I wouldn't want to put a cap on what he can become, but I do think there will be an adjustment period for him."
It didn't sound as if Forman ever seriously considered the offers for Mirotic. The Bulls have always believed that he would be able to have a major impact on the organization because of his length and ability to stretch the floor.
"We've obviously had his rights for three years," Forman said. "We've got a lot invested in him. We've built a relationship over that time and were trying to get him here ... we were hopeful to get him this year. We thought if the buyout didn't happen this year, we were optimistic it would be a year from now. But the sooner the better that he can get over here and play against NBA-caliber players, and I think that's going to help him to continue to develop and continue to grow."
Boozer was claimed off waivers by the Lakers on Thursday. The final year of Boozer's deal was amnestied by the Bulls on Tuesday.
"When you look at four years and you win 200 games, he did a terrific job for us," Thibodeau said Friday. "Carlos has had a great career, he did his job here, and we wish him nothing but the best. I think the Lakers, I think that will be a good fit for him. But he did a great job for us."
Boozer averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last season for the Bulls.