Bulls hope time away cures players' ills

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
2:47
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesTom Thibodeau says he is in regular contact with Derrick Rose, who is still in Chicago working out.
CHICAGO -- Summer means vacation for NBA players who don't make the Finals, and the Chicago Bulls hope their players use this free time to recharge for what hopes to be a healthy regular season.

From Derrick Rose's much-debated knee rehab to Kirk Hinrich's never-ending injuries to Luol Deng's season-ending illness, the Bulls season recap needed American Medical Association approval.

The Bulls have put together great regular seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau, but haven't been able to field healthy lineups in the postseason the last two years. With no money for new players, the Bulls need the expensive ones they have to be healthy. Something has to change.

"After this year, which was about as tough a year, we started out with Derrick's injury and then all the other things that happened, we really need to focus on getting our guys right and healthy," Bulls vice president for basketball operations John Paxson said at the team's groundbreaking for its new practice facility adjacent to the United Center.

Thibodeau's game-planning skills are nonpareil, but it's clear that he pushes players to their physical limits, while other NBA contenders' coaches, especially those with older players, opt to give out more rest during the season.

The Heat and Spurs are meeting in the NBA Finals and both Erik Spoelstra and Gregg Popovich rested veterans throughout the season, even in big games.

"When you look at the teams that are still playing, or played into the conference finals, they're pretty much healthy," Paxson said. "We need to find a way to minimize the risk of injury and pay attention to that. This summer will be good for our guys."

Does this mean the team is looking to change philosophies or lay down ground rules with Thibodeau? Maybe, but Paxson wouldn't elaborate.

"Nothing new, but we need to be more detailed and in-depth with our guys," Paxson said. "Our training staff is terrific and our medical people are outstanding. I do think that a guy like (Luol Deng) doesn't have commitments this summer, Derrick's had the year to improve his body and will be working out all summer. Our guys know how to work the right way. We have to be confident we're putting things in place where we'll be healthy next year."

Deng has been overseas and has posted pictures of himself in London and Paris. Thibodeau said Rose is still in Chicago, and the two have been in frequent contact.

Last year, Deng played for England in the London Olympics with torn ligaments in his wrist and Rose began the rehab process that lasted the entire season.

Rose ended the season in street clothes, his reputation challenged on a daily basis, while Deng missed the Heat series after losing 15 pounds from complications after a spinal tap to test him for meningitis during the first round of the playoffs. ESPNChicago reported that Deng would likely skip surgery for the wrist injury, which still bothered him during the season.

"Gar and I met with (Deng's agent) Herb Rudoy and he's getting along well," Paxson said. "The big thing for Lu this year, and the summer now, is that he doesn't have any basketball he's committed to. Last year he had the Olympics in London and that was huge. He's doing better. It was awful what he went through. Nobody wants to see that happen. He'll regain his strength for the summer. I'm just glad he doesn't have anything committed basketball-wise."

As for Rose, Thibodeau had a wry smile when he got his first question on the franchise player.

"I talk to him all the time," Thibodeau said. "He's doing very well. He's moving along and we're looking forward to next year."

The Bulls said Kirk Hinrich, who missed the Heat series with a leg injury, has been working out in the Berto Center. When told that Joakim Noah was photographed in Hawaii on June 4, general manager Gar Forman said, "Who knows? I don't follow tweets so you guys probably know better than I do."

As for Noah's plantar fasciitis, Forman said they'll evaluate treatment or surgery options when he's on the mainland.

"I think we'll continue to evaluate it," Forman said. "The first thing he needed was rest. So that's what he's getting now. When he comes back we'll take a look at where he's at."

Even Thibodeau took some time off after the Bulls fell to Miami in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler tweeted that he saw the coach at a Venice Beach restaurant on May 26. Was he visiting Rose, who works out in Santa Monica?

"Derrick's here," Thibodeau said. "I just got away, went out there took a little time, relaxed. Everyone says I don't do that, but it was good to get a break. I got out there for about a week and recharged the battery."

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5