Chicago Bulls: James Johnson

Bulls draft hits and misses of Forman era

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
10:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
BullsGetty ImagesIn their last three drafts the Bulls have had a hit (Jimmy Butler), a miss (Marquis Teague) and a work in progress (Tony Snell).
CHICAGO -- James Johnson's biggest claim to fame as a Chicago Bull had nothing to do with anything he accomplished on the basketball court.

SportsNation

What grade would you give Bulls GM Gar Forman for his five drafts with the Bulls?

  •  
    6%
  •  
    42%
  •  
    38%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,345)

Johnson, who was Gar Forman's first selection as Bulls GM in 2009, didn't turn out to be the player the organization wanted. But he did serve as Derrick Rose's personal protector one night in Oklahoma City during the 2009-10 season.

The Bulls were staying at the Skirvin Hotel, accommodations with a documented history of ghost activity. Rose, who on the verge of playing in his first All-Star Game, took no chances. He roomed with Johnson because of Johnson's martial arts background.

"We were watching [out for] each other," Rose said with a laugh at the time. "We were just up on the computer, just talking. Just having fun the whole night."

While Johnson's tenure didn't produce solid results, Forman and his staff have hit on several other picks in the last five years.

Let's take a look back at some of the Bulls' recent selections:


2009


James Johnson (16th): Miss
He never flourished under Vinny Del Negro and couldn't find consistent minutes in the rotation. He was dealt early in Tom Thibodeau's first season. Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague were the three players drafted right after him.

Taj Gibson (26th): Hit
He has developed into one of the most consistent defensive players in the game. Gibson is one of Thibodeau's favorite players because of how hard he works on both ends of the floor.


2010



The Bulls didn't make a pick. They traded the rights to 17th pick Kevin Seraphin as part of the deal that sent Kirk Hinrich to the Washington Wizards. The Bulls wanted to clear out as much space as they could in order to land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh. The Bulls ended up with Carlos Boozer.


2011


Nikola Mirotic (23): TBD
The Bulls moved up to snag the lanky forward from Real Madrid. He has yet to play a game in the NBA, but is considered one of the best prospects in Europe. The Bulls are still hopeful that he will come over this summer and help them next season.

Jimmy Butler (30): Hit
Like Gibson, Butler was a late-round pick who has turned himself into one of the best defenders in the league. Butler has put a lot of heart into his game and is respected by teammates and coaches because of his work ethic. His biggest issue remains the lack of a consistent jump shot. Still, he was a solid pick late in the draft and a player that many teams missed on.


2012


Marquis Teague 29: Miss
The strange part about Teague's selection is that while the Bulls worked out a slew of different players before the draft, Teague wasn't one of them. They liked his upside, but he did not do well in Thibodeau's system. He showed flashes of promise, but he never showed much of a jump shot. He was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets last season after barely playing most of the season.


2013


Tony Snell 20: TBD
This pick could haunt Forman for a while. Snell showed some promise in his first season, but he never got consistent minutes behind Butler. The Bulls badly needed a backup big man, but Forman decided against selecting Gorgui Dieng and Mason Plumlee, both of whom had solid rookie seasons. Tim Hardaway Jr., who was taken four slots after Snell, also had a nice year for the New York Knicks. Snell still has time to turn into a solid piece, but the first returns weren't as promising for a team that was already in good shape with its wings.

Johnson ' not disappointed' about trade

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
6:11
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

TORONTO -- James Johnson had an understandable reaction when he was pulled off the Berto Center practice floor on Tuesday afternoon in advance of his trade to the Toronto Raptors.

He was shocked.

[+] EnlargeJames Johnson
Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Raptors' James Johnson scored nine points in 26 minutes against his former team on Wednesday.

"I was," he said before Wednesday night's game. "I got a little heads up talking to my agent, but other than that I didn't know anything was going down, or it was even true. [I was] definitely shocked."

After an up-and-down season and a half in Chicago, Johnson is looking forward to getting a chance to prove himself in a new setting. He did not get consistent minutes with the Bulls, and it was clear that he wasn't going to crack Tom Thibodeau's rotation any time soon. Things could change for him in Toronto where he was in the starting lineup in his Raptors debut.

"I'm just trying to develop a little more," he said of the trade which landed the Bulls Miami's first-round draft pick this season. "I know these last two years I was not playing as much and it's hard to develop when you're sitting down. So working on all my skills and stuff like that with [Bulls assistant coach] Adrian [Griffin] really prepared me for this opportunity I've been wanting for a long time."

Despite the lack of playing time, Johnson, the team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft (16th overall), chose to take the high road while talking about the organization.

"I'm not disappointed at all," he said. "It's a business. I understand fully what Gar Forman and John Paxson had for me they came and sat down and talked to me after I went to the D-League and they just want what's best for me. And to have a general manager and a vice president like that who cares about the players and not as much about the organization, about keeping the kid there, even though he's not playing, goes a long way and shows what kind of character they have."

Johnson's teammates and coaches wished him nothing but the best as he started a new phase in his career.

"J.J. is a good player," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "A good young player. Didn't have enough time to play with us because of who we have on our team, just didn't have enough time. I think that he's going to be a good player in this league."

"I hope he gets an opportunity to play," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added. "He did a good job with us; professional every day, and this is a young team and he'll have an opportunity."

For Johnson, he knows it might be a little strange at first to play against all his old teammates.

"I was just telling Adrian Griffin actually that I don't want to have Derrick say 'outlet' and me pass the ball to him," he said with a laugh. "That's going to be weird. Not trying to swing it to [Luol Deng]. And that's pretty much it, really. Other than that, they know I'm a player, they know I'm a hard worker and it's just going to be going at them just like I do in practice."

Aside from the new teammates, the biggest difference for Johnson may be the fact that he decided to switch jersey numbers from 16 to 0.

"I just wanted a fresh start," he said of his old Bulls' number. "I didn't want 16 anymore. I wanted to start from zero and work my way up."

The Chicago Bulls have sent James Johnson to the Toronto Raptors for a draft pick, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher.

Read the entire story.

Johnson rejoins Bulls after NBDL stint

February, 14, 2011
2/14/11
7:18
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- James Johnson was back at practice Monday afternoon after being recalled from the NBA Development League. Johnson played eight games in the D-League for the Iowa Energy, the Bulls' affiliate.

[+] EnlargeJames Johnson
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames Johnson played eight games with the Iowa Energy of the NBDL.
"I thought he played very, very well in the D-League," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He did a great job. The team won. He played extremely well. And he did a great job today at practice. We're happy to have him back."

Thibodeau believes that Johnson's success in the D-League will help him down the line.

"I think you're seeing it more and more now," he said. "I think more teams are utilizing the D-League and it makes a lot of sense. And James has done a great job for us all year in practice, his attitude has been terrific, and it was an opportunity for him to get some playing time which I think was important for him for his development."

As far as Johnson cracking the rotation though, Thibodeau was still non-committal, saying that Johnson will be used "situationally."

"The thing is, if we're in a situation where there's injury, foul trouble, I would not hesitate to put him in the game."

Johnson averaged 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists during his stint in the D-League.


Bulls assign Johnson to D-League

January, 27, 2011
1/27/11
12:36
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- The Chicago Bulls announced on Thursday morning that they have assigned forward James Johnson to the NBA Development League. The second-year forward will play for the Iowa Energy, the Bulls' affiliate in the D-League.

"It's a tough decision, and James has done a terrific job," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His attitude's been great. He's worked extremely hard in practice, and we just felt because of the way things were going, he wasn't playing much so we wanted to give him an opportunity to get some playing time. I think he's going to a very good team, and it will be an opportunity for him ... to get some playing time. Games are different than practice, so I think it will be good for him."

After showing flashes of improved play early in the season, Johnson has rarely played over the past two months. It was clear that he wasn't going to get much of a chance to break back into Tom Thibodeau's rotation this season. Johnson averaged 3.5 points and 2 rebounds this season. At just 23, he's still got a chance to get his game back on track, but his place at the end of the Bulls bench appears locked in place for the foreseeable future.

"He's done a lot of good things here the first half of the season," Thibodeau said. "His attitude and the way he's practiced has been excellent. The big thing is that when guys do go down [to the D-League] it's important that they want to go down because I think that if you go down with the wrong attitude -- the D-League is a very good league.

"And I think you're seeing more and more teams use it that way; when guys aren't getting playing time, you look at your schedule, where you are in the schedule, and if it makes sense to give a guy an opportunity to get into a situation where he can get 30-35 minutes to play. So we did that and he wanted to do it, so it wasn't the case of him not wanting to go. It's not a punishment, it's just an opportunity for him to get some playing time to develop."

Johnson's stock rises after big effort

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
5:51
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
[+] EnlargeJames Johnson
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Bulls' James Johnson stepped up his game late, scoring six points and pulling down eight rebounds in the fourth quarter.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- As his team languished during the second half of Saturday night's home opener against the Pistons, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau desperately searched his bench for a spark, an answer. He found one in the most unlikely of places: At the end of the bench in the form of James Johnson.

The second-year swingman came in late and gave his teammates a big boost, scoring eight points, dishing out four assists and grabbing three steals as well as nailing a clutch three late in the fourth quarter.

The irony that Johnson, a player who many had written off after a disappointing rookie season, was the man who helped get the Bulls back on track in Saturday’s 101-91 comeback win was lost on nobody Sunday afternoon at the Berto Center. Especially when you consider that Thibodeau told Johnson he would not be part of the rotation to start the season and would struggle to find consistent minutes.

"It's hard when the head coach comes up to you and tells you you're not going to be playing that much, because we've got so many good players, different players, at his position." Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "He's young and he came out ready, even though he didn't know he was going to play. But he came out there, boosted us up, and gave us a lot of energy to go out there and win that game."

For Johnson, Saturday's performance was just another sign that his hard work has been paying off. He dropped almost 30 pounds in the summer and has spent countless hours in the gym working with assistant coach Adrian Griffin and team ambassador Scottie Pippen on refining his game.

"Opportunity came knocking," Johnson said. "Thibodeau said it would and he just told me to be ready for it. He came and talked to me before the first game and let me know I wasn't in the rotation and to keep working and my opportunity would come. We didn't know when and we didn't know what game, but it happened to be [Saturday] and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could."

Neither Johnson or Thibodeau ventured to guess whether the solid performance would land the former Wake Forest star more minutes in the coming weeks, but the fact that Johnson finally played the way everyone knew he was capable of made a lot of his teammates happy. Rose and Joakim Noah were two of the players who spoke to Johnson about keeping his head up while in the midst of an up-and-down career. His teammates know that the 23-year-old is taking the game more seriously this season.

"He came in with a new mentality," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Just worked his tail off the whole summer. He's always been a great teammate, never pouting on the sidelines, like some guys pout and cry about their minutes, but he's always bringing it in practice and it shows."

Thibodeau can see the difference as well.

"I'm not surprised because he had been practicing well," Thibodeau said. "I thought he prepared himself well, I thought he played very well in the preseason. I think it's difficult to play more than ten guys. He started off, he wasn't in the rotation, but I had every confidence in him that when he was put in he would do a good job, and he did."

After a poor showing at the Vegas Summer League, many wondered if Johnson was ever going to learn how to become a productive NBA player, but Johnson never lost confidence in himself.

"You can't let nobody take your heart from you," Johnson said. "I didn't and I know I'm always going to work hard and nobody's going to tell me different."

With that attitude, if he keeps playing the way he did on Saturday night, it's going to be hard for Thibodeau to keep Johnson out of the lineup. It's a decision that Rose is happy he doesn't have to make.

"I'm glad I'm not the coach, man," Rose said. "You have players like this coming out to ball almost every night, players like [Johnson] make it hard on the coach because you just told the guy he wasn't going to be playing much, but then he comes out and gives you a lot of energy and helps you win ... so it's kind of hard on Tibs."

It's a problem that Thibodeau and the Bulls don't mind having.

Line of the day: Johnson, on having Pippen around to help him at the Berto Center.

"It's Scottie Pippen, man. Any kid would be happy for him to tell him anything. I'm still a kid myself, I'm still learning and to come up with Scottie Pippen, it's not bad."

Bulls' dynamic duo can't do it alone

October, 31, 2010
10/31/10
12:10
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The pretty blonde lady in the newsboy cap was right: the Bulls needed a little James Johnson in the second half.

“Did you see,” she said after the game, with a light high five and a smile. “I was right.”

That woman is Cecila Rhode, winsome artist, former beauty queen and amateur NBA prognosticator.

You might know her better as Joakim Noah’s mother.

Read the entire story.

Rapid reaction: Bulls 101, Pistons 91

October, 30, 2010
10/30/10
9:58
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Bulls came back to beat the Pistons 101-91 in their home opener on Saturday night.

How it happened: The Bulls looked lethargic for most of the night, but Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah helped turned things on late as the Bulls rallied for their first win of the season. After dominating most of the contest, Detroit appeared to fall asleep in the fourth quarter. The Pistons couldn't make a shot and allowed the United Center crowd to creep back into the game. After scoring 21 points in the first half, Ben Gordon didn't do a thing in the second half and Detroit couldn't respond. Bulls second-year forward James Johnson made a few nice plays down the stretch, but it was Rose who made things happen at the offensive end of the floor, tying a career high with 39 points.

What it means: Make no mistake, the Bulls are still a flawed team. If Rose and Noah don't have huge games, they aren't going to win many without Carlos Boozer. Luol Deng did not play well, shooting just 2-for-10 from the floor. In the short-term, the Bulls are going to be able to beat mediocre teams like Detroit this way. In the long-term, the Bulls are going to get hammered by teams with more talent if they don’t find a second consistent scoring threat to take the pressure off Rose.

What’s next: The Bulls hope to make it two in a row on Monday when Brandon Roy and the Blazers come to town. They still have to find a way to create more contact and get to the line, but coach Tom Thibodeau has to be pleased with the way his team responded in the fourth quarter after such a disappointing last quarter on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

Stat of the night: The Bulls outscored the Pistons 34-9 in the fourth quarter.
The Chicago Bulls exercised the fourth-year option on point guard Derrick Rose, and the third-year options on Taj Gibson and James Johnson on Monday.

Read the entire story.

Luol Deng proving coach Thibodeau's point

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
11:19
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
[+] EnlargeLuol Deng
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty ImagesLuol Deng scored 29 points and was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line in the Bulls' win over the Pacers on Friday.
CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau tried to tell you.

He tried to make you see what he saw. From the moment he was hired back in June, he tried to explain to Bulls fans that Luol Deng was the real deal. That Deng, the much maligned 25-year-old swingman, was a great player who would only get better in his system.

After watching Deng torch the Pacers on Friday night to the tune of 29 points in 30 minutes, it's hard not to see what Thibodeau saw all along: If Deng stays healthy, and, of course, that's always a gigantic if, he has a chance to be very, very good this season.

"I always thought he was a guy that you worried about because he was capable of having a big game," Thibodeau said after Friday’s 102-74 win over the Pacers in the Bulls’ preseason finale. "All the things that he does puts constant pressure on your defense. It does not matter what play you are running because Luol is clever without the ball. He knows how to cut behind the defense. He's very good at finding open areas and attacking the basket. You add that three point shot to his game and it puts even more pressure. The defense is flying out at him and he is making even more good decisions."

Those decisions have been apparent all preseason long, and were visible once again on Friday night. Not only did Deng rack up 29 points, he also had eight rebounds and three assists, going three-for-five from beyond the arc.

"We're really doing a good job of moving the ball," Deng said. "Whenever I'm open I feel like the ball's coming to me. I just feel like the way we move the ball right now is the best that we've done that for a while."

There is no doubt that this is the best that Deng has looked in a while. He is starting to take -- and make -- the long-range shots that have eluded him over the last few years and he is also starting to drive to the hoop more. He was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line and continues to take it strong to the hoop.

"I didn't tell myself, ‘I'm going to get to the line a certain amount of times’, I just think the way the system is, with me being able to drive and slash, I'm really moving freely on the floor. The spacing is so good, I'm just finding myself aggressively going to the line, driving. I would say I am doing a better job initiating contact than I did in the past."

It's not just the aggressive play that is making the difference for Deng at the moment, it's the fact that he is as healthy as he's been in a while. After struggling to recover from a stress fracture in his leg last summer, Deng came into camp in some of the best shape of his life after spending the summer playing for Team Great Britain.

"I don't know if it's the most confidence I've felt, but I just felt great this summer," Deng said. "I'm always playing. I don't like to take the summers off or take time off, and I felt like last summer was really hard for me to just sit down with the injury and wait til like three days before preseason and that's when I started really playing live. So it's really different just playing all summer and coming into the preseason in shape and continually playing, so that really helped my confidence."

Johnson continues to impress: James Johnson has struggled to find consistent time in the Bulls’ rotation since being drafted last summer, but it seems he's finally ready to change that. After dropping almost 30 pounds over the summer, Johnson has had a solid training camp and finished it off with another strong performance, going 4-for-4 from the field and finishing with 11 points.

"I thought he played very well," Thibodeau said. "Defensively, he was very good. He made quick decisions and the team functioned well when he was out there."

If Johnson continues to play as he has lately, he will find a way to get on the floor once the real games begin on Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

The last word: Derrick Rose, on if he thinks this is the best team he has played on heading into the season.

"Yes," he said. "I already know. The vibe that [we have] every day in practice when we come in is crazy, where guys are always working out, helping each other, always hanging with each other. It's kind of like getting into a college team, so that's a good sign."

Rose getting comfortable in crunch time

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
11:25
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

New Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has continued to preach during the preseason that his team must hang onto the ball in order to be successful – it’s one of the only messages that hasn’t gotten through over the first few weeks of training camp. Over the past three games, the Bulls have turned the ball over 58 times, including 21 in Friday night's 109-105 OT loss to Dallas.

“It’s a big problem,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Until we correct it, it’s going to cost us. We’re beating ourselves when we’re doing that so … we’ve been high-turnover three games in a row, it’s a close game, so it’s costly.”

Aside from the Bulls continued turnover problems, here are a few other things we learned during the Mavs 109-105 overtime win on Friday night:

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireAs he proved Friday, Derrick Rose is becoming effective in end-of-game situations.
D. Rose at the end of games: When the Bulls didn’t land LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this summer, there were plenty of people who wondered if the Bulls would be able to contend without a player who could close out games or hit a big shot when the Bulls needed it most. As I’ve been trying to tell people all summer, the Bulls already have that guy in place: His name is Derrick Rose. The 22 year-old All-Star point guard is getting better and better in those crucial situations at the end of games, as evidenced by his game-tying 3 with 1.6 seconds left to play which sent the game into overtime. Rose is playing with more confidence and swagger than at any other point in his young career. He wants to take and make those shots at the end of games. And that’s an extremely good sign for Thibodeau and the Bulls, despite the fact that Rose missed another game-tying three late in overtime.

When I asked him if he was starting to feel even more confident in the pressure situations, he just smiled and nodded.

“Yeah,” he said. “Especially just getting it all out of my system, like I said, if you leave me open, I’m shooting. No matter what. No matter how I’m dribbling, whatever, I’m shooting the ball. Just getting used to [late game situations] you grow as a player, and I can feel myself growing.”

Deng is finding his niche: As he did so many times last season, Luol Deng scored 13 point during the first quarter on Friday night and then disappeared for a while. The difference is that when the Bulls needed a few crucial buckets down the stretch, he was there to deliver. Deng had seven points in the fourth and clearly seems to be enjoying his new role in Tom Thibodeau’s offense. He was also 5-for-seven from behind the arc, a stat that has to make Bulls fans ecstatic.

“I’ve been shooting it well in practice,” he said of the three-pointer. With [the Mavs] zone defense today I had a lot of good looks. Because I’ve been shooting it well in practice, I had a lot of confidence when I was shooting it.”

Johnson is getting better: James Johnson has had an up-and-down year in the league, but there is no question that the second year forward from Wake Forest is starting to find his way. He made several athletic plays during the game, finishing with eight points and six rebounds. While he still makes a mental error here and there, he has clearly improved his basketball IQ over the summer.

Watson’s streaky: Everyone knew that C.J. Watson was a streak shooter, and now Bulls fans are getting a full taste of what they can expect at times this season. Watson was 2-for-13 on the night and consistently struggled to find his shot, even when he got an open look.

Noah feels fine … again: After playing 40 minutes on Tuesday night against the Raptors, you might have thought Thibodeau would pull back on Joakim Noah’s minutes. You would have been wrong. Noah played 35 minutes against the Mavericks and racked up yet another double-double (13 points, 15 rebounds) in the process. After the game was over, once again, Thibodeau didn’t seemed concerned, although I would be surprised if Noah played that many minutes against the Magic on Saturday night, in the second game of a back-to-back.

Rose feels fine, too: Speaking of minutes, Rose has been playing a lot of them as well lately. He played 37 on Friday night including the end of the fourth quarter and overtime. He says he feels good though. “I told [Thibodeau] I would love to play a lot of minutes,” Rose said. “Because it would get me back in my rhythm, because I don’t play pro-ams during the summer or anything, I just work on my game, so it’s different from working out and actually playing in games, so that’s what he’s doing right now, trying to give me my rhythm and my groove to go out there and play.”

Rose was reminded that he spent the better part of two months playing with Team USA. As usual, he just smiled and laughed.

Player breakdown: James Johnson

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
4:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
As we get set for the upcoming Bulls season, let's take a closer look at each player on the projected roster. It’s a roster which has been the subject of more debate and excitement than any other in recent memory.

Player: James Johnson

Salary for 2010-11 season: $1,713,600, in second year of rookie deal

[+] EnlargeJames Johnson
AP Photo/Mike Roemer James Johnson will get a fresh start under new coach Tom Thibodeau.
Role for Bulls in 2010-'11: Johnson must prove to the organization that he is ready to take the next step in his development. He struggled to find minutes under former coach Vinny Del Negro and looked out of place on the floor when he did find himself in a game. To his credit, Johnson appears to have hit the gym hard this summer, losing over 20 pounds. He has the talent and athleticism to become a solid backup for new coach Tom Thibodeau and could give the Bulls even more depth behind Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver. Johnson shows flashes of becoming the player Gar Forman thought he was getting with the 16th pick in last year's draft, but up to this point he hasn't proven that he will be a productive player.

What happened this summer?: Johnson definitely got into better shape, but it didn't seem to help him on the court. He didn't play very well during summer league games and couldn't consistently hit the open looks when they did come his way. He continues to be mentioned in myriad of trade possibilities, but no other team wants to take a chance on him at the moment given what he did last season.

Best-case scenario: Johnson continues to get into better shape and improves his basketball IQ while watching copious amounts of tape with Thibodeau. He plays better defense and proves to the coaches that he can hit a mid-range jump shot when needed. He earns minutes as a spark off the bench and continues to show flashes of the player he became at Wake Forest.

Worst-case scenario: He has the same kind of year that he did a season ago. He can't find minutes under Thibodeau, he puts on the weight that he worked so hard to take off this summer, and he continues to make questionable decisions when he is on the floor. In short, he continues to make fans wonder what Gar Forman and Co. saw when they drafted him.

Bottom line: Yes, Johnson is just 23, but he is already at a critical stage of his career. He has to re-dedicate himself to the game and start making plays when given the chance. If he doesn't, it will be hard for him to ever crack a rotation in the league.

Don't count on seeing Carmelo as a Bull

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
3:33
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Carmelo AnthonyChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony might look good in a Bulls uniform, but would the price be too steep?
CHICAGO -- Yes, the Chicago Bulls are interested in Carmelo Anthony. Who wouldn't be? If a team has a chance to land a player of his caliber, in any kind of trade, it would be foolish not to listen.

That's exactly what Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president of operations John Paxson are doing right now. They have seen and heard about the Yahoo! Sports report that says the Bulls are high on Anthony's wish list. They're listening to whatever Denver might be saying, and they're listening to one another and the rest of their staff.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireJoakim Noah will make $3.1 million next season and will become a restricted free agent after the season if the Bulls don't extend him.
The idea of pairing up Derrick Rose and Anthony for years to come has to make the duo salivate. But in order to land Anthony, is it worth having to trade away several other key pieces of a young, formidable team that appears only to be getting better? That's the question that Forman and Paxson have to figure out long before they enter into any kind of serious discussions with the Nuggets.

At the forefront of that quandary is this specific question:

Are the Bulls willing to include Joakim Noah in a deal that would bring Anthony to Chicago?

In many ways, that is probably the only way this deal would get done. There's been speculation for several months that if the Bulls make an offer for Anthony it would include Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and/or draft picks and cash.

But why would Denver accept that deal? Deng has four years and almost $52 million left on his contract. Not to mention the fact that he has had a hard time staying healthy the past few years. Gibson is a solid player who is only going to get better, but he isn't ever going to turn into a superstar. Johnson is a project, and it's debatable whether he will ever earn any meaningful minutes for any team.

You're telling me the Nuggets can't find a better deal than that somewhere?

Now, if the Bulls are willing to part with Noah then everything changes. Adding Noah to the deal makes it more palatable for the Nuggets to take on Deng's contract. But even then they would probably still insist that Gibson and/or picks and cash be included. Why take on all the extra money owed to Deng unless you are getting several young, potential game-changers, in return?

It's hard to imagine any scenario in which this deal gets done without Deng being involved because of the way the salary cap numbers shake out, but even with Noah involved it may not be a slam dunk. The Nuggets would have to work out a new deal with Noah at some point before next summer, or else risk having their key trade piece become a restricted free agent at the year and watch him potentially walk away.

If they did find a way to re-sign Noah, that would mean they most likely would have over $100 million invested in Noah and Deng over the next few years on a team that clearly appears to be headed into serious rebuilding mode.

If the Nuggets don't pick up Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million option next summer, (assuming, of course there isn't a lockout), the Nuggets essentially become the Bulls JV team, minus Rose and Carlos Boozer. Now, is it worth it for them to go that route or try to find a better deal with a team that has even younger, less expensive pieces, like the Clippers for example? That's something that new Denver GM Masai Ujiri must figure out.

In the meantime, Forman and Paxson have to go through the same kind of thought process: Is it worth it to trade Noah, Deng and Gibson for Anthony?

The guess here is that the ultimate conclusion will be no.

The Bulls would gladly deal Deng, Gibson, Johnson cash and picks to the Nuggets for Carmelo. If they can convince Ujiri that's the best offer he can get then GarPax instantly vaults up to second place in the executive of the year voting behind Pat Riley and the Bulls will truly be able to go toe to toe with the Lakers, Heat, Magic and Celtics for a title for years to come. But if Forman and Paxson give up Noah, Deng and Gibson for Anthony how much closer to a title are they really?

Who plays center for the Bulls? An unproven rookie in Omer Asik or a grizzled veteran like Kurt Thomas? How do they line up with a Lakers frontline which includes Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom? Who is going to deal with Dwight Howard in a seven-game series? A starting lineup that included Rose, Anthony and Boozer would be very good but how much better, if at all, would it be than a Rose, Noah, Deng, Boozer lineup with Gibson coming off the bench?

Are the Bulls any closer to a title with Anthony if they have to give up Noah in the process?

That's the question that is spinning around the heads of Forman and Paxson right now and that's why, in the end, I don't think you'll see the Bulls and Nuggets make a deal unless Denver gets desperate at the last minute and accepts some kind of proposal which includes Deng, Gibson and a potpourri of other things that Bulls wouldn't mind unloading.

Bulls will miss Miller

July, 17, 2010
7/17/10
10:37
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
[+] EnlargeBrad Miller
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls will miss Brad Miller's veteran presence off the bench.

LAS VEGAS -- The Duck got paid.

That's the initial thought I had when I first heard that Brad Miller had agreed to a three-year deal with Rockets for $15 million.

I was shocked that the Rockets were willing to give the 34-year-old veteran so much money, but more power to he and his agent Mark Bartelstein for pulling off the coup.

Sure, the third year isn't guaranteed, and there is a solid chance there will be a lockout after next season, but Miller got a bigger deal than most people expected. Certainly, a bigger deal than the Bulls were willing to offer.

The Bulls are going to miss Brad Miller. But I can't fault Gar Forman at all for not trying to match the Rockets offer. Miller played well at times during the season, giving the Bulls a boost off the bench, especially when Joakim Noah went down during the middle of the year because of plantar fasciitis. He was also a respected locker room presence, as evidenced by "The Duck" moniker he was given by his teammates, and was someone Noah trusted and leaned on through good times and bad.

Noah admitted as much in a text message to ESPNChicago.com on Saturday.

"I learned a lot from Brad," he said. "It's going to be very different with him not around. He's a real professional. I wish him nothing but the best. We're going to miss the bash brothers."

Noah and the rest of his old teammates will absolutely miss him, but Miller was not worth a three-year $15 million deal especially for a Bulls team that still has key portions of its roster to fill out.

Miller was awful at the beginning of last season and while he definitely got better as time wore on, you could tell that his body was having a hard time bouncing back from the day-to-day NBA grind. There was never a question about effort with Miller, he gave everything he had when he was on the floor, but I still can't believe a team would invest in him for that much longer. Time is not on his side.

In the meantime, the Bulls need to lock up one more big man and a backup point guard in the next week or two to round out their roster.

It's anyone's guess who will fill out those two roles. The Bulls may decide to go after a veteran such as Jose Calderon or Rudy Fernandez or another big man like Theo Ratliff or Kurt Thomas. They need someone to fill Miller shoes, but they shouldn't have to break the rest of their bank to do so.

Not exactly a summer dream: The Bulls summer league team wasn't expected to be very good, especially considering they only had one guy on the team in James Johnson who has a guaranteed contract. After watching them play on Saturday it's safe to say they lived up to their billing. They lost to a Kings team that looked disinterested throughout but that's beside the point.

The biggest issue for the new Bulls coaching staff is that Johnson still looks lost on the floor. He was just 2-for-14 from the field and couldn't seem to get anything going. You have to give him credit for getting in better shape -- he has dropped over 20 pounds -- but he still can't seem to put everything together. If he continues to play like he has been this week there is little chance he will crack the rotation much this season.

Bulls announce summer league roster

July, 5, 2010
7/05/10
6:52
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls announced their summer league roster on Monday.

Read the entire story

SPONSORED HEADLINES

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