Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibodeau

Bulls still exploring marriage with Love

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
5:48
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Gar Forman has a mantra that he lives by as it pertains to improving the Bulls on a day-by-day basis: He's always looking to improve the club. The basketball lifer delivers that message all the time when questions about roster construction are asked.

That's why it should come as no surprise that the Bulls are still kicking the tires regarding a Kevin Love deal, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst. Love is a star player and would make any team he lands on better. But now that the Bulls' roster has been filled with the likes of Pau Gsaol, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks among others, the bigger question for Forman is whether the Bulls would have to give up too much of their depth to land Love.

For several years, the feeling around the league was that if the Bulls were serious about acquiring Love it would likely cost them Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and/or Nikola Mirotic and some future first round picks. That speculation will only ramp up again after the latest report, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly offering No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and Golden State still possibly adding Klay Thompson in a deal to pick up Love.

With the rest of the Bulls' roster in place -- the signings of Brooks and McDermott became official Tuesday -- the truth for the Bulls is that a Love addition would decimate the depth they have acquired in the last few weeks. If Gibson, Butler and Mirotic were included in a deal, a deal which wouldn't be done for several weeks since Mirotic just signed Friday, the Bulls would take away the depth that has made them one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference.

That's why if the Bulls were really serious about landing Love, I don't think they would have pushed so quickly to add free-agent Pau Gasol. The posturing that goes on during NBA trade talks is always much more entertaining than the actual deals that go down. In the end, as far as the Bulls are concerned, I don't believe Love ends up in Chicago. Plus, it's unclear if he would sign an extension to stay here over time.

The Bulls would be a better team with Love in the fold -- but how much better? Gibson and Butler are two of their top three defenders. Mirotic is a great unknown, but he has the potential to become an All-Star over time according to some experts. More importantly in the short-term: How would Joakim Noah, Gasol and Love be able to work together on the floor?

Forman will continue to work the phones and see what Love's status is in the coming weeks, but the Bulls are comfortable with the team they have and confident that this roster, led by Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau, can ultimately take the organization where it wants to go.

Thibs: Taj Gibson's role won't change

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
6:36
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau was noncommittal Friday when the topic of his opening night starting lineup came up. He's still not sure how he will divvy up the minutes between a much deeper frontcourt comprised of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. But the veteran coach did acknowledge that no matter what happens, Gibson's role on the team will not change.

"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."

Thibs: Team USA will be 'terrific' for Rose

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
5:09
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau remains confident that Derrick Rose will not only participate at a high level during Team USA training camp at the end of the month, but he also believes that his star point guard will make the team that heads to Spain at the end of September to play in the World Cup of Basketball.

[+] EnlargeRose
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesTom Thibodeau believes competing with Team USA will be good for Derrick Rose's comeback from knee surgery.
"I think it's great," Thibodeau said on Friday. "He went through summer league practices and is progressing well. I think the USA thing will be terrific for him. Go back to his MVP year, he played with Team USA that summer and I thought that prepared him well for the season. I expect that to be the same this year in terms of, he hasn't played in a long time, so it's a good opportunity to get that out of the way and it's different role for him with this team because you're going to have 12 great players."

Thibodeau, who serves as an assistant for Team USA under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, is also encouraged by the fact that Rose won't have to do as much scoring as he usually does for the Bulls.

"He won't have the burden to play a lot of minutes and score a lot of points," Thibodeau said. "He can just fit in and run the team. the way he ran the team in 2010 was a big part, I think, of why they won."

Rose, who has only played 49 games in the past three seasons because of various injuries -- including two severe knee injuries -- will be looked upon to provide a big boost for the Bulls this season. Thibodeau believes making the Team USA roster is a good first step.

"As long as it goes well," Thibodeau said, when asked if he thought Rose would make the team that heads to Spain. "Obviously, from a talent standpoint ... but there's rust he has to shake off, which he looked good in the summer league practices, he's put a lot of work in. He's spent a lot of time shooting so I'm expecting him to play well and then the ultimate decision will be made by (Team USA director) Mr. (Jerry) Colangelo so hopefully he sees it that way."

No sulking for Bulls, who move forward

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
9:59
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS -- When the final story of the 2014-15 Chicago Bulls is written, this past weekend will serve as one of its seminal points in time.

It started Saturday afternoon a few hours before the Bulls' summer league team played its first game. That's when the organization came to the realization that Carmelo Anthony was staying in New York for sure and taking all the extra millions that came with that decision.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTom Thibodeau will have an improved roster to work with in 2014-15 after the Bulls' busy weekend in free agency.
The Bulls were upset. They felt confident Anthony understood and appreciated their direction and the opportunity to contend for championships right away. But instead of sulking over the choice, they went into action with their contingency plans. Pau Gasol announced he was headed to Chicago soon after Anthony made his decision. The Bulls came to terms with veteran Kirk Hinrich on Sunday -- and then a few hours later, prized European prospect Nikola Mirotic tweeted out that he was headed to Chicago. In a 36-hour span, the Bulls improved a roster that was already solid.

Is it a roster that can contend for a championship? Only time will tell -- the Bulls still lack the type of create-your-own-shot scoring that Anthony would have provided -- but it is unquestionably deeper on paper than it was at any point in the past season. Obviously, the health of Derrick Rose hovers over everything the Bulls do, but the front office did a nice job of loading up the rest of the rotation with players who should be able to contribute in several ways.

Rose is the key, but Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Hinrich and Gasol are all proven veterans who know how to play. Jimmy Butler is one of the best defenders in the league and, if he develops a consistent shot, will make himself a lot of money. Tony Snell struggled at various points this past season but has played well to start summer league.

Rookie Doug McDermott has also looked solid to start summer league play and is being counted on to help the Bulls stretch the floor with his shooting prowess. Mirotic remains a bit of a question, in the sense that he has never played an NBA game, but the Bulls' front office has always believed he would produce at this level, and his length should help spread the floor for Rose.

That's 10 players Thibodeau should be able to count on to produce in some form this year. What is left for the front office in the coming weeks? They have to decide if they believe second-round pick Cameron Bairstow can make the roster this season. No matter what, they must continue to try to add another backup center to take a little pressure off Noah. Veteran Nazr Mohammed remains interested in playing for a third season in Chicago, but it it's unclear if he'll be back.

The Bulls must continue to evaluate backup point guard options. With their recent moves, they have the ability to wait and see how the market unfolds, but D.J. Augustin isn't an option anymore after agreeing on a two-year deal with the Pistons on Sunday. Bulls GM Gar Forman needs another veteran in the mix for this role and has had good luck filling that need the past few seasons.

No matter how the rest of the roster is filled, the Bulls' have their core in place. These are the players who will decide how far the Bulls go in the playoffs next season. These are the ones Thibodeau must mold into a contender over the next nine months. The Bulls badly wanted Anthony, but they did the best they could, given the circumstances. It's a tired refrain for frustrated Bulls' fans, but the belief within the organization is that this is still a team that has the ability to contend for a championship right away. The pieces are in place -- now it's time to find out if there's enough talent.

Thibodeau hopeful Mirotic is ready for NBA

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
8:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS -- Coach Tom Thibodeau is hoping that, after three years, prized European prospect Nikola Mirotic is finally ready to come to the Chicago Bulls.

Mirotic recently worked out a buyout with Real Madrid, and the Bulls sound ready to find a way to make it all work. After finalizing the deal for Pau Gasol, their focus will turn back to Mirotic so that he will be ready to come over for the upcoming season.

"[Executive VP of basketball operations] John [Paxson] and [general manager] Gar [Forman] have been in contact with him for a long time because we have his draft rights," Thibodeau said before the Bulls' first summer league game on Saturday night. "Hopefully, something will be worked out. At some point, he will hopefully come, then we'll see where he is."

Thibs happy for James: Thibodeau didn't mention Carmelo Anthony by name on Saturday after being spurned at the altar in free agency, but the veteran coach did sound happy for Anthony's good friend and Cleveland Cavaliers megastar LeBron James about his return to Cleveland.

"It's good," Thibodeau said of James' decision. "That's what he felt was best. The one thing about LeBron, he's always stayed true to himself. So it's good."

Was he surprised by James' choice?

"I didn't really think about it, to be honest with you," he said. "He's a great player. He's been great for the league. It's a great story. [We will] just get ready for next season."

Thibodeau hides disappointment over Melo

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
9:29
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS -- It's the middle of July and Tom Thibodeau is already in midseason form.

The Chicago Bulls coach spent a few minutes with the media before his team's opener in the Las Vegas Summer League, and it was like talking to him before a regular-season game in Milwaukee in March.

The basketball lifer was obviously disappointed by the fact that Carmelo Anthony decided to stay with the New York Knicks -- Thibodeau and the Bulls invested a lot of time and effort into their recruiting pitch to Anthony -- but he didn't show his frustration. He didn't even mention Anthony by name.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesThibodeau's loyalty to his players is displayed in his restraint when speaking publicly about them, and his confidence in them shows in his resiliency in response to missing out on Carmelo Anthony.
Did he think the Bulls' pitch to Anthony went well?

"At this time of the year, [executive VP of basketball operations] John [Paxson] and [general manager] Gar [Forman] have talked to a number of players," Thibodeau said. "You make your presentation, we think we have a lot to offer. We feel we have some good options, and we're looking forward to the challenge of next year."

That's as deep as Thibodeau will go. Anybody who has followed the Bulls over the past four seasons knows to read the tea leaves with the veteran coach, though. His refrain will always remain the same: Whether Anthony landed in Chicago or not, Thibodeau was always going to be of the belief that the Bulls have more than enough to win. It's a mantra that has defined his coaching career and his tenure with the Bulls.

But there's no doubt Thibodeau will motivate his players next season by reminding them that, in the end, Anthony spurned Chicago. Anthony turned his back on Thibodeau and what was widely believed to be the best situation to win a title right away. Even if Thibodeau understands how much Anthony fought with the decision and how much money he would have left on the table, Thibodeau will use Anthony's choice as yet another motivational ploy in firing up his team. He thrives on the "us against the world" mentality and will remember that in the future when the Bulls face the Knicks.

(Read full post)

Thibodeau believes Rose will play for USA

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
9:02
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau reiterated Saturday night that he expects to see star point guard Derrick Rose participate in Team USA's camp at the end of the month as it prepares for the World Cup of Basketball later this summer in Spain.

Rose, who has played just 49 games in the past three seasons because of various injuries -- including two serious knee injuries -- practiced with the Bulls' summer league team as it prepared for to leave for Las Vegas over the past week.

"He had a very productive week," Thibodeau said. "That was the next step. So he'll continue to work, and then the next phase will be with Team USA. He's going step by step, doing great and he's looking forward to it."

Rose put doubt into his Team USA plans in an interview with Yahoo! Sports late last month, saying he would make the decision to play after conferring with his agent, and former Bull, B.J. Armstrong.

"I still don't know yet," Rose told Yahoo! "If I'm feeling right and the time is [right], for sure I will go out there. My body is responding good, but you never know.

"Right now, I haven't really thought about that. I am just worrying about just trying to get back every day, and I'm really taking rehab one day at a time instead of trying to think about competing."

Rose's words came as a surprise to many within the organization, given that Thibodeau, Bulls GM Gar Forman and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski all were hopeful that he would participate. Thibodeau will be able to keep a close eye on Rose if he does participate in the camp -- he is an assistant on Team USA's staff.

Gasol enough to get Bulls over the hump?

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
8:05
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Pau Gasol has already filled the role of Carlos Boozer for the Chicago Bulls in more ways than one. Forget for a moment the impact he will have on the floor -- Gasol is the consolation prize in free agency, like Boozer was in the summer of 2010. He is a solid player who will make the Bulls better, but he isn't the man the Bulls had their hearts set on. That man would be Carmelo Anthony, who appears to be taking all the guaranteed money and staying with the New York Knicks.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsGasol's ability to score facing up or with his back to the basket adds an element the Bulls and Joakim Noah have lacked recently.
Gasol is going to be a solid fit in Chicago. By all accounts, he seems like a great teammate, he's an NBA champion, one of the best passing big men in the game and will fit in well in the Bulls' no-nonsense locker room. But as fans process the flurry of free-agent activity that started Friday afternoon when LeBron James announced his decision to go back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the question now is how much better does Gasol make the Bulls? More importantly, does Gasol's addition give the Bulls a legitimate chance to win a title this season?

Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, but he also just turned 34 years old and missed chunks of the past two seasons because of injuries. His ability to create space on the floor because of his passing and vision should mesh well with Joakim Noah. Gasol also gives the Bulls a back-to-the-basket scorer, something they thought they were getting when they signed Boozer four summers ago.

Gasol is absolutely a better all-around player than Boozer, but he has never been known for playing consistent, high-level defense. Like Boozer, there's a solid chance Gasol could end up sitting late in the fourth quarter of games as coach Tom Thibodeau decides to go with one of the best defensive combos in the league in Noah and Taj Gibson. While Gasol isn't as defensively challenged as Boozer, he isn't the best option to close down games on this roster.

The larger issue with the Gasol deal is the same one it was going to be with any player the Bulls landed who wasn't Anthony: Does Gasol -- and Nikola Mirotic, assuming the Bulls finally hammer out a deal with the European star -- put the Bulls that much closer to a title? The Bulls would be a better, deeper team with Gasol and Mirotic in the fold, but the issue for them is the same: Who scores late baskets for them in the playoffs? Derrick Rose is expected to come back in fine form to start the season and has looked great in summer league practices, according to several people who have seen him play, but the Bulls have seen before how this story ends.

The interesting wrinkle about the Gasol news is that it likely pushes the Bulls out of the conversation for a potential deal with Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love for now. With Gasol, Noah, Gibson and Mirotic likely headed to the NBA, the Bulls are loaded with big men and will still try to add a backup center in free agency.

Still, even if Rose stays healthy -- which is a huge "if" given he's played only 49 games the past three seasons because of various injuries -- Gasol isn't the type of "create your own shot" player the Bulls have been lacking. He's a skilled offensive big man who is past his prime. The Bulls still have a chance to contend in the weak Eastern Conference -- but the goal is to find ways to win championships. Gasol's addition puts them closer to that goal, but not by much.

Bad luck most to blame, not Bulls, for Melo

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
1:00
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Just a few hours after beginning the recruiting pitch to bring Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, Bulls general manager Gar Forman exited the United Center, walking out the same entrance that Anthony had come in. It was just before 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday as Forman strolled to the parking lot alongside Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough. The basketball lifer was in good spirits as he headed to his car.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony appears likely to take a max contract from either the Knicks or Lakers.
The first part of the meeting had apparently gone off without much of a hitch. Anthony had been whisked into the United Center by a van carrying, among others, coach Tom Thibodeau. He was given a private tour of the Bulls' new practice facility and was sold on the belief among many within the organization that the Bulls gave him the best chance to compete for a championship right away.

Signs of Anthony wearing a No. 7 Bulls jersey alongside the Larry O'Brien Trophy dotted the sides of the building. As Forman got into his car, he had a lot to feel good about. He and assistant GM Randy Brown were among several members of the organization headed over to continue speaking with Anthony at a downtown hotel. Optimism was the prevailing theme of the day as Forman left that day.

Six days later, all that optimism has been replaced by reality.

Anthony is now expected to decide between taking a five-year max contract with the New York Knicks for about $129 million or a four-year max contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for $96 million. The Bulls' offer would have started at only about $17 million next year, given that the organization would like to keep its core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Doug McDermott intact.

According to one source with knowledge of the discussion, it was a strategy that Anthony seemed to be on board with, especially when it came to keeping Gibson. He knew the Knicks had to gut their roster when they made the original deal to acquire him from the Denver Nuggets during the 2010-11 season. He didn't want to have to endure that again if he landed in Chicago.

So does that mean Forman and executive vice president John Paxson should be criticized because it appears Anthony is going to take max money, even when he went on record earlier in the year saying that money wouldn't be the most important factor in his decision?

No, but a large portion of the Bulls' fan base will anyway.

That's because of the cumulative letdown of big-time free agency over the past four years. Forman and Paxson did not land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. Some fans still haven't gotten over that and never will. Now that it appears Anthony is headed elsewhere, all those old feelings are resurfacing.

SportsNation

Who or what is most to blame if the Bulls don't land Carmelo Anthony?

  •  
    16%
  •  
    17%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    41%
  •  
    18%

Discuss (Total votes: 12,041)

Forman and Paxson aren't blameless in this situation. It's up to the front office to find a way to make the team better, but it's hard to fault them when a player wants to take more money elsewhere.

The larger issue with Forman and Paxson is what happened in the days since Anthony's meeting. That's when ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported that, according to sources, Rose wasn't actually part of the formal recruiting pitch to Anthony and was "shocked" to see Anthony there. On the surface, that's hard to believe considering last Tuesday marked the first time since the Game 5 playoff loss to the Washington Wizards on April 29 that the basketball floor at the United Center was down, according to several sources.

But the perception remains that the division between the Bulls' front office and Rose's camp seems only to be growing over time. It started just before the All-Star break last season, when Rose admitted that he was still a long way from returning to the floor, even though many within the organization believed he was just a few weeks away from making his return from an ACL injury he suffered in April 2012. The disconnect grew deeper a couple of weeks later, when Rose's brother, Reggie, voiced his displeasure to ESPNChicago.com regarding the lack of movement from the front office to put better players around his brother.

It's the job of Forman and Paxson to form a united front within the organization. But between the Rose drama and the on-again, off-again drama surrounding Thibodeau's future in Chicago, the Bulls have looked anything but unified at various points in the past two seasons.

Forman and Paxson aren't alone in the blame game. Rose, once the most universally beloved athlete in town, is now one of the most questioned. He has only played 49 games in the past three years and has repeatedly said he didn't want to recruit players. Bulls officials have played coy from the beginning about what Rose's actual involvement was last Tuesday, but they would much rather their star swallow his pride and sell some of the league's brightest stars, like Anthony, on the virtues of playing in Chicago.

Whether Rose went out of his way to speak to Anthony for hours may not have made much of a difference in the end, especially if Anthony was just going to head to the biggest payday all along, but the perception is that Rose and his camp aren't on the same page with the front office. It's a perception that all involved can't shake and one that reflects poorly on the entire group.

Rose still believes he is the best player in basketball. It's that inner confidence that allowed him to become the league's youngest MVP in 2010-11, and it's that belief that elevated the Bulls to new heights in the post-Jordan era. But now that confidence -- and stubbornness -- seems to be hurting the Bulls more than helping them, which is why Rose is facing more criticism than ever from a fan base that misses watching him play at the highest level.

Passing out blame is usually one of the stages of grief fans go through when their team and city is jilted in free agency. They need a scapegoat and an outlet for the feelings of sadness. The reality for the Bulls is that maybe the blame in this situation should be chalked up more to bad luck than anything, or anyone, else.

If Rose hadn't been hurt, it wouldn't have changed the entire course of the organization. Maybe they would have been able to claw past LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2011-12 the way many within the organization still believe. Maybe Anthony would, in fact, sign in Chicago for less knowing that Rose is still one of the top players in the league, not a question mark coming off his second major knee surgery in two years.

Several people deserve at least some blame for the fact that Anthony doesn't appear to be heading to Chicago, but none of them could have overcome the one thing that has hovered over the Bulls since Rose went down with his first knee injury: bad luck.

What's next for Bulls after Melo?

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
7:05
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Carmelo Anthony remains the apple of the Chicago Bulls' eye. The organization continues to hope that Anthony turns down the financial security of a max offer, or near-max offer, from the New York Knicks as he makes his final decision on where to play in the coming days. While the Bulls remain confident in the recruiting pitch they gave to Anthony, Bulls officials understood that it was always going to be toughest to convince Anthony to leave New York. The feeling from many within the organization after Tuesday's pitch is that this is a two-team race between the Knicks and the Bulls.

The question, as has been the case all along, remains whether Anthony is willing to leave millions of guaranteed dollars on the table in order to chase a championship in Chicago. With the help of ESPN salary capologist Larry Coon, the Bulls' numbers, in regards to an Anthony deal, stack up this way. If the Bulls keep a preferred core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Doug McDermott intact, they will be able to offer Anthony roughly $17 million next season. What that also means is they'd have to fill up the rest of the roster with a majority of minimum-salary players.

While the Bulls are holding out hope that Anthony decides to join forces with Rose and Noah, the feeling from several sources remains that Anthony will decide to stay with the Knicks. With that in mind, let's take a look at the next few options the Bulls will have if they do indeed miss out on their top target.

1. Make a push for Kevin Love again

The Bulls have kicked the tires on a Love deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for several years. If they don't land Melo, expect them to make some more calls to Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders to see if they can work something out. Since Love wasn't moved before the draft, there's a solid chance that Saunders will try to persuade Love to stay one more time before potentially dealing him before the trade deadline in February.

2. Go for Gasol

The Bulls were scheduled to meet with Pau Gasol on Thursday in Los Angeles as he ponders his own future, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. Having made a little more than $19 million last season, Gasol figures to be in line for a pay cut, but interested teams have to figure out just how much of one he's willing to take. From the Bulls' perspective, Gasol would fill a need as a back-to-the-basket offensive weapon and a solid presence in a tight locker room. According to Coon, if the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer and deal away veteran Mike Dunleavy, they would have roughly $13 million in available cap space.

With a number of high-quality teams pitching for Gasol's services -- and the fact that the Lakers can still offer big money -- the Bulls need to make a strong financial offer and tie it around the fact that they are ready to contend for a title right away. Even then, that might not be enough depending on the other offers Gasol figures to get.

3. Bring Nikola Mirotic over

[+] EnlargeNikola Mirotic
AP Photo/Darko VojinovicMirotic's Bulls future is bright, but he would be no substitute for Anthony if the team decided to sign him for the upcoming season.
There's been a lot of speculation regarding Mirotic's status in recent days, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by the Bulls front office as it tries to figure out its next move. For the moment, Mirotic's status with the Bulls this season is uncertain. The organization had always hoped it could land Mirotic for the midlevel exception, but now, in order to bring him over, it'll have to dip into its cap space to make it happen. Is Mirotic worth $7 million to $8 million per year? How much of an impact would he be able to have during his first season in the NBA? The Bulls remain high on Mirotic, but the idea that his addition would put the Bulls that much closer to a championship in his first season in the league is far-fetched at best.

4. Worst-case scenario

If the Bulls fail in Options 1-3, the frustration of the fan base will permeate throughout every aspect of the organization. Assuming they don't find any takers for a Boozer sign-and-trade, the Bulls could still amnesty the final year of his deal and move Dunleavy -- but what would they do with the $13 million left in cap space?

Lance Stephenson appears to be a last-ditch possibility. I don't believe he would work well in coach Tom Thibodeau's locker room, but he has the type of talent that could continue to blossom in the right situation. The Bulls will keep tabs on Chandler Parsons, a good friend of Noah's, but it's hard to believe the Rockets will let him walk as a restricted free agent -- especially if they don't land Anthony or LeBron James.

The Bulls' biggest problem is the same one it faced as free agency began: There are some solid names and possibilities on this list, but if it doesn't land Anthony or Love, the organization can't feel confident in the notion that it would start the upcoming season as a legitimate title contender.

Bulls unified in pitch to Carmelo Anthony

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
12:51
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Derrick RoseAP Photo/M. Spencer GreenDerrick Rose leaves the United Center on Tuesday. The Bulls' star, who had insisted he wouldn't help woo Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, was part of the contingent that met with the coveted free agent.

CHICAGO -- When it comes to the recruiting pitch to Carmelo Anthony, everybody in the Chicago Bulls' organization is on the same page.

Derrick Rose, who has said repeatedly over the years he doesn't want to recruit players, was there at the United Center on Tuesday to be part of the group that sold Anthony on the benefits of coming to Chicago.

Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau, two men who have not always seen eye-to-eye on various decisions over the last few seasons, spent the entire day discussing the virtues of the Bulls' organization with Anthony.

They walked him through the Bulls' brand-new practice facility in the afternoon and continued selling him on the organization at a dinner meeting inside a downtown hotel. The pair got into the same car around 10 p.m. and drove away to wait out Anthony's decision over the next week.

As an organization, the Bulls have been focusing on this pitch to Anthony for a while. They know he is the type of player they've been missing the most. They know he is the man who can score 25 to 30 points a night and take a large amount of pressure off Rose's shoulders. That's why they left no detail unturned during their day with the superstar scorer.

It's the reason why Thibodeau picked Anthony up in a large van and personally escorted the All-Star small forward and members of his team to the United Center. It's why the Bulls made sure pictures of Anthony wearing a Bulls jersey were plastered all over the facade of the arena, along with images of the Larry O'Brien trophy.



It's why Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson rolled inside to be with Thibodeau, Rose and other members of the organization to sell Anthony on the pitch -- the vision for Chicago's future. That pitch isn't hard to figure out and it's why one Bulls official after another was so quietly confident before, during and after their time with Anthony on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony was escorted to the United Center by none other than Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Bulls believe they offer former Syracuse star the best opportunity to win a championship right now. They believe the core of Rose, Noah, Gibson and Thibodeau is tough to beat and only getting better. They believe they can win and have pushed all their chips into the middle of the table based on the notion Anthony is the man that can finally get them over the hump.

Now the ball is in Anthony's court.

The Bulls are hopeful Anthony will go through the rest of the recruiting process and remember what he saw and heard on Tuesday. That he will buy into what the Bulls are selling.

But as Anthony processes what he encountered in Chicago and Bulls' personnel give each other handshakes for what they feel is a job well done, Anthony has a major decision to make on two levels.

First, is he ready to leave a place in New York City that he truly seems to love? A place where he and his family appear to be happy. Most important, especially for the Bulls, is he willing to leave millions upon millions on the table in order to play in Chicago?

Even the most optimistic Bulls' official doesn't have the answer.

New York Knicks czar Phil Jackson still has the ultimate financial trump card, if he chooses to play it. He can offer Anthony a full max deal worth up to $129 million over five years.

The Bulls can offer only $96 million over four years. However, that’s a figure they would rather not hit if they had to sign Anthony outright, because it would mean they would have to let go of a host of meaningful players, including Gibson.

Rose and Noah would still be safe at that max amount for Anthony. But is a core of Rose, coming off missing almost three seasons because of knee injuries, Noah and Anthony enough to get the Bulls to the promised land?

That's a question the Bulls must ponder as they continue to hope against hope the Knicks would agree to a sign-and-trade, which would offer Chicago a much better option to keep its roster somewhat intact.

The key to their pitch is that it followed a mantra that Noah lives by on a daily basis: The Bulls lived in the moment and they enjoyed it.

They don't know how the rest of Anthony's tour will shake out, but they know they did everything they could to put their best foot forward.

Indeed, on one of the most important days in recent franchise history, the Bulls were united on every level in trying to bring Anthony to Chicago.

Bulls are best landing spot for Melo

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
12:00
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Carmelo AnthonyJeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony would be the scorer the Bulls need and would position them for a title run.
Carmelo Anthony has said he wants to win a championship. He said he would be willing to take less money to do so. If Anthony meant what he said, then there's no better place to play this season than Chicago. The one thing the Bulls have been missing most in the Tom Thibodeau era, aside from a healthy Derrick Rose, is a superstar scorer who is capable of going off for 25 to 30 points a night, a player who can take some pressure off Rose and his teammates and take over the game when needed.

Anthony can be that guy.

SportsNation

Which team will Carmelo Anthony choose to sign with?

  •  
    28%
  •  
    22%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    24%
  •  
    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 51,250)

He would join a core of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Rose -- a core that has been together for a while and plays hard every night. More importantly, he would be playing for Thibodeau, a coach he respects and one who has a track record of making great players even better.

Yes, Rose's health status continues to hover over everything the Bulls do. Other teams will undoubtedly tell Anthony that Rose's body can't withstand the grind of an 82-game season anymore. But as Thibodeau pointed out recently, every player goes through injuries at some point in his career. Rose has gone through a trying period over the past few seasons, but if he comes back and is anywhere close to the player he was before the injury, he would be the most talented player with whom Anthony has ever played. Rose is still only 25 and was the youngest MVP in league history.

The reality for Anthony is that the Bulls are intent on winning right now. They don't need to wait another year and clear out cap space like the Knicks do. The other key is that Chicago is in the Eastern Conference, with a much easier route to the NBA Finals. Dallas and Houston, two teams with which Anthony is expected to meet, have to battle it out in the much more difficult Western Conference.

Anthony could take all the shots he wanted in Chicago and would get plenty of open looks playing alongside Rose. He would also become an even better defender playing in Thibodeau's system and would have Noah and Gibson flanking him on either side on the defensive end.

In so many ways, Anthony is the missing piece the Bulls have been searching for. He can score and would space the floor for Rose and his teammates. But he also seems to be at a point in his career where he knows legacies are defined by championships, by rings. The Bulls have to make it clear they offer the best chance, the best path, to the one thing that has eluded Anthony up to this point in his career -- a title.

Bulls GM Gar Forman is confident the city of Chicago will help sell itself to Anthony and other free agents the Bulls speak with over the next week. The Bulls' brand is strong throughout the world, and the organization is hopeful Anthony wants be part of the chase for a seventh championship that will make that brand even stronger.

But as Bulls' employees put together their pitch for Anthony, the overriding theme is short and simple: If the 30-year-old scorer wants to be in the best position to contend for a championship right away, then sign on the dotted line in Chicago and come be part of a city that is starving for another winner.

Paxson: Winning is Bulls' free-agent pitch

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
9:21
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
John Paxson, Michael Reinsdorf, Jerry Reinsdorf, Rahm EmanuelAP Photo/Scott EisenA new practice facility and committed owners are among the Bulls' selling points, John Paxson said.

CHICAGO -- John Paxson has a simple message for free agents as the Chicago Bulls get set to make their recruiting pitches to prospective free agents in the coming days. The Bulls' executive vice president believes that the game's top players want to hear the same thing.

"I think the biggest thing is how much do guys want to win?" Paxson said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "The fact that we've not had our best player for the last couple of years, and I know there's still questions about Derrick [Rose] because he hasn't played in two years, but the fact that we have not had our best player -- but prior to that we were in the Eastern Conference finals -- and we have certain players like Joakim Noah who have matured and improved as a first team All-NBA player now -- if the goal is to be with a team, to be a part of a team that is about winning, and in a culture that we feel strongly about is about winning -- then I think players want to be in that situation, I really do. And that's what we're about."

Paxson believes the winning culture that has been created during the past four seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau is going to be one of the franchise's most important keys as it gets set to talk to some of the game's top players. The free-agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1 and the Bulls are expected to be heavily involved, particularly in their pursuit of New York Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony.

"We have a coach who is very, very passionate about winning," Paxson said.

"We have an owner who's passionate about winning. I know Jerry [Reinsdorf] and [team president and C.O.O.] Mike [Reinsdorf] want to get back to that level. So I think that's the big thing and you can say anything you want outside of that -- we love Chicago and the city will sell itself, all those things -- but I think at the end of the day it comes down to where do you think you can win a championship.

"Even though we had setbacks with injuries to Derrick and those type of things, [general manager] Gar [Forman] and I talk about this a lot, we still believe we have very, very good players. And we believe that we've set up a culture that is about winning. Maybe we are a player or two from being the type of team that's there every year, and that's where we're trying to get to."

Aside from the winning culture, Paxson referenced the new Bulls practice facility, which is located across the street from the United Center near downtown Chicago, as an interesting wrinkle to sell to players. In the end, Paxson knows that the Bulls' success in luring players to Chicago will depend on how they respond to the message. The Bulls' front office is hopeful that Rose's recent injury problems will not hamper that pitch in any way.

"At the end of the day, the most important thing is if you can show [prospective free agents] your vision on how you're going to win," Paxson said. "And how you believe that can have some staying power, and that's our goal. I think if you do that and they say, 'That's what I want to be a part of,' then they'll be a part of it. If they don't, then you move on and you try to find another avenue to make that thing happen. So we're going to put our best foot forward. We think we have a lot to offer and we'll see how that goes."

The Bulls remain optimistic that they will be able to land the type of player they couldn't get to sign on the dotted line in the summer of 2010. The Bulls made a strong push to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh, but ended up missing out on all three and settled for Carlos Boozer.

Paxson acknowledged that Jerry Reinsdorf has given the front office the green light to spend how it sees fit. Whether that means diving deep into the luxury tax or using the amnesty clause to wipe away the final year of Boozer's deal, Paxson made it clear that Reinsdorf was "all-in" on the plan to get the Bulls back to the top.

To validate that point, he referenced a story from Thursday night's draft, in which the Bulls selected New Mexico big man Cameron Bairstow with the 49th overall pick.

"We're getting calls leading up to that pick with teams offering us a ton of cash," Paxson said. "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 last night. And Jerry's 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].

"I talked to somebody last night from another team and he said, 'I got to tell you, there are not many owners that when they heard those dollar figures would have said, 'No, I'm not going to take that kind of money.' Jerry has been over the years ... Is he smart about his money? You bet. But ... he's in. He wants us to [succeed]. He always wants us to spend the money efficiently. But he's in, he wants us to use the resources that we have."

Why the Lakers cooled on Tom Thibodeau

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
6:09
PM CT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was one of the first names to trickle out as a potential candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers to hire when Mike D’Antoni resigned almost six weeks ago.

ESPNLosAngeles.com had reported the Lakers planned to reach out to the Bulls for permission to interview the 2010-11 coach of the year.

Now, the Lakers have cooled on the idea of trying to get Thibodeau. And that request to the Bulls never happened.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
AP Photo/John BazemoreThe Lakers originally were high on pursuing Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but their interest has since waned.
What gives?

Well, for starters, the Lakers are all but sure that Chicago will require that L.A. trades its No. 7 pick in the first round, if not more assets, to allow Thibodeau out of his contract that runs through the 2016-17 season.

With only three players under contract for next season and the draft considered to be loaded, the Lakers deem that too steep a price to pay.

Getting a good, young player on a relatively affordable rookie deal could end up doing wonders to fielding a competitive team, while maintaining the bulk of the Lakers’ cap space to pursue a veteran or two on the free-agent market in the coming summers.

Beyond that, even if the Lakers were willing to go down that road and part with a pick for Thibodeau, the only way they could get Thibodeau to bite at the idea of abandoning a team that has the reigning defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah and a bright young star, albeit an injury-prone one, in Derrick Rose, for an uncertain situation in L.A. would be to hand him a lavish contract.

And why would the Lakers want to be paying their coach $8 million to $10 million a year when privately they know they might not be a playoff team, let alone a championship contender next season?

The Lakers may already have done their homework and realized that if even if it has been well documented that Thibodeau and the Bulls’ brass don’t always see eye to eye, he isn’t necessarily looking to leave Chicago. The last thing the Lakers’ front office would want to do, considering how unpopular they are with the fan base in L.A. these days, would be to formally go after Thibodeau only to have their interest be rebuffed.

The Lakers aren’t the only team to be linked to Thibodeau this offseason, either. Grantland’s Bill Simmons reported the Memphis Grizzlies had visions of trading for Thibodeau, hoping to lure the coach with a .657 winning percentage in his four seasons on the Bulls’ sidelines to the Memphis gig by offering him additional power as team president.

Memphis ended up going in a different direction, of course, extending coach Dave Joerger’s contract after he went 50-32 in his first season with the team.

The Lakers, though, are still on the hunt to settle their coaching situation.

Stephen A.: Bulls' rift could affect recruiting

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
1:09
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
As the Bulls set their sights on landing an impact player this summer to pair with Derrick Rose, will the perceived rift between the front office and coach Tom Thibodeau affect their ability to recruit talent to Chicago?

From what he's hearing around the league, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith believes it will.

"Tom Thibodeau is an exceptional coach. He scares the living daylights out of you because, accurate or not, people believe that he'll run you to death in practice," Smith said Wednesday on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I don't know how accurate that is I just know that Luol Deng seemed like he aged in dog years playing for him.

"But the other side to all of this is that the relationship with [Bulls executive vice president] John Paxson has become a question mark outside of the city of Chicago and as a result you have folks wondering whether or not Tom Thibodeau is going to remain there for the long haul. They know he's under contract for the next [three] years but when you talk about free agents coming there, you're talking about three years or more and they don't want to find themselves in a situation where they are looking at Derrick Rose, who some believe was given too much of a responsibility and onus was placed on his shoulders not to mention the fact that you've got a coach who everybody respects as elite being on the outs with an executive running the franchise because you don't know how long Tom Thibodeau is going to last in Chicago.

"Those couple of things, at the very least, are question marks that have created a degree of apprehension."

Thibodeau and the front office have clashed at times over the firing of assistant Ron Adams, a Thibodeau confidant who was let go by general manager Gar Forman, and the trade of Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January. Last month a report from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin said that the Lakers planned to ask the Bulls' permission to interview Thibodeau for the head coaching position. Both sides have remained silent.

When it comes to targeting a star to pair with Rose, Smith believes Carmelo Anthony would be a better fit for the Bulls than Kevin Love.

"I would say Kevin Love if you were in Golden State or someplace like that where you have multiple scorers that can move the basketball, simply spot up and shoot," Smith said. "But considering the way the Bulls play, the way they come at you with that defensive tenacity, the way they don't mind somebody slowing down the tempo, ball hogging to some degree. They don't mind because really they just have defenders and rough riders on the court that are really blue collar workers with one elite scorer in a Derrick Rose.

"If you had a Carmelo Anthony there they wouldn't mind that at all. I think that he works better in Chicago's system than a guy like Kevin Love."

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