Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer

Boozer 'humbled' during final Bulls season

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
1:40
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Carlos Boozer said he was "humbled" by playing more limited minutes during his final season with the Chicago Bulls, who used the amnesty provision earlier this month on the last year of the veteran forward's contract.

Boozer
"It was (difficult). It was at times," Boozer said Friday as he was introduced by the Los Angeles Lakers. "But you learn a lot. I was humbled a lot and I grew a lot as a man and as an individual. So, I take all that with me in my new experience."

Boozer rarely played in the fourth quarter last season under Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who favored Taj Gibson, a superior defender.

"Playing first quarter and third quarter, not having a chance to help my team at the end of the game to win was tough," Boozer said. "As a competitor, you want to be out there doing everything you can to help your team win and to not get an opportunity, it was humbling. So, I learned a lot from that process."

The Bulls used the amnesty provision on the final season of Boozer's five-year, $75 million contract on July 15. Nine teams with cap space were able to make a blind bid to pick up the remaining portion of his $16.8 million deal. The Lakers won with a bid of $3.25 million, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

Boozer, who averaged 15.5 points and nine rebounds in four seasons in Chicago, praised the Bulls for the way they handled the amnesty process.

"Chicago was great about everything," Boozer said. "They’re a great organization, first class. They were in touch with me and Rob Pelinka, my agent, along the whole process. So, as they were making their decision for where they were going with the team, they let us know. So we knew we were going to get amnestied, I think, the day before and we went forward."

ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.

Thibs: Boozer good fit with Lakers

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
5:39
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes Carlos Boozer will be a good fit for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

Boozer was claimed off waivers by the Lakers on Thursday. The final year of Boozer's deal was amnestied by the Bulls on Tuesday.

"When you look at four years and you win 200 games, he did a terrific job for us," Thibodeau said Friday. "Carlos has had a great career, he did his job here, and we wish him nothing but the best. I think the Lakers, I think that will be a good fit for him. But he did a great job for us."

Boozer averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last season for the Bulls.

Boozer always left you wanting more

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
5:44
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS -- Carlos Boozer lost the benefit of the doubt in Chicago before he even played a minute in a Bulls uniform. The consolation prize in the 2010 free-agency pool, Boozer was hailed by the Bulls as a back-to-the-basket, low-post scorer who could help the organization develop more of a consistent inside game. Expectations were high for Boozer heading into training camp, but everything changed during the first couple days of that first camp. That's because Boozer broke his hand and missed the first two months of the season.

What made the injury even more dubious is that Boozer told the Bulls he tripped over a gym bag in his home. Some fans didn't believe the story; others just rolled their eyes at the incident. Boozer was supposed to be one of the main difference-makers for a championship-caliber team. Now he was a player who wouldn't be able to produce to start his all-important first season. When Boozer finally made his debut in December, the Bulls were playing solid basketball and the hope was that Boozer would augment an up-and-coming lineup led by Derrick Rose. Boozer struggled, though, and his teammates struggled to adjust to him.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhCarlos Boozer's tenure with the Bulls got off to a rocky start, and his defense never really came around enough for Tom Thibodeau.
When Joakim Noah went down for several months because of torn ligaments in his thumb, Boozer's production increased. But what was clear almost from the outset was that Boozer was no longer the serious low-post threat he had been in Cleveland and Utah.

What was also clear when Noah returned was that the pair struggled to play with one another. They often found themselves on the bench together late in games, a trend that would continue throughout Boozer's time in Chicago. Over time, Noah would move on to become the NBA's defensive player of the year and the anchor of Tom Thibdoeau's defense. Boozer's defense, which was always a weakness in his game, became a more pronounced flaw among a gritty group of young players who enjoyed carrying out Thibodeau's instructions.

What made Boozer's first year even worse were his struggles in the postseason. He had a couple nice games, but for the most part he was a non-factor for a team that ultimately lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat.

Over the next couple seasons, Boozer's numbers maintained a high level -- a fact that the Bulls' front office would cling to in defending their major free-agent acquisition in 2010. His third season, the one in which the Bulls played without Rose, was his best. He enjoyed being one of the focal points of the offense and the shots that came with that mantle. He also started learning to play alongside Noah, which helped both men's numbers.

But most fans saw through the mirage of Boozer's high-level production. His points and rebounds usually came in the first and third quarters, rarely in crunch time when the Bulls needed scoring most. This fact became more pronounced this past season, when Boozer rarely ever saw the floor late in games. The bigger issue for the Bulls always revolved around Boozer's defense. Thibodeau simply didn't trust him on that end of the floor, and neither did most of his teammates. Although nobody ever came out and publicly questioned Boozer, the frustrated looks on their faces when he missed a defensive assignment were always more telling than any words they could have spoken.

The same could be said about Thibodeau's responses toward the veteran power forward. Thibodeau never openly questions players in the media. He prefers to discuss matters with his players privately. But while Thibodeau tends to scream at players after mistakes during games, he rarely chose that direction when it came to Boozer. He would just shake his head and mutter something under his breath. Thibodeau understood that Boozer's fragile psyche couldn't handle the criticism -- which made the final few months even more telling.

During a February trip to Sacramento, Boozer acknowledged that he was disappointed that he didn't get a chance to play late in games. It was the first time in the Thibodeau era that a player publicly questioned the demanding coach.

Thibodeau, along with many in the organization, was disappointed that Boozer decided to air his grievances in the open. Thibodeau said before that game in Sacramento that he hadn't seen the comments, but then rattled off every relevant stat as to why he chose to play Taj Gibson late in games. It was clear at that point that the writing, which had been there for some time in regard to using to the amnesty clause on the final year of Boozer's deal, was on the wall. He wasn't going to be a Bull much longer.

So how should fans remember the Boozer era?

The word that instantly comes to mind is underwhelming. Boozer's numbers were solid throughout much of his time in Chicago -- it's just that they didn't always have as much of an impact as one would imagine.

(Read full post)

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.

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 player reviews: Carlos Boozer

May, 8, 2014
May 8
10:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Boozer/ThibodeauAP Photo/Michael ConroyCarlos Boozer found himself on the bench late in games last season under Tom Thibodeau.

Carlos Boozer


2013-14 salary: $15,300,000 | Age: 32 | Season stats: 13.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG

Season recap: Boozer had his worst season as a Bull. He became mostly a two-quarter player under Tom Thibodeau -- playing the first and third quarters -- then sitting on the bench in crunch time. After his best season as a Bull last year, Boozer's numbers regressed and he became the first player to openly question some of Thibodeau's decisions.

Season highlight: Boozer had 27 points and nine rebounds as the Bulls destroyed the Miami Heat on Dec. 5.

SportsNation

Has Carlos Boozer played his last game as a Bull?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,946)

Season lowlight: On Feb. 3 during a shootaround in Sacramento, Boozer was open about how frustrated he was that he wasn't playing late in games.

"I think I should be out there," Boozer said. "But it's [Thibodeau's] choice. He makes the decisions out there, so I play. I don't coach. He coaches. So he decides that.
"But honestly, he's been doing that a lot since I've been here, not putting me in in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win; more times than not, we don't. But that's his choice."
Boozer's words angered many within the organization, especially Thibodeau, and likely marked the beginning of the end of his tenure in Chicago.

Final grade: C-.

Notes: For the third year in a row, Boozer played in a majority of the Bulls' games. He averaged 28.2 minutes a game in 76 contests.

Quotes: Bulls GM Gar Forman addressed Boozer's future and the possibility of using the amnesty clause on the final year of his deal during last week's season ending media session.

"We know there’s been a lot written about that. We have valued Carlos. And I think Carlos has had a big part of our success the last four years. Obviously, we still have amnesty as an option that we haven’t used that a lot of teams have. That’s something as we go into July, we’ll have to evaluate. If it’s something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way. And you guys know us: We’re not going to make decisions until we have had a chance to really go through the process, study what the pluses are, what the minuses could be and then make whatever we think is the best decision for our team."


What's next? Boozer has likely played his last game as a Bull. He seems to know it and the Bulls seem to know it. The writing is on the wall. Whether the final year of his contract is amnestied or he is dealt in another deal, Boozer's days with the Bulls are numbered.

3 Points: All-Star next step for Taj Gibson?

May, 7, 2014
May 7
1:04
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Taj GibsonAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesTaj Gibson raised his game this season and proved he's ready for an even bigger role in 2014-15.
Every week, ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. Will Taj Gibson become an All-Star next season?


Friedell: He could be, but I don't think it will happen next year. Gibson may be the starting power forward on the Bulls next season, but with Derrick Rose back, and possibly Carmelo Anthony or another scorer, he won't have as many opportunities to put up big enough All-Star numbers.

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Will Taj Gibson become an All-Star next season?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,858)

Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: Probably not, but I think he'll be an All-Star-caliber player and that's what's important. Gibson, who worked hard on improving his offensive game, played essentially starter's minutes (28.7 MPG) as a sub this season, typically playing the entire fourth quarter and averaging 13 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. In the seven games he started at power forward, he averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 boards in 43.3 minutes. If he starts next season, as expected, Gibson would probably play about 38 minutes, and most importantly, he'll get those early touches. A strong supporter of teammate Carlos Boozer, Gibson lamented after the last playoff game that the Bulls fell behind in every loss to the Washington Wizards. The Bulls could have used him in the post. With Rose (knock on wood) coming back, expect Gibson to get fed often near the rim to start games.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: It all depends on whom they pick up in free agency over the summer. As great as Gibson played over the back end of the season, it will be hard for me to believe that if the Bulls go out and get a max-level superstar along with Rose coming back to join Joakim Noah that they will have four players make it to the All-Star Game. Miami hasn't even been able to do that. So taking in consideration that before Gibson gets a nod, Rose, Noah and the unknown All-Star-caliber player they plan to add will already be on the All-Star ballot, it's gonna be tough for Taj to make that happen. Not impossible, but hella tough.


2. What's more likely, trading or using the amnesty on Carlos Boozer?


Friedell: Amnesty. The Bulls would love to trade Boozer. They would have loved to do it at any point over the past three years, but why would any team trade for him knowing they can probably get him for next to nothing in a couple months?

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesCarlos Boozer's run in Chicago appears to be over.
Greenberg: Amnesty. Boozer is only a trade possibility if the Bulls land a free agent, like, say, Anthony, and he agrees to a sign and trade on his way out of town. Because I don't see that happening, it's more likely the Bulls wave goodbye to Boozer. While some are skeptical the Bulls will pay the freight to release Boozer, remember they saved a good chunk of money by dumping Luol Deng. You can't tell me that money wasn't earmarked for this possible situation.

Jackson: Trade. Based on Jerry Reinsdorf's history of not spending money and not liking to lose money or just throw it away, I'm hard-pressed to believe that he would let the Boozer era in Chicago end by way of amnesty. Someone will pick up Booz and the remainder of his contract and Reinsdorf knows it. Gar Forman and John Paxson just have to find the right GM who sees a value in Boozer.


3. If he has played his final game as a Bull, how would you assess Boozer's tenure in Chicago?


Friedell: Underwhelming. Boozer hurt himself -- both literally and figuratively -- from the beginning. When he tripped over a bag in his place and broke his hand before his first season began, many fans had already stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt. When he no-showed throughout most of the 2011 playoffs, many people's minds were made up. Boozer was billed by the organization as the back-to-the-basket scorer the Bulls didn't have. But he never became that player.

SportsNation

How would you grade Carlos Boozer's tenure as a Bull?

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Greenberg: Star-crossed? The Bulls won a lot of games with Boozer in the starting lineup, but he just wasn't the second superstar the team needed and the fans desired. A good player, just not a great one. Boozer stuck out on a defensive-minded team, and while he has a plethora of moves to create a shot, not to mention a rainbow jumper, the optics of him getting stuffed near the rim stuck with him. By this season, his platoon with Gibson became more defined, and Gibson's talents shined light on Boozer's deficiencies. Boozer was paid handsomely for his time, but he will be remembered mostly as a punchline. It's not fair, but such is life.

Jackson: Around a high C-plus. I totally get why and where everyone comes off having issues with Boozer and his overall play while he was in Chicago. But I've always taken expectations into consideration and understood how that played a bigger role in how he was judged. Remove the expectations because of the contract and the hate against Boozer isn't the same. We held his contract against him more than we did his play. As much as I understand how that is the nature of the beast that is professional sports, I try not to always be a victim of it. Boozer was necessary. In the beginning, at the time he signed, he was very necessary. And although he never turned into the Bulls' LaMarcus Aldridge, Boozer never cashed out and became their Roy Hibbert either.

Bulls face summer of complex decisions

May, 2, 2014
May 2
2:22
PM CT
Jackson By Scoop Jackson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
"We have a big summer in front of us. We may have the opportunity to have some flexibility and to address some needs. We'll look into that. I think we'll be able to add to our team this summer. You don't know what direction it could go. When I say we could have flexibility, that's dependent on some different ways that we could go. At this point, it's not definite that we would have a large amount of flexibility. But that's one of the roads we can take. There's so many moving parts that can happen. It will obviously be an active summer for us." -- Bulls general manager Gar Forman on Wednesday

On the front of the credential to the last Chicago Bulls game of the season was Taj Gibson. So appropriate because in the end it was Gibson limping off the court with a sprained ankle that proved to be the end of their season.

Now, where do the Bulls begin?

[+] Enlarge Carmelo Anthony
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesLanding Carmelo Anthony is a long shot, so the Bulls had better have a good backup plan this summer.
There have been offseasons for the Bulls that held us captive over the past few summers, but none like the one that will begin July 1 at the start of free agency.

So many options, so many opportunities, so many holes to fill. So much can go wrong.

The Carmelo Anthony talk is already getting louder by the hour although the noise of the possibility of Tom Thibodeau leaving to take the Los Angeles Lakers coaching job (note: never gonna happen) has drowned that out for the moment. The demand for the Bulls to go after an elite player this summer will continue to swell until the player at the center of the tempest realizes that the opportunity to play for Phil Jackson far outweighs the chance to play with Derrick Rose.

Truth told, the Bulls are not the type of organization (and never really have been) to play the begging, "Oh, please come play for us" game with max-level players. Yes, Carmelo might under Thibs become the player many believed he would one day become. But that more than likely won't happen in a Bulls uniform. Which means the Bulls -- if they are seriously thinking of going after Melo this offseason -- need to make their Plan B more important than their Plan A.

And the Bulls have more Plan Bs at their disposal this offseason than at any time in recent memory.

Above mid-level players who could turn into All-Stars under Thibs: Players such as the Lakers' Nick Young, who could honestly be the Bulls' Nate Robinson 2.0. Nate had the best year of his life under Thibs; think of what Thibs could do with a player like Young. Depending on the aftermath of the Indiana Pacers' implosion, the Player Formerly Known As "Born Ready" (Lance Stephenson) could slide into a Bulls uni and transform into a player he will never be allowed to become in Indiana. There's a perfect "insurance policy" player in a player like the Mavericks' Devin Harris, who could be just as important as any player the Bulls go after. Not only is he good enough to run the team and score from the point guard position in case Rose goes down again, he's the perfect replacement just in case Kirk Hinrich has seen his last days in the city.

If Taj can play the 3 ...: Can anyone say Zach Randolph? The Memphis Grizzlies star has a player option and can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Want the low-post problem answered? Want the scoring problem answered? Want an All-Star player who won't conflict or get in the way of Rose or Joakim Noah doing their things? Want to avoid spending Carmelo money and get an All-Star in return? Want to stop Nene and Marcin Gortat from getting back-to-back-to-back offensive rebounds and tap-outs at the end of games? Want to make trading Luol Deng make sense?

The Salary-cap flex: Without Carlos Boozer's contract included, there's about $13 million this summer to play with and make something happen. That's not a massive amount of money, but it can turn out to be smart money if the Bulls are Maxwell with it. The amnesty of Boozer seems inevitable. If not that, then a trade. One call to the Lakers for Pau Gasol or one call to the Knicks for Amar'e Stoudemire could at least calm the fire of fan revolt for at least one year when the existence of that contract could officially be taken off the books.

"And with the No. 16 and 19 picks ...": This could easily be reduced to one pick if packaged along with the possible trade of Boozer. But in case that doesn't come to fruition, two of the five following names should become familiar to all Bulls season-ticket holders, cable subscribers and fans who repeat Stacy King verbologies in public: Shabazz Napier, T.J. Warren, Kyle Anderson, Clint Capela and K.J. McDaniels. All have the ability to be immediate answers to at least two of the Bulls' problems. And none of them will turn out to be the next Marquis Teague.

Eight men in: The Bulls have eight players under contract going into next season. Not saying that all eight will be back, but of those eight there are probably only six that they know aren't going anywhere. Hinrich and D.J. Augustin are both free agents. After gambling on letting Nate go this time last year, it's pretty safe to say that they are going to try to bring D.J. back. Kirk is probably gone, which leaves the Bulls with three roster spots open for bench play. What Forman and executive vice president John Paxson decide to do filling those three spots could be the subtle difference between the Bulls getting past a team like the Washington Wizards next year or not making the playoffs at all.

Then there's Niko: Nikola Mirotic is the mystery that just keeps giving. He's like the fine girlfriend your best friend claims to have but you never see. Even if the next Euro prodigy and Bulls 2011 draft pick decides to leave Real Madrid to come to play in the shadow of Michael Jordan's statue and Toni Kukoc's legacy, there is no promise (at all!) that the skill set he'll bring to the NBA will transfer to what the Bulls will need from him in the playoffs. At least not in his rookie and second seasons. Yes, Nikola is an option worth mentioning in the summer of 2014 conversation. But to be what the Bulls need to get them over the hump in the 2015 and 2016 playoffs, he won't be that. Not right away.

The possibility that they give up on Rose: Someone had to say it. Look there's a chance -- a very small one -- that the Bulls as a franchise have come to the conclusion that they can't continue to go "all-in" on Rose. They've done it twice and both times (by what seem to have been acts of God) they got robbed, as did Rose. Giving that plan a third opportunity from a franchise standpoint would almost be suicidal. But if the Bulls are watching the Toronto Raptors' soon-to-be free agent Kyle Lowry play during these playoffs, they have to be thinking ... I'm not going to say it, but IJS (I'm just sayin').

***

Will he stay or will he go? That seems to be the newest worry surrounding Thibodeau after Thursday's report from ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Lakers plan to ask the Bulls permission to interview the coach. The Bulls aren't that foolish to allow an interview with Thibs this summer. And Thibs -- as contentious as the relationship between him and the front office might be -- isn't that stupid to seek interest in joining the Lakers' dysfunction.

So now, just days removed from a season-ending exit amid talk of Thibodeau "wearing the team down," the Bulls enter this offseason with situations they've never had before.

Both good and bad.

What happens when a team's season ends like the Bulls -- when they run into a team that, as Joakim Noah said, "had no holes" and is young enough to be there as a threat for at least the next three or four years -- beating the defending champs (as has been their mission the last three summers) takes a back seat to finding ways to beat the team that just beat you. Teams start building in the offseason to beat that team, not the one sitting atop the mountain, hoisting trophies and having parades. Focus changes, although the goal remains the same.

Forman asked during his exit news conference, "Now how do we get to the next level?"

The answer is simple, my man: You're about to show us this summer.

3 Points: Bulls' (other) big weakness?

May, 1, 2014
May 1
11:07
AM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Noah-Gibson AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJoakim Noah and Taj Gibson would benefit from some quality backups next season.
Every week, ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. Aside from scoring, what is the Bulls' biggest weakness that needs to be addressed this summer?


Friedell: Lack of depth. It's up to general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson to get on the same page with coach Tom Thibodeau about this. When the Bulls went to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, they basically had a set of another five guys to bring off the bench -- the popular "Bench Mob." The Bulls must find a way to get more breaks for guys like Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler or else they run the risk of watching them wear out again next season.

Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: Frontcourt depth. Noah and Taj Gibson are great, but they need backups. Nazr Mohammed is a first-team role model, but the Bulls have to get a little younger. I'm assuming Carlos Boozer is gone, via the amnesty provision or salary-matching trade. Although Noah has blossomed into an All-Star the past two seasons by playing the bulk of the minutes at center, the Bulls still miss Omer Asik, who is an excellent defender. Chicago needs to draft at least one big man this summer and sign another in free agency. Maybe Greg Smith, signed in mid-April, could be one of those backups. But the Bulls could use a bruiser in the Marcin Gortat mold.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Health and roster spots. To me -- and I'm probably the only one of this group who feels this way -- the Bulls don't need to make a Carmelo Anthony-like splash in the offseason to put themselves into title contention going into next season. Just getting Derrick Rose (even if he's not at 100 percent old-school D-Rose) back and an equal replacement for Luol Deng will work. They don't need a max-deal type of player. They need an above-midlevel baller, who along with Noah and Rose, could play in some All-Star Games. A DeMar DeRozan-type, a Harrison Barnes-type, a Wesley Matthews Jr.-type, a Chandler Parsons-type. That's the biggest thing they need to address. But right, right, right below that: They need a serious rebounder. Desperately. If Nene and Gortat exposed anything about the Bulls in the final minutes of those last two losses, the Bulls need someone to stop other teams from turning 24-second possessions into 90-second plays.


2. Do you view the Bulls' season as a success or failure?


Friedell: Success. This team could have mailed it in when Rose got hurt. Or when Deng got traded. It didn't. It continued to fight all the way until the end. Yes, it is disappointing that the Bulls couldn't get out of the first round, but they weren't going to the NBA Finals either way. This team should be praised for continuing to play even when the obstacles were stacked against it.

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How would you classify the Bulls' season?

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    23%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,497)

Greenberg: Really, you have to break it down into three parts. Rose got injured again, which made the season an early failure. No bones about it. I'd call the season a success if you judged it from January until the playoffs. The Bulls overachieved and saw significant growth in their two best (remaining) players, Noah and Gibson. Both players are approaching 30, so it's a good time to start peaking. And then the abbreviated playoff run was nothing but a dismal failure. Five games? No way to spin that. Overall, I'd judge it a minor success on the basis that they overachieved without Rose and Deng.

Jackson: Big success. Regardless of how the playoffs played out, losing to the Wizards in 5, to me, doesn't negate what they did and overcame to get to that point. And I refuse to be one of those fickle/flaky fans/journalists who loved the Bulls two weeks ago and was calling for Thibs to be coach of the year and is now saying that the season was a failure and that Thibs needs to change his coaching style. I wrote earlier in the season that the Bulls were pound-for-pound the best team in the NBA. Now, I can't say that they played that way against the Wizards, but I do feel comfortable in saying that their entire season was very far from a failure.


3. How do the Bulls reverse the trend of being worn out at the end of the season?


Friedell: Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA, but he must sit down with Forman and Paxson this summer and come up with a better strategy for doling out minutes in the regular season. He has to make the rotation deeper and play more than just seven guys on a regular basis, an area Forman and Paxson can help. They have to get through to Thibodeau that winning regular-season games is great, but being as fresh as can be in the postseason is more important. Running out of gas by the playoffs has developed into a trend for the Bulls.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsTom Thibodeau has to be able to play more than just seven players next season if the Bulls are going to last the entire season.
Greenberg: Get a deeper team, I suppose. It's easier said than done with the salary-cap restrictions. Every team is tired to some degree by the postseason. There just isn't enough rest available. The playoffs afford you a chance to catch your breath, with the lack of back-to-backs and all. In the Bulls' case, having to play catch-up nearly every game was more the cause of their second-half meltdowns than big minutes in March. But as Deng said to a group of reporters after the preseason ended, he wouldn't have minded the Bulls' trying things the San Antonio way, just as an experiment. Thibodeau might want to set aside a few rest days for his starters in the last two months. First, he needs a healthy team to do that.

Jackson: They don't. The Bulls spent most of the season not just two men down but two All-Stars down in Rose and Deng. For them to even make it to the playoffs -- let alone get home-court advantage in the first roun by finishing with the No. 4 seed -- every man on that roster had to step up. And they did. If Thibs stretched his roster and starts giving everyone minutes during the season to avoid being worn out, there's no way they would have won the games they did to get into the playoffs. People act as if the Bulls were blowing teams out to get those wins. They weren't. If you want the Bulls not to be worn out at the end of the season so that they have a better chance of beating a team at full strength in the playoffs, don't trade Deng without getting immediate help in return and hope Rose doesn't get injured. Simple.

Bulls: No decision yet on Boozer's future

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
4:27
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday that a final decision regarding the use of the amnesty clause on the final year of Carlos Boozer's contract has not been made.

"Those decisions, they haven't been made," Thibodeau said. "I think it's important to take a step back, and then you look at the season in its entirety. And Carlos has done some very good things for us."

Boozer
After a solid season a year ago, Boozer regressed on both ends of the floor, averaging 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

Forman said the Bulls will evaluate their options with Boozer. Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the Bulls are going to do everything they can to try to find a trading partner for Boozer before seriously considering the amnesty option. The amnesty clause would allow the Bulls to lose the $16.8 million cap hit for Boozer in 2014-15, but the team would still have to pay the veteran forward his remaining salary after releasing him.

"We know there's been a lot written about that," Forman said. "We have valued Carlos. And I think Carlos has had a big part of our success the last four years. Obviously, we still have amnesty as an option that we haven't used that a lot of teams have. That's something as we go into July we'll have to evaluate. If it's something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way. And you guys know us: We're not going to make decisions until we have had a chance to really go through the process, study what the pluses are, what the minuses could be and then make whatever we think is the best decision for our team."

Boozer did not speak to reporters after Tuesday's Game 5 loss to the Washington Wizards. He drove past reporters without making a comment after Wednesday's team meeting at the Berto Center.

3 Points: Build around Wall or Rose?

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
4:45
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Derrick Rose and John WallUSA Today Sports, Getty Images When healthy, Derrick Rose and John Wall are two of the quickest players in the NBA.
Every week, Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.

1. Who would you rather build your team around right now, Derrick Rose or John Wall?


Friedell: Even the most ardent Rose supporter would probably have to admit that Wall is the better option right now. That's because Wall is an All-Star who has recently proven that he can stay on the floor. Rose has only played 50 games in the past three seasons, and nobody is quite sure what kind of player he'll be when he does return. Wall is still getting better, and nobody knows if Rose will ever reach the MVP level he was at before his first knee injury.

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Who would you rather build your team around right now?

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    34%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,010)

Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: It's easy to say Wall because he's on the floor right now. Rose's injury spell has drastically altered his reputation. As Thibs would say, it's a make-or-miss league. When you miss this much time, people forget. So I'd still stick with Derrick. Maybe I'm stubborn like Rose and Thibodeau, but I still think he has another six or seven years of top-flight basketball left. Maybe more. In his brief return to action, Rose showed he still had that nasty first step and could still explode toward the rim. The timing hadn't come back all the way, but you were getting a sense it was close. Rose's most recent knee injury isn't anywhere near as serious as the ACL tear. He'll be back to normal much quicker. Wall is a very, very good point guard, but I just don't think he has Rose's ceiling. Then again, he's out there playing, so maybe that's good enough.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: Wall is the easy choice to say right now since we haven't seen Derrick play at peak level in 2 ½ years. I don't know if it's fair or possible to answer that question "accurately" without being a prisoner of the moment. But for the sake of conversation, I'll say Rose. Whereas Wall is a great, soon-to-be elite player in the league, Derrick (when healthy) is special. Like, LeBron/KD special.


2. What's happened to Joakim Noah's defense in this series?


Friedell: Noah has always had a problem against big centers. Notably, Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert. Nene fits that mold, but the difference early in this series is that Nene has been able to knock down jumpers and bang down low. The reality for the Bulls is that this just isn't a good matchup for him, but I do expect him to play better.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsDefensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah has struggled to contain the Wizards' Nene through two games.
Greenberg: Well, Nene is a tough cover. He can shoot, and he can muscle inside. Marcin Gortat can get baskets, too. Noah is uniquely valuable because he can switch on screens and disrupt pick-and-rolls. But when the Wizards are making midrange jumpers, what can you do? Noah deserved his award because it was emblematic of the team's defensive success. But he's not a one-man lockdown defender. He's just the captain of a very mobile, very frustrating defense. That defense is simply getting worked by the multifaceted Wizards offense.

Jackson: It's still there, it's just under the microscope because we are focusing on his "matchup" with Nene as opposed to what he's doing overall inside of the team's defense. Noah is not a shut-down defender, he's a team defender. He roams, and he is one of the best help-defenders in the league, as witnessed on his contest of the Bradley Beal shot that could have won the game in regulation for the Wizards. Judging Jo's defense on his individual matchup (he honestly should be guarding center Gortat, not power forward Nene) is not a true indication of how he's playing D or if his D has disappeared.


3. What should the Bulls do about their struggles to score in the fourth quarter?


Friedell: The sad part for Thibodeau is he doesn't have many choices. D.J. Augustin can score, but once Trevor Ariza switched onto him, he was a non-factor. The only other move Thibodeau could make is to play Mike Dunleavy more down the stretch. Obviously, he doesn't trust him as much defensively, but Dunleavy is a solid defender and can hit shots. It's time for Thibodeau to try something different in the final few minutes.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesWould Carlos Boozer in the fourth quarter make a difference for the Bulls?
Greenberg: Score more points? Seriously, the only options are either try to insert Dunleavy for Kirk Hinrich/Jimmy Butler or figure out a way to free Augustin from Trevor Ariza, or any other bigger defender the Wizards stick on him. The first is problematic because the Bulls need Hinrich to run the point when Augustin is getting dogged by big defenders, and they need Butler to defend Bradley Beal or Ariza. Carlos Boozer is a more popular option, given his ability to get buckets. Do you sub out Taj Gibson or Noah then? Maybe for a few minutes just to see if Boozer is feeling it. Perhaps Thibodeau can just do some offense/defense substitutions late in the game. Or maybe the answer is subbing out Butler, who played the entire 53 minutes last game, or Augustin before crunch time so they can be a little fresher in the last five or six minutes. With Nene in his grill, Noah can't run his point-center offense. Hinrich isn't a takeover scorer late in the game. Maybe the answer is there are no easy solutions with a limited roster.

Jackson: Make Butler shoot. Make Dunleavy shoot. Run plays for Tony Snell. Use Jimmer Fredette. Put Boozer in, put him on the blocks and let him either score, get to the line or create double teams to kick the rock out to shooters. Anything. Yes, the Bulls are at times an offensively challenged team, but we can't sit here and act as though they don't have options to score. I know it is hard for coaches to break out of their mental cycles in playoff series, but every team has 12 players for a reason. Sometimes you just gotta use them.

Rapid Reaction: Wizards 101, Bulls 99 (OT)

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
11:46
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Washington Wizards earned a 101-99 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Wizards lead the series 2-0.

How it happened: Bradley Beal had a game-high 26 points to lead the Wizards back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Nene Hilario had another solid outing for the Wizards, chipping in with 17 points and seven rebounds. D.J. Augustin had a nice bounce-back game for the Bulls with a team-high 25 points and seven assists. Taj Gibson added 22 points and 10 rebounds, but the Bulls will kick themselves for not closing this one out. Kirk Hinrich had a chance to tie the game with 2 seconds left but missed two free throws (the second one on purpose).

What it means: The Bulls melted down in this one. They had plenty of chances to close the game down but they couldn't make shots. It has been their Achilles' heel all season and it burned them in Game 1 as well. They didn't have an answer when they needed to make a big shot. The Bulls played better defense down the stretch in this game, but head coach Tom Thibodeau is going to have a sleepless nights after watching all the shots his team missed late. Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer and Hinrich combined to go just 9-for-28 from the field. The Bulls are learning the hard way that they can't win playoff games by simply trying harder than other teams -- everybody tries hard in the playoffs. At some point, Thibodeau has to be able to count on somebody to take over late. He doesn't have that luxury right now.

Hits: The Bulls outscored the Wizards 44-22 in the paint.

Misses: The Wizards were just 16-for-28 from the free throw line -- and still won.

Stat of the night: The Bulls made just four field goals in the final 12:16.

What's next: Game 3 is Friday night in Washington.

Bulls' chief flaw reappears in Game 1 loss

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
10:35
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler didn't have an answer to the question the Chicago Bulls needed to figure out most late in Sunday night's loss the Washington Wizards.

The young swingman sat patiently in front of his locker trying to figure what had happened to his team's offense in the final 12 minutes of Game 1. Was it the ball movement, or lack thereof, that caused the Bulls to score just 18 points in the final frame? Was it a lack of confidence?

[+] EnlargeBulls
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhFrom left, Augustin, Hinrich, Butler, Gibson and Noah each scored between 10 and 16 points, but the Bulls still lack a pure scorer to generate consistent offense.
"I don't know," Butler said. "It's a good question."

The Bulls' defensive woes will keep coach Tom Thibodeau up at night, but it's the offense that could prove to be a bigger issue as this series rolls along. The Bulls had nowhere to turn late in the game and no answers for a Wizards squad that tightened things up on the defensive end.

"A little bit of both probably," Butler continued. "But we missed some shots and we'll fix it. It's not like we can't score in the fourth quarter -- we didn't tonight. [It's] easily correctable. Turn it around easily."

The problem for Butler and his teammates is that it's easier said than done. Sunday's game was close to a worst-case scenario for a Bulls team that has hidden its weaknesses very well since Jan. 1, the biggest weakness being that they can't always find easy ways to score. It has been an issue for the Bulls all season -- and it appeared at the worst possible time again on Sunday as the Bulls went through long droughts during which they couldn't buy a basket.

"We just couldn't hit any shots," Bulls guard D.J. Augustin said. "I felt like we were trying to get open, but they did a good job of denying us and taking us out of our offense. So we have to make some adjustments next game, and I think we'll do that … we just have to come up with some counters for our plays because we know they're trying to take us out of everything."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Bobcats 91, Bulls 86 (OT)

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
8:47
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Let's take a quick look at how the Charlotte Bobcats earned a 91-86 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena in the regular-season finale.

How it happened: Kemba Walker had 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and Chris Douglas-Roberts chipped in 13 points. Joakim Noah once again paced the Bulls to the tune of 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 11 rebounds, but the Bulls came up short in what could end up being a meaningless game as far playoffs seedings go if the Toronto Raptors beat the New York Knicks and lock the Bulls in at the No. 4 seed in the East.

What it means: Tom Thibodeau is a creature of habit and principle. He plays to win every game -- even if it ends up not mattering in the standings. Those beliefs were on full display Wednesday night. Thibodeau could have decided to rest his players down the stretch in this one and play for seeding, but he decided to send a message to his players that they had to play hard until the end. But the veteran coach was absolutely playing with fire in this game -- if somebody got injured or if the Bulls won and then the Raptors lost and the Bulls ended up with the No. 3 seed with the potential of facing the Miami Heat in the second round -- Thibodeau would have gotten crushed. Here's the key, though: He doesn't care what anyone thinks. He's going to pace his team the way he wants and he's going to do things his way until the end. For better or worse, he proved that again Wednesday.

Hits: Mike Dunleavy chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 41 minutes.

Misses: Taj Gibson was 2-for-10 from the field.

Stats of the night: The Bobcats out-rebounded the Bulls 53-44 and outscored them 42-28 in the paint. Jimmy Butler played 48 minutes. Noah played 42 minutes.

What's next: The Bulls' playoff opponent is still to be determined. They host Game 1 at the United Center on Sunday night at 6 CT.

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 106, Pistons 98

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
9:36
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Bulls’ 106-98 win over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center on Friday.

How it happened: The Bulls erased an 18-point halftime lead to rally for the win. The Bulls trimmed the Pistons’ lead down to eight after the third quarter and opened the fourth quarter on a 20-3 run to get their first lead since being up 2-0 to start the game. The Bulls outscored the Pistons 36-18 in the fourth quarter. Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson combined for 46 points for the Bulls in the second half. D.J. Augustin led with the Bulls with 24 points. The Bulls had five players in double figures. Pistons center Andre Drummond had 26 points and 26 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey had 22 points for the Pistons.

What it means: The Bulls overtook the Toronto Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls improved to 47-32. The Raptors fell to 46-33 with a 108-100 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday. The Bulls also clinched home-court advantage for the first round.

Hits: Bulls center Joakim Noah became the ninth player in NBA history to record 400 assists and 100 blocks in a season Friday. Noah had 6 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks in the win.

Misses: Drummond outrebounded the Bulls 19-17 in the first half.

Stat of the game: The Bulls were 21-of-23 at the free throw line, while the Pistons were 13-of-23.

What’s next: The Bulls will travel to play the Knicks on Sunday and return home to face the Orlando Magic on Monday.

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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