Jon Greenberg Blog: Chicago Bulls

If Derrick Rose lets game speak for itself, that should be enough

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Derrick Rose played his best game of the season Monday, a clear confirmation that his high-level skills haven't left him through these past two tumultuous lost seasons. In fact, his game has matured.

Did you see that jump pass to Joakim Noah? How about that crossover and no-look dish to Pau Gasol in traffic? Or any number of drives to the rim, floaters in the lane, etc.?

[+] EnlargeRose
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose admits he's being very careful with his health, not only for the season but for his life after basketball.
After scoring a season-high 24 points to go with seven assists in a season-high 32 minutes in the Chicago Bulls' win over the Detroit Pistons, Rose didn't speak to reporters. Fine enough, his game spoke for himself, especially after missing four of five games because of sprained ankles suffered in the home opener on Halloween. That one game he played, in between sitting some out, he was clearly laboring on bad wheels. In this one, he looked healthy.

And then Rose spoke Tuesday.

After noting he felt good, Rose admitted he was being careful about his body because he's worried about his body years down the road. It was a candid moment -- athletes own their bodies, like all of us -- but one that was clumsily communicated.

"I'm thinking about long term," he told reporters. "I'm thinking about after I'm done with basketball. Having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to, I don't want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son's graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. [I'm] just learning and being smart."

That quote sounds funny, because he's talking about mundane activities that probably wouldn't be affected by sore knees and ankles. Not to discount perfectly relatable fears about aging, he's not a linebacker worried about CTE.

And it was pilloried by some (defended by others) on Twitter and sports-talk radio. It was a good example of what several Bulls fans/bloggers refer to on Twitter as #DerrickRoseSaysStuff.

If you're going to follow Rose, as a fan or a critic, acknowledging DRSS as a fact of life is necessary.

(Read full post)

Derrick Rose laces up for regular season

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Derrick RoseCourtesy of AdidasWith Derrick Rose coming off another lost season, the hype for his latest shoe has been toned down.

CHICAGO -- At a downtown shoe store Saturday, Derrick Rose held his newest signature shoe, the D Rose 5 Boost, up for the cameras.

This season, he plans on wearing it, too.

After playing 10 games over the previous two seasons thanks to two different knee injuries, the Chicago Bulls star is raring to go for his second comeback season. Third, if you count the season he wound up missing.

No need to hype this "Return."

The Bulls finished a 4-4 preseason with a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in St. Louis. They are set to open Wednesday against the Knicks in New York, then to return to Chicago for a much-awaited home opener against LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers.

While the Bulls lost their final two preseason games, Rose was better than ever, scoring 57 points on 58.5 percent shooting, hitting 7 of his 12 3-point tries.

Rose was on a minutes watch for most of the eight-game preseason slate and didn’t crack the 22-minute mark until the sixth game. In his final three games, he averaged just under 25 points in 28 minutes per. His speed is definitely still there, and his skill at getting to the rim seems intact. Even his jumper, which was missing during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, looked steady.

“I think the whole preseason I’ve been switching up my gears,” he said. “I haven’t been playing at one pace the entire time. You see little bursts of speed here and there. You don’t get a steady diet of it. I’ve been trying to use little things in my offensive game, floaters, using the backboard on my floaters, hitting my jump shots. Just using little things to keep them off balance.”

Rose started his Saturday at an event at the Adidas store in Water Tower Place for kids from After School Matters, a charity that supports after-school activities for Chicago teenagers. Rose donated $1 million to it this fall. He spoke to 20 kids, sharing life lessons and taking questions for almost an hour.

Then he trekked to a Foot Locker store, where fans camped out to meet Rose and get his newest shoes. The first 50 got to meet him.

Three years ago, he released his first signature shoe at this store during the NBA lockout. Back then, he was the defending MVP.

The next two years saw massive, glitzy Adidas events, including the now-derided hype campaign for "The Return" in 2012. The hype was toned down a bit this time around, and the result was a more organic, natural feel. That's Rose's appeal. He's a local kid made good.

“You come out here and you got people standing outside wearing your stuff, it kind of freaks you out a little bit,” Rose said.

There was a host of Adidas employees in town for the event, and, like Bulls employees, all are hopeful that Rose is finally healthy. It's tough to sell the signature shoe of a player in a suit and tie. His shoes are selling quite well overseas, and as the line snaking around Foot Locker showed, fans in Chicago still believe in him.

As for the rest of the basketball world, after two missed years, and three lost postseasons, no one is quite sure where Rose, now 26, stands in the NBA firmament.

One recent example: Rose was ranked No. 28 in’s collaborative TrueHoop rankings, or one spot lower than Suns guard Goran Dragic, the victim in a classic Rose dunk from yesteryear.

“I mean, I hear about the rankings here and there,” Rose said. “But I know where I am with my game. I know I’m not a top-30 player, I know I’m much higher. But everyone has their own opinions, so I can’t get mad.”

Seven points? Rose's return all that matters

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- The fans got what they came for Saturday night: Chicago native Anthony Davis tearing the roof off the joint.

OK, I'm told most paid for vintage Derrick Rose in The Return, Part Whatever. They got a taste of that too.

It wasn’t quite the D-Rose Tent Revival at the United Center during Team USA’s 95-78 exhibition win over Brazil, but the man the fans came to see put on a few classic moves to let the hometown crowd know he’s baaaaaaack.

That’s seven a’s, one for each point he scored. It was the best damn seven-point performance Chicago has seen in some time -- because Rose was actually back in live game action.

Rose, who got a small cut above his eye in the first half, was pleased with his night and explained that his mission was “playing hard on defense, taking shots when I have the shots and letting the game come to me.”

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose didn't score up a storm Saturday during Team USA's exhibition victory against Brazil, but that he was healthy and playing again at the United Center was what every Bulls fan wanted to see.
It was all part of “a process,” Rose said, as he primes for the FIBA World Cup next month and (knock on wood) another return season for the Chicago Bulls.

He did all those things: play defense, push the ball, shoot when he had a good look. But I can speak for everyone in attendance when I write it was just good to see Rose play basketball in person again. He can have rust, lint, asbestos, whatever. But he played basketball in Chicago, and the normalcy of it -- Rose fitting in -- was welcomed.

“I think everybody’s excited,” Rose said. “It was cool, but I can’t get big-headed about it. Just gotta keep poised.”

Big head or not, Rose said he is used to the applause. But he also said he would have trouble sleeping Saturday night. All part of a process, I guess.

As for highlights, there was a burst and a floater to end the first half, a blocked shot, a nasty drive to the basket that ended with him splitting free throws, a killer crossover and a switching-hands, MJ-homage basket in the third quarter.

And, um, well, I saw him yell at Stephen Curry on defense once. There’s that veteran leadership. This city eats that stuff up.

Rose played under control throughout his 24 minutes, 11 seconds, and maybe those surgically repaired knees are too strong now because on a breakaway in the first quarter he soared quite high and missed a dunk.

“That’s my second missed dunk,” Rose said with a chuckle. “I missed one in practice too. I just got to get used to holding the ball a different way when I dunk.”

Rose said the Team USA balls are a little slicker than the NBA ones, though I’m sure Bulls coach and USA assistant Tom Thibodeau would tell him a good craftsman never blames his tools.

Of his crossover move against guard Raul Neto, which ended in a layup over Anderson Varejao, Rose said, “It was just a play. I guess people want me to do it every time. I just saw an opening, and I went for it.”

Well, we -- I mean they -- do want to see that every time Rose touches the ball. But he went on to explain in detail how he knew he had Neto cooked.

“I just read how he was defending me,” Rose said. “When I came off the pick, it looked like he was confused, and I saw he didn’t have control of his feet a little bit. I look at all those things as an offensive player. And the big was on the other side of the lane, so when I came off [the pick] it was like I had the whole lane to myself.”

While Rose’s humble quotes are very popular in these parts, hearing Derrick talk basketball strategy is music to my ears. Because, in case you forgot, Rose is pretty spectacular when he's on the floor.

(Read full post)

New Cavs present dual challenge for Bulls

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- With Kevin Love reportedly going to Cleveland to join LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as the new power trio in the Eastern Conference, this season will provide a true test for Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

Can he convincingly manage to tell his team that it's championship material while simultaneously convincing the players that they're everyone's underdogs?

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah and Thibodeau
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTom Thibodeau will have to convince Joakim Noah and the Bulls that they are title contenders but also underdogs.
If any coach can walk that inspirational tightrope, it's Thibs, the master motivator of Madison Street.

In reality, it's not that difficult of a task for a veteran team like the Bulls. And given the circumstances -- a division rival getting James and Love within a month -- the Bulls are in a pretty good situation as a contender.

Chicago knows it's a good team with championship potential now that Derrick Rose is back, but the Cavs' deal for Love keeps the Bulls from carrying the load as Eastern Conference favorites. The Bulls will be everyone's favorite antagonist to King James once again. A rebellion in the East? Thibs does look a bit like Robert Baratheon.

With Cleveland hyped to the max, Joakim Noah will be free to seethe about the Cavs, who I guess will be considered, "Bath, Ohio, as Hell."

Thibs will stoke that fire all season, trust me.

For Bulls fans, it's a dream scenario, too. Sure, their team failed, once again, to land a big fish into our grimy river of a town, but hey, at least your inferiority complex is intact. This city isn't good at being favorites.

And with no Love in Chicago, it allows a certain segment of fans to bask in the glow of a "gritty," "deep" Bulls team that prides itself on "toughness" and "defensive tenacity." A football team in basketball shorts. That's how some fans like their team.

"Oh, you have three All-Star scorers? Well, the Bulls have Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Noah gritting it up on defense. Taste that Taj shoulder, pretty boy!"

Let's be clear. The Bulls are legitimate challengers in the East and the Cavs are going to be hard to beat come playoff time. Their regular-season matchups with be prime-time events. Noah will be "hype."

And if these two teams meet in the conference finals, it will be a series to remember.

We have no idea how it will turn out, but given that the Bulls kept their precious, precious depth and have the length to defend Cleveland's Big Three using Thibodeau's strongside overload zone defense, I wouldn't count on another five-game LeBron knockout like in 2011.


Who is the favorite to win the East this season?


Discuss (Total votes: 6,509)

Gibson, Noah and Butler will be key in annoying James and Love, and Rose will certainly enjoy the task of shutting down Irving. But always remember it's never about man-to-man matchups with the Bulls, but rather how they play together in Thibs' bruising ballet. Even though Pau Gasol has the rep of a defensive lightweight, his presence in the middle of this particular defense will do wonders, way more than the undersized, always late Carlos Boozer.

Love, for example, has shot 42 percent from the field and 30 percent on 3-pointers in five games against Thibodeau's Bulls. This past season, he shot 3-for-15 on 3-pointers in two games against Chicago.

Offensively, if the Bulls can share the ball as expected, thanks in part to the additions of dynamic offensive players Gasol and Doug McDermott to go along with Rose and Noah, it will help neutralize the LeBron Lockdown of Rose this spring.

But this is all speculation and wishful thinking. The Cavs are going to be very good and there's only so much perfect defense one team can play.

Rose is still the only go-to scorer on the Bulls. He looks great in national team camp, and it's up to Rose to raise his game back to MVP standards to give the Bulls a fighting chance against the Cavs next season in the East.

I'm sure Thibs is already in his ears, whispering dreams of championships in one and telling him he's the ultimate underdog in the other.

When does the NBA schedule come out? Because I'll be circling these games on the calendar.

Wins, healthy Rose will ease Bulls' tension

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- Maybe Joakim Noah should take a break from his Chicago violence outreach to help squash the really important West Side beef in the news: The Chicago Bulls vs. Derrick Rose's "people."

The lingering soap opera between Rose, his management team and the Bulls went prime-time Thursday in a Chicago Sun-Times story that illustrated the inner squabbles that occurred when a superstar went down and a franchise's grand plans went for naught.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose returning to form will do wonders for any lingering tension between his camp and the Bulls front office.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does an NBA team. No Derrick Rose the past two seasons meant plenty of time to focus on the backstage politicking of guys who aren't named Derrick Rose.

This story, with all its ego, competing agendas and muddled messaging, is interesting and worth monitoring.

But given that Rose isn't going anywhere in the near future, the only thing that truly matters on Aug. 1, 2014, is that Rose is playing his tail off for the U.S. national team with an eye on reclaiming his paused career this season.

Rose is certainly due some good fortune after two knee injuries in three seasons.

Maybe the Sun-Times story, which angered chairman Jerry Reinsdorf so much that his people sent out an over-the-top, thesaurus-friendly reaction, will finally force everyone to sort out some simmering, behind-the-scenes tensions, especially between agent B.J. Armstrong, Derrick's older brother/manager Reggie Rose and the Bulls management team.

Maybe they already have talked it out, with Noah listening intently and humming some Bob Marley.

Or maybe everyone acts like Rose and just ignores the situation and goes about their business.

Every team has internal problems. The Michael Jordan Bulls won six titles around serious squabbles.

Winning cures what is ailing the Bulls. In Rose's case, simply playing would do the trick.

As Rose said himself at the U.S. camp in Las Vegas, he needs to relax from the pressure he's under and let the game come back to him.

Rose just needs to play basketball like the youngest MVP in league history. There's no image makeover like splitting a double team for a dunk. You don't need to call a press conference to explain it.

Given that Rose's real agent, Arn Tellem, is friends with Reinsdorf, I don't think a rift affects Rose's present status with the team, though the future is certainly unwritten.

Rose respects coach Tom Thibodeau, so that's not a problem. He likes his teammates, and hey, he even recruited Pau Gasol.

The Bulls are a championship contender, in theory, and there is much to look forward to this season.

As Rose told the Sun-Times, "It's a new beginning."

That's good news. Rose was in an unfortunate situation the past couple years. He didn't get to enjoy his post-MVP season, a truncated mess that saw him nursing minor injuries until his ACL blew up in his first playoff game.

Then he misses a season, which was more controversial than it should have been because of an embarrassing lack of communication between his management team, the Bulls and himself.

Then he tears a ligament in his other knee 10 games into his return.

Before the injuries hit, Noah said, "You never hear anybody say anything bad about Pooh, you know."

That sure changed the past two years. Chicago abhors an injured superstar.

I can't speak for Rose, but how was he supposed to learn to lead on the bench? How was he supposed to grow?

Rose will be 26 when this season begins, and if you're a human being who likes watching Rose run and jump, you hope that the "dark period of time" he spoke about in Las Vegas is over.

I don't blame his management team for being overly protective of him, especially when it came to his knee two years ago.

I don't blame the Bulls if they were mad that Rose didn't communicate his plans to them or that he didn't recruit Carmelo Anthony to their liking -- even though I think that whole idea, players recruiting superstars like they're 17 again, is idiotic and overblown by reporters. I also thought whoever leaked the story that Rose didn't know Anthony was coming to Chicago did Derrick a great disservice while trying to dis the Bulls.

But forget all that nonsense. With Rose healthy, everyone, from Armstrong to Paxson, should have the same goal in mind: No. 1 dominating and the Bulls advancing deep in the playoffs.

Once Rose gets back on the court, then we can all finally focus on the important things, like Thibodeau playing Rose too many minutes in the regular season.

Won't that be a relief?

Bulls should risk depth for talent in Love

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- Life is short, and compared to other top scorers in the NBA, so is Derrick Rose.

That's why, if fate aligns it so, the Chicago Bulls should trade what they can for the promise of Kevin Love, a 6-foot-10 scorer who has never made the playoffs and is best known for throwing parabolic outlet passes.

[+] EnlargeKevin Love
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Kevin Love and Joakim Noah, the Bulls would have two of the best passing big men in the game.
While I am more of a fan of the journey than of the ultimate destination -- a condition stemming from a lifetime of losing at sports -- I understand that winning your last game is the only thing that matters once the journey winds to the end.

The Bulls need to validate their station in life with a championship. Currently, they have a very deep team on paper, a collection of very tall scorers, several adept passers, a few long-range shooters, three strong defenders, one all-NBA center and Rose, the youngest MVP in league history, now the most luckless.

Reportedly, the Bulls are willing to trade power forward Taj Gibson, rookie small forward Doug McDermott and perhaps either rookie Euroleague "star" Nikola Mirotic or other assets (draft picks and the like) to the Timberwolves for Love, who wants out of the Twin Cities for obvious reasons. This deal is expected to be considered by the Wolves and rejected in favor of one with the Cavaliers. That would be a nightmare for the Bulls.

Still, I am intrigued by the Bulls' current team, and I think it could win the East as constructed, and if everyone remains healthy, be a problem for whomever comes out of the West.
But I would do this move. So would the typically risk-averse Bulls, if they've in fact offered it, so I'm not exactly out on a limb.

Love would command a high salary, especially if he re-signs with the team next season after his contract expires, and that would limit the Bulls' depth going forward.

Depth is a conflicting word for some. It could mean being like the San Antonio Spurs, the sport's reigning champion and testament to the team-first principles of basketball supposedly lost in today's highlight-package society. Depth could also mean an annual excuse for failure to land the luminous free agents of the league. More of the lesser is equal to less of the best? Sure, if you say so.

Depth can't always beat guys off the dribble deep in the playoffs when LeBron is suffocating you on the perimeter. Maybe it can, sometimes, but not always. One key to success is eliminating unknowns. Rose, Love and Joakim Noah, well, we know that would be an excellent core to a crunch-time playoff lineup.

Many have understandably forgotten how brilliant Rose was in his MVP season. It's been awhile. A lot of B-roll of him warming up in vain has clouded our collective memory in the meantime.


Would you trade Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic for Kevin Love?


Discuss (Total votes: 6,597)

Even in his injury-plagued follow-up season, he was still Derrick Rose, a unique talent who blended speed, power and imagination into a chiseled 6-foot-2 1/2 (in his eponymous shoes) product.

In the last playoff game he suited up for, which ended with him crumpled on the floor with a torn ACL, he had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. He didn't shoot well (9-for-23), but he shined.

It's tough to judge Rose's viability as The Guy, because the Bulls have played three postseasons without him. But the possibility of Love, just 25, pairing with Rose would make the Bulls favorites in the East and a serious competitor against the Western Conference powerhouses.

Love can't be shaded by bigger defenders, like Rose can in theory and in past practice.

While he's been marooned with a lifeless franchise, Love is a proven commodity as a scorer, an All-Star and gold medalist. He averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds last season. He shot 37.5 percent on 3-pointers and averaged 4.4 assists. His advanced stats are bananas. He is everything you want offensively in one package.

Love and Noah would comprise the best passing big man combo in the league, and when Pau Gasol comes in for either player, that notion wouldn't change.

In this proposed deal, the Bulls would only lose Gibson's defense, which is something special to be sure. But if they could keep Jimmy Butler and Noah, and provided Tony Snell keeps progressing, they'd still have three tough defenders.

It's important to remember that while coach Tom Thibodeau will sacrifice offense for defense at the end of games, his system doesn't require every player to be an elite one-on-one defender. It's designed to push activity to the paint. That's why Thibodeau preaches "five guys acting as one" on defense.

On Gasol joining Gibson and Noah in a power forward/center rotation, Thibodeau said last week, "The thing I love about all three is they have great length. Defensively you're going to always have two 7-footers on the floor. If you get by the initial one, there's always going to be a second one by the rim. It's going to be very difficult to get shots in the paint."

[+] EnlargeTaj Gibson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTaj Gibson would be a significant loss for the Bulls but worth it for Kevin Love.
The 6-10 Love is still tall, right? He is capable of playing defense.

To me, it's a no-brainer of a deal, because what is life without risk?

I have no stake in this debate, but I'll admit I'm a fan of Gibson and part of me wants to see the Bulls win the East and a title with him in the lineup.

Corny as it sounds, he represents everything that is good about a professional athlete. He comes from the city game, Brooklyn, and he made himself into a near-star in the polished NBA. He did prep school and went to USC, hardly a basketball power, and was a low first-round pick at an advanced age who worked his way into an $8 million-plus per year contract. He is proof that you can improve in the NBA. He's been a strong defender since college, but his offensive game has blossomed beyond high-flying putback dunks. I enjoy talking to him and consider him the true "heart and soul" of a team that considers itself an underdog.

McDermott, a 6-8 reigning collegiate player of the year, could be a special scorer. Taken 11th in the draft, the Bulls surrendered picks to move up and get him. The Bulls scouted McDermott, who is more than a long-range bomber, so extensively at Creighton, they've probably seen him play more in person the past two years than Rose.

Mirotic is the mystery man. The 6-10 Montenegrin was a versatile scorer for Real Madrid with "a solid defensive base," according to Thibodeau. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla compared him to Hedo Turkoglu, while Bulls fans dream, in a narrow-minded sort of way, of Dirk Nowitzki.

That's the definition of depth: An athletic post player/one-on-one defender, a young scorer and a "spacing four" with potential. All signed at reasonable prices.

And there's Love, just one man who has promised he will explore free agency after next season.

Still, do it.

My entire argument will probably be rendered null when Cleveland trades Andrew Wiggins and friends for Love, and he and LeBron rule the East with a fun, Twitter-friendly style of basketball.

The Bulls will finish in second place for Love, another silver medal to hang next to the ones honoring their pursuits of Carmelo Anthony, LeBron, Chris Bosh and more.

Led by Thibodeau, they will soldier on with their deep, tall team, hoping they can defensively strangle their way to the title. I think they could do it with a little luck and most importantly, a healthy Rose.

But it would be fascinating to watch Rose, Love and Noah play together and for the Bulls to seize an opportunity to risk depth for talent. I will always root for a good story.

Pippen talks LeBron, failed Melo pitch

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Scottie Pippen, Carmelo Anthony Michael Loccisano/WireImage"'Look at the roster' -- that was pretty much it," Scottie Pippen said of the Bulls' pitch to Carmelo Anthony.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen doesn’t know what it’s like to lose in the NBA Finals, but he figures LeBron James learned a lesson in doing just that for a second time in four tries with the Miami Heat.

After judging the slam-dunk championship at the Nike Chi League all-star festivities Saturday, Pippen was asked if he was surprised James left for the Cleveland Cavaliers following Miami’s one-sided loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.

“I kind of figured he’d go back [to Cleveland],” Pippen said at Whitney Young High School. “I don’t know if he could hold that team up. I think [Dwyane] Wade's physical ability had him thinking, like, ‘Hey, maybe this is not the place I need to be.’ It was a great run for them. They weren’t as successful as they thought they would be, but you went to the Finals four times, so you can’t hold your head down too much about that.”

Six rings in six tries gives Pippen room for such backhanded praise.

While the Bulls reportedly had a meeting with James’ agent during this summer’s free-agency period, they failed at landing their true big target: Carmelo Anthony.

Pippen, now a special advisor to Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, was a major part of the pitch to Anthony.

After Pippen’s family pictures with Anthony from a Nike European summer tour elicited great hope in the Windy City, the Hall of Famer was part of the Bulls’ daylong Chicago presentation to Anthony on July 1.

But after all the wooing, Anthony stayed in New York and signed a $124 million deal to remain a Knick. The Bulls were reportedly his second choice. It's a familiar story for the Bulls, who haven't been able to land a major free agent in the post-Jordan-and-Pippen era.

“I’m not disappointed,” Pippen said. “Guys are going to make their decision at the end of the day, so you try to make a pitch, and hopefully it works. It hasn’t worked so far, but still, we did what we had to do as an organization to try and attract one of the best free agents out there.”

What was the pitch, given that Chicago couldn’t offer a max deal?

“'Look at the roster' -- that was pretty much it,” Pippen said. “We have a roster we think has a championship pedigree. We’ve been playing good basketball the last few years, even without our star player. Just adding some pieces was the pitch we were throwing at him. We felt that he was a big piece that we needed to get over the hump.”

As far as big pieces, Pippen said he likes the addition of 7-footer Pau Gasol, who had his introductory press conference Friday.

“We have size, and we got two big guys that can really pass the ball,” he said. “Pau gives us inside scoring that’s much needed. ... It’ll be great for our basketball team because we haven’t had a dominating low-post scorer in the block for a while.”

With James in Cleveland, Pippen said he thinks the Bulls have as good a chance as any team if Derrick Rose gets back to form.

“I think it’s wide open now, other than looking at San Antonio as the defending champion,” Pippen said. “I think a lot of teams have the opportunity to step up.”

Boozer's Chicago legacy not totally fair

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- If Carlos Boozer ever writes a book about his four seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he should title it, "I Think They Were Yelling 'Booz.'"

While he wasn't always a fan favorite, no one had more confidence in Carlos Boozer than Boozer himself. And with good reason.

The Plan D of the 2010 free-agent bonanza, Boozer was an integral part of four Bulls teams that competed hard, made the playoffs and earned plaudits, but were ultimately beset by the knee injuries of Derrick Rose.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesCarlos Boozer was reduced to a first- and third-quarter player for Tom Thibodeau's Bulls.
Boozer's Bulls tenure ended Tuesday when the team announced it was using the amnesty clause on him, an open secret considering the Bulls had agreed to sign Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

Predictably, the Bulls used the option to wipe the last year of Boozer's five-year, $75 million contract from their salary cap. In a league where every contract can be bartered, Boozer, a crafty veteran with tangible skills, was the exception.

Maybe it was because every team knew he was getting "amnestied," a verb unique to the NBA the past three years and common in Chicago.

I mean, we've only been talking about it since the amnesty clause was added to the new collective bargaining agreement before his second season with the team.

The Bulls will still have to pay Boozer most of the balance of the $16.8 million owed to him in 2014-15, minus whatever a team pays him for this season, but it won't count against the salary cap.

Boozer was the walking reminder that the Bulls failed to land LeBron James & Co. in 2010. He became the scapegoat for a try-hard team that didn't have its No. 1 option for the past three playoffs. And when they did have him, it was clear Boozer wasn't the championship running mate everyone hoped for.

Boozer was a lot like Alfonso Soriano. He was overpaid because he was a free agent, and fans never forgot that the dollars didn't always match the performance.

Boozer started his career on a bad foot, when it was announced he fractured his right wrist "tripping over a bag at his house." It was a questionable injury for a player known for being injury-prone, but after quickly returning from that injury, he turned into something of an "iron man" for a team constantly dealing with injuries.

You could count on Boozer to show up every game. There's something to be said for that.

Boozer made 280 starts while finishing far fewer games. He averaged 15.5 points and nine rebounds, playing just more than 30 minutes a game.

Give Boozer credit: No starter cheered more for his backup than he did for Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter.

But by his last season, it was obvious his time had run out. He played only 28 minutes a game, mostly the first and third quarters. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, the lowest averages since his rookie season in Cleveland.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau all but banished Boozer to the bench for fourth quarters, as long as Gibson could hobble. Carlos didn't like it, nor should he have, but his complaints never hurt his spirit. This TNT video of Boozer miked up is a classic and proof that he was a solid teammate.

But when it comes to public opinion, you can't really call Boozer polarizing, because he didn't have many defenders outside the inner circles of the Bulls. Fitting because defending was his biggest limitation.

On a team full of max-effort defenders, Boozer stuck out. He was best known for yelling to Joakim Noah that his man was a-coming.

In the past four years, Boozer was probably the loudest Bull. He certainly was the best paid. He never lacked for confidence, either.

My favorite Boozer story was when I asked him about his rap debut in 2011. After his song "Winning Streak" was introduced before the second game of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls lost four straight.

Offensively, Boozer still had plenty of moves, the rainbow jumper, the up and under, the "and-1" hand gesture. He could've used a few more inches, height-wise and in his vertical, but that's why he was a second-round pick in the first place.

And for a second-round pick, he's had quite a career. He rose to fame in Utah where he played off Deron Williams in pick-and-roll situations. Playing with Rose, who could split defenders faster than Boozer could hashtag #holdat, Boozer didn't get the same kind of looks in Chicago, while his weaknesses were magnified.

Boozer won't be remembered with great fondness in Chicago. It's not totally fair, but that's life. He'll be fine -- don't worry about him.

If Rose's knees would've held up, maybe the Bulls would've upset Miami once in the past three postseasons. Maybe Boozer would've been part of a championship team.

But they didn't, and he wasn't. And now he's gone.

No Carmelo? Bulls respond with Plan P

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- The best-laid schemes of Bulls and men often go astray, especially when it comes to the Kobes, LeBrons and Carmelos of the world.

A day after LeBron James surprised many by returning to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony shocked exactly no one by spurning Chicago and negotiating to stay in New York.

If I had a dollar for every time the Bulls came up second in a chance to land a great NBA player, I’d have enough to self-publish my book, “The 50 Greatest Deals the Bulls Almost Made.”

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls won't be getting Carmelo Anthony, but Pau Gasol isn't a bad consolation prize.

I’m guessing that John Paxson, Gar Forman and the gang won’t read that in hardcover, paperback or Kindle. They lived it.

Here’s what the Bulls get for finishing second for Anthony: Pau Gasol, who tweeted that he was joining the Bulls on Saturday afternoon, likely Nikola Mirotic, probably Kirk Hinrich, again, and a swingman to be named sooner rather than later.

Good thing the Bulls saved all that cash on the Luol Deng exile last year. They can use it to pay Carlos Boozer's salary after he’s amnestied. No sign and trade for you, Mr. Reinsdorf!

Expectations for the Bulls? Well, it’s been title or bust since the 2010-11 Bulls won the No. 1 seed.

Four years after the Bulls went from 8-seed to championship contender behind Tom Thibodeau and the remaining core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, the Bulls find themselves still contending, but with no clear prediction on how they match up with other contenders, let alone the Western Conference.

Anthony would have provided some clarity. His addition would have made the Bulls clear favorites in the East, as James tries to meld with his new young team and the Washington Wizards try to build off last season. (I’m not high on Indiana or Miami.)

With James’ move home, the East is wide open. The Bulls join Cleveland, Washington, Indiana and sure, the Knicks, as the frontrunners to get mopped up by a Western Conference team.

I like the Bulls’ chances, provided, of course, Rose stays healthy. Anthony would've been the perfect addition for an offensively challenged team, but Rose with a team full of “floor spacers” isn’t bad. Now they just need one other guy who can create his own shot late in games.

Rose is due for some good fortune, right? Ever since he’s got his money, Rose has dealt with bad knees and worse press, but I have a sneaking suspicion his return will be almost as electrifying as James’ in Ohio.

Gasol isn’t a bad consolation prize, given the Bulls are looking for an immediate title shot, and he’s not getting Carlos Boozer money.

(Read full post)

How do the Bulls combat LeBron's Cavs?

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Carmelo Anthony, LeBron JamesAP Photo/Frank Franklin IIWill LeBron James' decision to return to the Cavs make it easier for Carmelo Anthony to return to the Knicks?
Tom Thibodeau rarely cops to focusing on one player or one game.

All wins are equal, he says.

So he probably won't admit that the Chicago Bulls have to build their team in reaction to LeBron James' league-shaking announcement that he's returning to Cleveland.

With James going back to the Central Division, the Bulls have to combat James' presence only four times a year. But those four games will be epic and could very well decide important playoff seeding.


If Carmelo Anthony stays in New York, who should the Bulls get to combat LeBron James in the Central?


Discuss (Total votes: 7,771)

Joakim Noah is getting excited for those playoff trips to Cleveland already.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. The Cavs are a much younger, unproven team than the past four Heat teams, but with a few veteran additions (Mike Miller, maybe Ray Allen), they should be the favorites in the East. David Blatt is a strong coach and Kyrie Irving should be an All-Star second banana. If the Cavs get, say, Kevin Love, as the rumor du jour hints, well, the Bulls are in serious trouble.

So how do the Bulls combat this new threat?

Well, first they're waiting on Carmelo Anthony. By the time you read this, we might know his choice, which is reportedly down to New York and Chicago, a factoid we knew all along.

I know the popular response to James' decision is to say Anthony should sign with the Bulls, because his arrival would leapfrog Miami in the all-important preseason buzz race.

But I'm thinking this decision spurs Anthony to make the decision he's been leaning toward all along: Stay in New York. After all, if James is essentially going at it alone (in terms of veteran SuperFriends) in a place he feels most comfortable, why can't Anthony do the same and hope Phil Jackson draws some All-Star talent in the coming year?

So back to my question: What do the Bulls do? Does adding the Spanish Armada in Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic make the Bulls good, or tough enough to handle the new Cavs? Or do the Bulls need to add more brawn? Thibs would probably say "both." He wants scoring and toughness, and about 80-82 wins.

So who's out there?

Does Lance Stephenson, too wild for Gar Forman's and John Paxson's usual tastes, become a serious target? The blowing-in-LeBron's-ear kerfuffle made Stephenson look like an idiot, but I love the spirit behind it. He's not afraid of anyone, and his arrival -- combined with Noah's popularity in Cleveland -- would ratchet up the rivalry.

Stephenson fits the Bulls, as a player, and as Jeff Van Gundy said on ESPN Chicago 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show Friday, "Tom Thibodeau would play a serial killer if it meant he could win games."

I've resisted touting Lance as an option, because I just don't see the BoringBulls front office going for him, and he'll take up most of their salary-cap space, but maybe now they should get aggressive and mix it up. Taj Gibson and Noah, fellow New Yorkers, could mentor him. Thibs would love Stephenson's defense.

Or how about good ol' Luol Deng? I haven't given his "return" much credence, after being disrespected (in his eyes) by the Bulls' take-it-or-leave-it offer last season. But he's had experience, and some success, going shoulder-to-shoulder with James.

People will talk about Dwyane Wade having a homecoming, but I don't see it. If he needs another full-season maintenance program, it's not worth it.

Is backup center a luxury anymore for the Bulls? The Cavs don't have much size as currently constituted, and the Bulls need to plan for their weaknesses. Hey, maybe the wild Aussie rookie Cameron Bairstow really will play this season!

One thing is for sure, LeBron James in Cleveland changes the complexion of the league and gives the Bulls a lot to think about in the coming days, weeks, months and years.

It's good to have you back in the Midwest, LeBron.

Bulls fans, keep free-agent dreams in check

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Derrick RoseAP Photo/Alex BrandonNo matter where Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Love end up, a Bulls run starts and ends with a healthy Derrick Rose.
CHICAGO -- Melo! LeBron! Love!

It’s the summer of exclamation marks and bold-faced names. Get silly and get angry, basketball fans.

That means you, Bulls fans.

LeBron James officially opted out of the last year of his contract Tuesday, an eventuality that still stirred the imagination of millions of NBA fans and, most importantly, a half-dozen general managers and owners.

It’s déjà vu all over again. It's tough to believe "The Decision” summer was four years ago. That’s one MVP award, one max deal, one NBA rule and two knee surgeries ago for Derrick Rose.

This time around, James doesn’t need a TV show. Miami would have to royally screw up for him to bail. Cross James off your list, Bulls fans. Be proactive.

If LeBron is the white whale, Carmelo Anthony is the big shark. Can the Bulls reel him in? It’s possible, but it feels to me like Anthony stays in New York with big promises of contention from Phil Jackson. Prepare your angry tweets calling Anthony greedy.

I’m betting Kevin Love stays in Minnesota and is dangled during the season for future picks and young players.

So where does that leave the Bulls? Don’t say basketball hell. Don’t even say limbo. No need to get dramatic.

This isn’t heaven. It’s Chicago, where free-agent dreams go to die. But it’s actually not a terrible place to be.

The most likely outcome for the Bulls this summer?

They sign Nick “Swaggy P” Young and Lance Stephenson, while swinging a deal for J.R. Smith. That would change the ol’ paradigm, wouldn’t it?

Just kidding. That’s my dream as a columnist. But despite their differences, I don’t think Gar Forman and John Paxson want to see Tom Thibodeau spontaneously combust.

Seriously, I think the Bulls whiff on the big names but still amnesty Carlos Boozer. They bring over Nikola Mirotic from Spain, swing a trade for Magic guard Arron Afflalo (as has been reported) and sign a backup center/power forward. To be fair, I haven't run the numbers on those deals, but they seem doable.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James and Carmelo Anthony
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesAssembling a Super Friends team with players such as Carmelo and LeBron isn't the only way to win in the NBA.

The key to the Bulls challenging anyone is a healthy Rose. That might not augur one’s hopes for a run to the Finals, but it’s the one true thing you’ll hear in the coming weeks. It’s all about Rose.

Any talk about how the Bulls keep coming short in the postseason under Tom Thibodeau has to mention that Rose has only had one crack at Miami during its four-year run to the Finals.

Would a healthy Rose have changed the story? We’ll never know. It’s a shame, really. For all the grumbling about Rose’s situation, he too was robbed of competing against the best in the prime of his career for three straight postseasons.

It’s easy to forget how good Rose was a few years ago.

Although it would be a league-changer to acquire Anthony or Love to pair with whatever would remain of the Bulls' core, it’s not a season-ender if they don’t get them.

It’s a little cliché to bring up the San Antonio Spurs right around now. After all, the Bulls don’t have that level of continuity, nor do they have an old-but-effective Tim Duncan, the best post man of his generation.

But with great coaching, a blended roster of dependable veterans (some old, some not) and young star Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs beat Miami quite easily.

The idea that you need a Super Friends lineup to make the Finals isn’t wrong -- the Heat did it four years in a row -- but it’s not the only answer in a multiple-choice league.

A healthy Rose is an MVP candidate. Joakim Noah is an MVP candidate on a team without Rose. Taj Gibson is an All-Star-caliber player. Jimmy Butler is a strong defender. That’s a good core. Add to that group Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy. I’m not sold on any draft picks being on this team, but we’ll see what happens Thursday. Even if there are no trades, I’d guess the Bulls draft and stash a foreign player.

Mirotic would be a versatile scorer, though likely not a dominating one, and Afflalo a dependable option at shooting guard with Butler playing more small forward. A key is bringing in another big man to keep a three-man rotation with Noah and Gibson. The Bulls added injured center Greg Smith late this past season, but they can’t rely on Noah playing the position by himself again.

Wizards big man Marcin Gortat, if I had to pick a free-agent center, would be a great fit, in theory, but it seems like he has found a home in Washington.

Yes, that’s where we are: dreaming of Gortat in a Carmelo world.

It’s not basketball hell. It’s Chicago.

Coach K looks forward to home cookin'

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Mike KrzyzewskiTyler Smith/Getty ImagesMike Krzyzewski is set to bring the U.S. national team to his native Chicago this summer.
CHICAGO -- When Mike Krzyzewski was a teenage basketball player here, he haunted the Ukrainian Village playgrounds near his house and rode the Damen Avenue bus to hoop at places such as Saint Philip High School.

The Duke head coach reminisces easily about these memories of a bygone Chicago -- Saint Philip closed in 1970 -- but while Kryzyweski’s Chicago is much different than the current iteration, one thing remains the same: This is a city crazy about basketball.

Krzyzewski has a current reason to feel pride about Chicago basketball. He recruits the best of the best of Chicago for Duke and the U.S. men’s national team, and business is good.

Krzyzewski, a frequent visitor to his hometown, will bring the national team back this summer for a warm-up game against Brazil before decamping to Spain for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The Brazil game, scheduled for Aug. 16 at the United Center, is the signature event of the four-day Nike World Basketball Festival. But Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Krzyzewski are also crowing about the rest of the proceedings, which will include clinics for kids, pro-am league games and community events. Players from the national team will coach and do community work during the week.

The festival, now in its third year, will begin at the 63rd Street Beach House in the South Side. Krzyzewski said he's excited for his team to interact with Chicago outside the confines of the United Center or nice restaurants.

“That’s really what the World Basketball Festival is about,” Krzyzewski said in a phone interview. “Going into a great city, a city that loves basketball.”

[+] EnlargeRahm Emanuel
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesMayor Rahm Emanuel has been a regular presence at Chicago high school games and calls the city "an incredible basketball town."
Emanuel, who covets bringing sporting events to the city, wants to see Chicago recognized as the basketball capital of the world.

“We have a rich basketball history in the city and I want the rest of the country to see that,” Emanuel said by phone. “This is an incredible basketball town, and there’s no other city like it. And I’m glad the festival will allow 5,000 kids to get access to free basketball clinics from professionals.”

Emanuel has become a regular presence at high-profile high school games. He watched Simeon games with Jabari Parker's parents and he was in the front row for a classic city championship game between Jahlil Okafor's Whitney Young and Cliff Alexander's Curie this past season. He said he would love to see Chicagoans emulate Okafor and Parker for their academic success, if not their skill level.

But their basketball isn't too shabby, either.

On Thursday, Parker has the chance to be the third Chicago product to go No. 1 in the NBA draft since 2008, when the Bulls selected Derrick Rose. Anthony Davis went first overall in 2012. Okafor and Alexander, should they leave school after one season, could vie for the top pick in 2015.

While Krzyzewski doesn’t know Kansas-bound Alexander, who has national-team experience, just yet, he coached Parker last season and has coached Davis and Rose on the national team. He will coach Okafor this season at Duke.

“These are four of the nicest guys in the whole world,” Krzyzewski said. “If you put 100 people together and said where would we rank these guys, they’d be at the top. If you said where do you rank them as basketball players, they’d be at the top, too.”

Rose, of course, is the big question for the U.S. squad. He’s reportedly playing five-on-five, a rarity for him in the summer, after missing most of this past season with another knee injury. Considering this injury, a surgically repaired medial meniscus in his right knee, wasn’t nearly as serious as his previous ACL tear, Rose was expected to be ready for this summer. But will he be himself again?

Krzyzewski said he won’t know if Rose is ready to make the 12-man roster until he sees him in action, though one of his U.S. team assistants, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, is surely pushing for Rose to play.

“We’ve been getting good reports,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re hoping, physically, he’ll be ready to go. Now, will he be where his skills in five-on-five situations are ready to go? He’s working four or five hours a day, high intensity, high speed.

“He wants it badly. This would be a good springboard, the World Cup, going into the season in Chicago. Tom is on the staff, so that makes it even better.”

Emanuel and Krzyzewski both chuckled when asked if they were going to recruit Carmelo Anthony, who declared for free agency on Monday.

"Wherever Carmelo goes, they'll be very lucky," Krzyzewski said. "He's been one of our key players for the United States. He's really been the ultimate team player for us. Even in London [during the 2012 Olympics], I asked him to come off the bench because I wanted to start one group and I thought he'd give us firepower and experienced national play off the bench, just like [Dwyane] Wade in Beijing [during the 2008 Games]. Melo said: 'Coach, whatever you want to do. I just want to win.' That's the kind of guy he is, he's a warrior. I'd want him on any team."

Emanuel, ever the politician, was more succinct.

“If Coach T is for it, I’m for it,” he said of the Bulls bringing Anthony aboard. “This is a great city for a great basketball player.”

With Hawks done, what's next this summer?

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
Jose Abreu, Carmelo Anthony and Jeff SamardzijaGetty ImagesJose Abreu's rookie power surge, the Bulls' pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and the trade market for Jeff Samardzija will keep Chicago busy until the Bears get back to work.
By now, you've come to terms with the end of the Chicago Blackhawks' season, an unceremonious suspension to the budding hockey dynasty.

So what's next for Chicago sports fans? Besides spending time with your friends or family. Unless, of course, they're also sports fans.

Here are some things to look forward to as you fight that aching inside your hockey soul and before you satiate that breach with Bears training camp minutiae.


TBD, June, landmark commission meeting: The city's commission on Chicago landmarks meets Thursday, but the Cubs' additions to the never-ending, never-starting renovation of Wrigley Field won't be on the table. Crain's reporter Danny Ecker wrote that the Cubs are hoping for a special session of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked board later this month so they can start digging the new home clubhouse sometime in July. Call me when a shovel hits the dirt.

June 5, MLB amateur draft: This is the Cubs' World Series. They pick fourth. Hilariously enough, the White Sox could ice them out of a top pitching prospect by picking third. The Cubs tried to lose but still can't beat the Sox when it matters most.

From now until July 31, the Jeff Samardzija Trade Watch, presented by Cheap Baseball Team: Samardzija wants a big free-agent payday, one that will assuredly make him the highest-paid Notre Dame athlete ever. The Cubs have tried to sign him to a club-friendly deal, but Samardzija wants ace money. The Cubs have ace money, but they act like a small-market team circa 2004. It'll be a shame for the team and its fans if Samardzija is dealt, but hopefully for him he heads to a team that cares about winning now.



What are you most excited about this summer?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,867)

Now until October, the summer of Abreu/Sale: While Cubs fans count down the days until Javier Baez is called up, the Sox have stars ready now.

Chris Sale and Jose Abreu are not only the best baseball players in town, but each is among the best in baseball. If they were Cubs ... well, that argument is tired. It'll be interesting to see whether the Sox's crowds pick up significantly during the summer, especially if the Sox keep pace in the playoff race. But attendance aside, it'll be a treat to watch Sale every five days and Abreu every game on TV, where the ol' Hawkaroo is certain to pin the future of the human race on this pair.

Now until Aug. 31, South Side Market: In his days as general manager, Kenny Williams was always good for a win-now trade involving prospects. Now Williams is the executive vice president, and I'm sure he gets itchy around this time of year. Would he influence Rick Hahn to make a move to get a playoff berth?


Um, forever and always: You don't need my help here to find things to obsess about. The Chicago media will give you daily reasons, including a Twitter countdown to training camp, to pay attention to the Bears months before games begin. Organized team activities are covered like the Stanley Cup.


June 26, July 1-10, the NBA draft and start of free agency: One thing the Blackhawks' demise should do is prepare you for the epic disappointment that will be the Bulls' free agent/Kevin Love summer. Carmelo Anthony coming to play on the cheap? Love getting traded to Chicago? Maybe Lance Stephenson bringing his Dennis Rodman-esque style to the Bulls?

There's a good chance the draft will be the highlight of the Bulls' summer. But, hey, stranger things have happened. Potential additions aside, it just would be nice to see Derrick Rose make Team USA this summer, stay healthy and look game-ready come October.

Bulls must be bold (and lucky) to get Love

May, 19, 2014
May 19
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg

CHICAGO -- Imagine this: Kevin Love ripping down a rebound. Derrick Rose racing down the court. Tom Thibodeau screaming like a maniac. Love firing a touchdown pass that makes the hairs on Marc Trestman's head stand up. Rose catching and converting. Joakim Noah clapping. The Bulls winning.

Are you picking up those good vibrations that Love's uncle Mike used to sing about? Those excitations? Do you need a towel?

[+] EnlargeKevin Love
Tom Dahlin/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and a career-best 4.4 assists in 77 games with the Timberwolves this season.
Yes, it's that time again, Bulls fans. Time to dream, time to fantasize. The time for the crushing disappointment that is life will come later.

It was only four years ago that the Chicago Bulls had money in the bank and the world at their fingertips.

In the free-agent bonanza that would come to define the league's hierarchy and perhaps the way championship teams are created, the Bulls ended up with Carlos "Plan D" Boozer and a strong supporting cast.

While it was disappointing not to land LeBron James or the other two Heat All-Stars, the Bulls, thanks to the addition of Thibodeau, quickly matured into the best regular-season team in the NBA before becoming the league's most respected star-crossed team.

No one plays harder without a superstar than the Bulls. They're a nice story with a bad ending.

Going into the summer of 2014, the Bulls find themselves in a familiar place, with big names available and bold moves desired.

The Bulls aren't young anymore. This is a veteran team with a chance to do something special and a finite amount of time to do it in.

While it's been said, often to the point of nausea, that the Bulls need a second superstar, they really need the first one back. Rose, as you might know, has played in only one postseason (aside from a fateful game in 2012) under Thibodeau. All those stories about the Bulls' last three playoff failures are essentially meaningless. Without Rose, what could the Bulls be besides a try-hard team?

The Bulls' situation is not dire, but it's clear this summer will define their near future.

Rose, who will be 26 in October, is again on the mend, a former MVP who has missed all but one game in three straight postseasons. Thibodeau has proved to be even better of a coach than anticipated, Noah is an All-Star and MVP candidate, and Taj Gibson is a borderline All-Star.

It sounds great, provided Rose's injury woes are behind him. The ball is in the Bulls' court, but not really. Because for whatever reason -- the weather, the team's inclusive nature -- the Bulls are not a top free-agent destination.

They're in the conversation, sure. But would Carmelo Anthony leave big money in New York for a chance in Chicago? Would Love trade California dreamin' for Chicago winters? Could the Bulls swing deals to land either of them?

The Carmelo story has been well-covered, but the Love news is fresh. Love, almost five years younger than Anthony, is not a free agent this summer, but with one year left on his deal, he reportedly wants out of Minnesota.

Is he nothing more than the newest All-Star crush that will break Chicago's heart? Close your eyes and you can see him in Lakers gold.

Love has been on many wish lists from the Berto Center to the West Side. He is a multifaceted scoring power forward, the best outlet passer in the game, and get this, he's friends with Rose, who keeps his inner circle tight. They have known each other since they were highly touted teenagers, and they train together in the offseason.

Landing Love would be difficult, and not just because of the salary cap. He will have many suitors, most notably the Lakers. Love played one season at UCLA and has an L.A. presence. He is the type of "Showtime" player the Lakers need to build around during Kobe Bryant's waning days. It's been reported that Golden State is also high on his wish list, and the Knicks would love him too.

The Lakers could control this situation. They await their lottery fortunes Tuesday night. If they get a top-three pick, do they deal it for Love (they're well under the salary cap) or do they build around, say, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins?


The Bulls would be better off...


Discuss (Total votes: 10,570)

The word is that Minnesota won't deal Love before the draft. Even so, the Bulls have assets to interest Minnesota, if not intrigue it. They have the 16th and 19th picks in this draft, a conditional future first-round pick from Cleveland and the rights to talented Real Madrid forward Nikola Mirotic. They have Gibson, who is close to being an untouchable, and shooting guard Jimmy Butler, both of whom could imbue Minnesota with veteran leadership and toughness. Boozer could be a throw-in for salary-cap reasons.

Would Minnesota take a package headed by Mirotic, who is considered the best player in Europe? Would Mirotic even come over to play for the listless Wolves and team with Ricky Rubio?

While Mirotic is intriguing and much more realistic as a future Bull, Love would immediately make the Bulls the favorite in the East. Imagine the frontcourt passing from him and Noah, not to mention the reliable scoring Love would give the team when Rose is off (or injured).

The Bulls have done an excellent job building a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and sometimes that is overlooked because they can't really matter in the postseason without Rose. The front office has provided Thibodeau with the right kind of players but not enough scoring. Boozer's old man moves and rainbow jumper are nice enough, but he has devolved into a first-quarter chucker because he couldn't be trusted (by Thibodeau anyway) in the fourth.

The Bulls need to take chances to realize their championship potential in the next four years.

The front office would love to make the kind of bold moves necessary to land a superstar like Anthony or Love. But they will need some help and maybe some luck.

The Bulls got suspiciously lucky in 2008 when they got the first pick in the draft and nabbed Rose. Six years later, with Rose, humbled by too-human knees, trying to make his comeback, the Bulls need good health and fortune to go from contender to champion.

Wouldn't it be nice if Love got them there?

Thibs defection to Lakers wouldn't add up

May, 1, 2014
May 1
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- Let's start off with this thought: If the Chicago Bulls let Tom Thibodeau go, it would be the most foolish decision this franchise has made since, well, ever. Yes, I'm including letting an aging Michael Jordan walk.

And also this thought: Why would Thibodeau leave these Bulls for these Los Angeles Lakers? I don't care how often Kobe Bryant swears at reporters, his best days are behind him and there's no guarantee the team will be good in the next few years. As we know, you don't do long rebuilds in the NBA and Thibodeau doesn't do them at all.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant and Tom Thibodeau
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant is a fan of Tom Thibodeau's hard-charging style.
And also this: Why would the Bulls even let Thibodeau talk to the Lakers?

So where we were again?

Oh yeah, a day after Mike D'Antoni resigned,'s Dave McMenamin reported the Lakers want to talk to Thibodeau about their coaching job.

Of course they would, and of course he would, want to talk to Thibodeau. He's the MacGyver of the NBA regular season.

Bryant and Thibodeau are cut from the same cloth. They are win-at-all-costs NBA lifers.

After two coaches, and one Bernie Bickerstaff, in three years in the wake of Phil Jackson's retirement, the Lakers are more adrift than ever. Thibodeau would take them back to the top, conceivably anyway. The maestro still needs an orchestra.

While Thibodeau can be hard to work with at times, and is a singular, unique Type-A person, the Bulls' front office isn't stupid.

No, really, it's not.

Those in the front office know he's an excellent coach, one of the top handful in the league, and that few, if any other coaches, could've had the same success as the last two teams. They know that their chance to win a title involves a healthy Derrick Rose and a crazy Thibs. As Brian Scalabrine once said to me, Thibodeau is a culture changer and there aren't many NBA coaches who can say that.

So the Bulls wouldn't let the Lakers try and poach him. Would they?

It's no secret there are divisions at time, between the front office and Thibodeau, but that's true in most organizations where men have egos. The last two seasons have been especially trying with Rose laid up because of knee injuries. Winning cures all.

On this note, I can't imagine the Lakers would have enough to give the Bulls to acquire the coach. Nor would I imagine they'd offer up their first-round pick, even if Thibodeau is worth more than a pick, when they can hire another coach and keep the pick.

If I were totally wrong and this spark of a rumor turns into a bonfire, I think the Bulls' first call would be to Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. The former Bull is highly respected in Chicago. General manager Gar Forman is a former Iowa State assistant who came here with Tim Floyd.

Wouldn't that be some symmetry? Another Iowa State coach replacing a great Bulls coach, who is off to Los Angeles.

Of course, Thibodeau isn't Phil Jackson and Hoiberg is much more qualified to coach in the NBA than Tim Floyd ... and we're officially entering NBA RumorLand. Enjoy it, folks.

On my way back from a Don Draper-esque afternoon movie, I heard my friends on the radio Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman build themselves up into a lather on why Thibodeau hadn't stepped out and squashed the rumor.

It had been two hours since McMenamin's story went out. That's the world we live in, as they say. Maybe Thibs was in a movie too? ("Grand Budapest Hotel" was very good, by the way.)

Maybe Thibodeau likes the drama.

In January, Thibodeau's future was in doubt when a New York columnist wrote "There are rumblings around the Chicago Bulls' offices these days that Tom Thibodeau already has a deal in place to coach the Knicks next season."

It was a non-story and soon after it died down, the Bulls started winning at a Thibodeauean pace.


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As it stands today, Thibodeau has three years left on a very lucrative contract, and unfinished business in Chicago. He has coached Rose for only 130 of 328 possible regular-season games, you know.

And after an unceremonious exit from the playoffs, the Bulls are preparing for another big free-agent push. Yes, again. They're like Mitt Romney, every four years, it's the same dance. But this time it'll be different, I tell you.

When it comes to big-ticket free agents, it's Thibodeau who is the biggest draw. Yes, even more than Joakim Noah and Rose. Players can get injured. The only way Thibs goes down is by spontaneous combustion. His reputation in the league is gold.

So if the Bulls want to land Carmelo Anthony, and they have a chance, however slim, it's Thibodeau who will help lure him. That's what the public doesn't get about ol' Thibs. He's only a maniac on the sidelines and in the practice facility. He's actually a pretty charismatic guy, and he certainly knows how to cajole NBA players. He doesn't speak about money and reputation, he appeals to the competitor in each of them.

Before the season, I was talking to Taj Gibson about Thibodeau's insatiable desire to win. This is what Gibson said:

"That's on his mind all day. Every day we talk, there's always inspirational quotes, previous players' quotes, champions like [Muhammad] Ali. Everybody that's ever won something or has done something big in their life, he reads their quotes, and we just take it every day. We're real focused, we really think about the game. We just think about winning. Every day is focused on guys just winning."

Why get rid of a guy like that? You don't, usually. This story will probably be shot down by the time you read this sentence.

But it's going to be a fun summer, isn't it?