The Chicago Bulls have finally kicked off training camp and the NBA season is upon us with the first preseason game now less than one week a way. Here's the latest scuttlebutt and loose thoughts entering camp.
Can Derrick Rose really come back healthier?
Derrick Rose made some bold claims at media day:
"I can't wait to get back on the court to see what I'm going to do," Rose said. "I don't know how I'm going to play. I don't know what's going to be new about my game. It's just going to be exciting for everybody to see.
"I'm going to be a better player. My legs have never been this strong before. My upper body has never been this strong before. My core has never been this strong before. I'm going to see where it takes me."
We've heard all off-season long that Rose was never particularly limber, never had a great core, and had plenty of areas he'd never worked on until this injury. Derrick believes after improving in all these areas that he'll come back even stronger after the returning from the ACL injury.
History isn't exactly on his side here as ACL tears tend to shorten careers and lessen performance of the players who have them. That said, Derrick's youth combined with headroom he still had to improve athletically gives him a legitimate chance to turn this statement into a reality.
Who's the most impressive new Bull? Marco Belinelli
When asked who has impressed him the most, Derrick Rose responded with Marco Belinelli which is good news for Bulls fans not enamored with sketchy play and health of Rip Hamilton last season.
Of all the players to look impressive early, Belinelli is the one the Bulls need to play well. Derrick commented on being surprised by his size and ball handling. I have to concur with Rose on this one. After meeting Belinelli at media day I was also impressed with his size as well. While listed two inches shorter than Korver he seemed similar in size when seeing him in person.
Belinelli will be counted on to replace Korver's shooting, but he's more than just a shooter. He can put the ball on the floor, plays with more athleticism and will likely fit in better defensively. Time well tell whether he can bring Korver's high basketball IQ to the table, but at 26 years of age he still have a chance to get considerably better whereas Korver's on the decline and has a very limited skillset with one elite skill.
Belinelli vs Hamilton vs Butler would appear to be the biggest and perhaps only camp battle for a starting position. It seems unlikely that Thibodeau starts Taj over Boozer, Hinrich's spot is secure while Rose is out and Deng/Noah are the obvious and only choices for their position.
The real intrigue will be in who wins the shooting guard spot. It wouldn't surprise me if Hamilton is already somewhat locked in based purely on reputation/ego, but he shouldn't be. Not after last year.
Taj nearing an extension?
Aggrey Sam reported on twitter that the Bulls were getting closer to a deal with Taj Gibson.
There's significant pressure on Chicago to get a deal done with Taj this off-season as they just watched Omer Asik walk away. Granted, the Asik situation was difficult in that Chicago couldn't offer him more than five million per year themselves, and the Gilbert Arenas provision created an odd loop hole that allowed for an unnatural back-loading of his deal that wouldn't apply to Gibson.
Still, it's hard to imagine Taj Gibson not earning 10 million a year in the open market next season given the going rate of defensive big men. The Bulls would likely prefer to lock him up this season at a much lower total while offering Taj the security of getting a deal done early.
Given Taj has played through a number of nagging injuries and just watched a teammate go down with an ACL injury, I expect him to be somewhat reasonable when considering the risk of playing the season without an extension. Taj likely only has one monster extension in him, and if he were to suffer a significant injury than his present earnings have been no where near the amount required to be set for life.
While no numbers have been leaked as of yet, I expect Taj to sign a deal for around four years 32 million if an extension gets done.
Outside of Rose, everyone's healthy. For now.
Luol Deng said his wrist has felt better and better as time has gone on since tearing a ligament in his wrist and hopes to avoid surgery all together. Joakim Noah's completely healed from the severe ankle injury he suffered during the playoffs, and according to KC Johnson, Tom Thibodeau noted that Boozer and Hamilton entered camp in better shape than last season.
With Derrick Rose out and Asik in Houston, the Bulls have precious little depth to work with and will need to play this season with as few injuries as possible to have any chance at competing for a seed in the top half of the bracket this season.
It's typically not noteworthy for a team to be healthy at the start of training camp, but with potential wrist surgery hanging over Deng's head and Noah recovering from a significant injury, the news is more meaningful for Chicago.
The Bulls are carrying massive health risks at virtually every position. Hamilton has been injured for multiple years in a row, as has Hinrich. Noah's had his share of injuries while Boozer's carried a ton of injury risk for his entire career, and finally, Deng still may possibly need wrist surgery at some point.
Chicago can hang on without Rose, but only if everyone stays healthy. Things look good for now, but history would put long odds on it lasting the season.