The Chicago Bulls kick off every season with media day. It's the day where they take all the photos, do the first interviews, and feed all of the nations reporters to inspire good will.
Perhaps it's the Bulls success, but media day was especially crowded this year, and the Bulls PR staff protected the non podium players from having to interact any more than the bare minimum with any press. I only got about two questions in with Mike Dunleavy, one with Jimmy Butler, and a few during the podium interviews and that was it.
It was my sparsest media day yet as a reporter.
That said, there's always a vibe you can pick up around the team on media day, and the vibe this year seemed to be pretty upbeat. The Bulls have a legit chance to win the title, and all of the players seemed focused on that goal. There were unending questions about health and minutes which were typically answered with vague notes about "we'll see how it goes".
It doesn't appear there will be any minutes cap on Rose [or anyone else for that matter]. We'll see if the Bulls find ways to get key players minutes down to keep them fresher as the season progresses.
I asked Tom Thibodeau about the bench since they didn't have a spark plug player, and while his answer was somewhat vague, he did reveal something somewhat interesting. He discussed four players: Hinrich, Dunleavy, Gibson, and Nazr. To me that implies that the immediate plan focuses on those guys with Snell, Teague, Murphy, and anyone else having to earn a role.
He noted that each year the Bulls went into the season without knowing how the bench would perform, and they've always come together and played well. He said it will depend how hard they work, sacrifice, and play together. Fair enough. I still think the Bulls are missing an energy guy off the bench who can change momentum this season though.
Derrick Rose fielded tons of questions about his health but didn't say anything particularly new or interesting. He's obviously grown far more confident in front of the media over the years, and he seemed focused on winning a championship. When asked about saying something like "why can't I be MVP a couple years ago" [which the same reporter tried to goad him into a similar response two years in a row now], Rose said that wasn't like him to say that, and he was probably just mad at being overlooked at the time.
He said his only focus is on winning a championship. If he wins any individual awards along the way he'll take em, but his only focus is on winning a title.
The Bulls seemed to recognize this could be their last shot with this core. Deng's a free agent, Boozer's an amnesty target, the repeater tax is looming, and if Chicago doesn't win this season then changes are coming. Heck, even if they do win it all changes might be coming.
Other random loose thoughts:
Mike Dunleavy Jr seemed ecstatic to be on a team that doesn't suck.
Interviewing Tony Snell was sort of like interviewing a robot. I thought that he and Skiles would have an epic no smile, no blinking, no change in facial expression contest. I might even take Snell in that one. He was similar with everyone else I saw interview him. Doesn't make him a bad guy, but clearly he's not that practiced with the reporters. When off in the corner with teammates, he was laughing and smiling though.
Forman said Snell gained 18 lbs of muscle, I'm not sure what Snell looked like before because this was the first time I'd met him, but he definitely didn't look like a beanpole. He looked like a big athletic guy. I'd believe he gained some significant muscle over the off-season even if 18 lbs seems a bit hard to buy into.
All the role players gave the typical "I'll do whatever the coach wants" routine which is probably both good and accurate.
I asked Derrick Rose what he thought of the starting five and noted that Gar Forman called it the best in recent history. Rose went on to compliment Butler, Deng, and Noah leaving out Boozer. I'm sure it was an oversight and not an intentional slight, but I still thought it was amusing given the hate train that follows Boozer around.
I'm not sure how it worked out this way, but the only one who appeared to get significant time interviewing Noah was ESPN Brazil. Really? ESPN Brazil? Nick Friedell seemed especially annoyed by this.
The funniest thing I saw at media day was Kirk Hinrich complimenting KC Johnson on his biceps, to which KC said "Just like you, I come into every season in the best shape of my life".
All in all, it was a fairly bland experience, but it's still the beginning. Two-a-days start tomorrow and preseason is just around the corner.