A black cloud was expected to hang over the Chicago Bulls' media day this year with a weaker cast, unresolved extensions and a bunch of questions over injuries. However, the Bulls flipped the script and left fans with something to be excited about this season, announcing an extension for Tom Thibodeau and a clean bill of health for the majority of the roster.
Tom Thibodeau and Gar Forman
Tom Thibodeau lands a new deal
The Bulls and Tom Thibodeau finally had a breakthrough on contract negotiations and completed a deal. Adrian Wojnarowski reported the deal at 17.5 million with incentives that can bump it to 20 million, while Aggrey Sam reported the fourth year of the deal is non-guaranteed.
These two pieces of information would fit together if the incentives amounted to guaranteeing more money in the final year of the deal, however that would push Thibodeau's base salary up to five million per season with the fourth year 50 percent guaranteed.
That's certainly a possibility, but it doesn't seem to really fit either report well. In the end, the difference is moot to fans. Head coaches don't take up salary cap room, and the Bulls locked up perhaps the best coach in the NBA before he hit free agency when the Knicks, Nets and Lakers all have massive money to throw around for a new coach.
Thibodeau's deal surpasses the one signed by Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which may seem backwards given that Brooks took his team to the finals. However, Thibodeau led his team to a better record while missing his star, and quite frankly, had a far worse cast to do it with.
Derrick Rose drives around Spencer Hawes
"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 offseason 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 that, after improving in all these areas, he'll come back even stronger 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 the room he still has to improve athletically, gives him a legitimate chance to turn this statement into a reality.
Marco Belinelli takes on three Clippers
When asked who has impressed him the most, Derrick Rose responded with Marco Belinelli [scroll down to the bottom for link to audio 13:30 mark], which is good news for Bulls fans.
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. While listed two inches shorter than Kyle Korve,r 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, he 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 was on the decline and has a very limited skillset with one elite skill.
The Bulls can't afford another Asik situation next off-season
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 Gibson this offseason, 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 also offering Gibson the security of getting a deal done early.
Given that Gibson 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. Gibson likely only has one monster extension in him, and if he were to suffer a significant injury, then his present earnings have been nowhere near the amount required to be set for life.
While no numbers have been leaked as of yet, I expect Gibson to sign a deal for around four years, 32 million if an extension gets done.
Joakim Noah holsters the guns
Luol Deng said his wrist has felt better and better as time has gone on since tearing a ligament and he hopes to avoid surgery all together. Joakim Noah is 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 has had his share of injuries while Boozer has 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.