Chicago Bulls: Breaking Down Chatter Surrounding Training Camp
Training camp is where returning players rekindle their old chemistry, new players begin adjusting and invitees hope to impress enough to earn a roster spot.
So much basketball takes place during this time that it is hard to keep up with the barrage of information if you are not watching closely.
Long-shot players who were doing well one day may very well be gone the next.
A consistent veteran may have lost a step or two.
The new guy may not be fitting in as well as previously hoped.
There is a lot of positive talk coming from the Berto Center that is giving fans good reason to have high expectations this season.
Judging from what’s being said by teammates and coaches, Rose is not playing like someone who had major knee surgery and months of grueling rehab.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau even thinks there is improvement in some areas.
The physical attributes seem to be there, but does the three-time All-Star think his knee can handle the upcoming grind?
As quoted by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Rose said, "I got confidence in my knee...There’s no testing anymore. It’s going out there and playing hard and attacking."
This is definitely a good sign.
The Bulls have always been contenders with Rose in the lineup. With him back and having such a high confidence level, this team has to feel good about its title chances.
Turning the focus to other players, Taj Gibson sprained his ankle over the summer but assured everyone that he is okay, even though it was a little hard in the beginning to get it moving at playing pace.
In reference to having Rose back with the team, Gibson said:
It's great having him back because I'm getting the same good looks I used to get in the past. My corner jump shot has been fantastic these last two days. Just the whole outcome of how he's been finding guys has been magnificent.
Wait, there’s more.
In addition to recovering from his sprain, Gibson has also decided to add a couple of things he hopes will be helpful this season, the first being 15 pounds of muscle.
The reserve power forward says the extra bulk is for the postseason, when games get a little more physical and demanding.
The second thing he’s been working on: a three-point shot.
As shocking as this may sound, Gibson says he was encouraged by both the team coaches and Rose to develop a deep ball.
Don’t expect that kraken to be released very often. Gibson is still a big for Thibodeau, which means his primary jobs are still to defend and crash the glass.
Newly promoted starter Jimmy Butler continues to live up to his “Buckets” moniker.
In a piece from the team's NBA.com blog, Adam Fluck relays that Butler has been consistently hitting his open looks while playing alongside Rose.
If these two can develop serious chemistry, it could spell trouble for rest of the league.
How about new guy Mike Dunleavy?
Drawing on his veteran savvy, the versatile forward has been using his fundamentals and intangibles to be productive in practice while learning the team’s system.
Thibodeau complimented Dunleavy’s ability to move without the ball, pass and shoot, of course.
Coach is especially looking forward to the new guy’s adaptability:
He’s learning his teammates. Obviously he knows the league, but he’s learning a new system. But I think shooting helps everybody. In addition to the shooting, the passing. Anytime you add a guy that can pass the ball like that it helps make everyone better. The transition right now is going very well, he’s got to continue to work, but I like the versatility. The fact that he can play with a lot of different guys is big for our team.
Dunleavy’s basketball I.Q. alone is enough to boost Chicago’s second-unit potency.
His cerebral ability means that Thibodeau will be able buy some serious rest time for his starters without losing confidence in the bench leadership.
Along with one day of scheduled rest for the entire team, Rose, Noah and Kirk Hinrich also received an extra day’s break from scrimmaging.
For Rose it was confirmed as planned rest as he gets reacclimated to the seasonal grind.
Continuing to err on the side of caution is probably not a bad thing seeing as how his last game was 17 months ago.
Hinrich and Noah were absent the day after the team’s scheduled rest day.
Thibodeau said that “overall soreness” was the reason for the downtime and assured that for Noah the break had nothing to do with his lingering plantar fasciitis.
Health has been the Bulls’ biggest thorn since rising to contender status.
The criticism for Thibodeau’s treatment of his players continues to be a topic of debate—even in this new season of high hopes.
Maybe these respites are signs that coach is finally starting to see value in giving his guys time to recover from his arduous grind.
On the Fringe
To round out their training camp roster, the Bulls brought in free agents Patrick Christopher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Kalin Lucas, Dexter Pittman and D.J. White.
Kalin Lucas and Patrick Christopher have been waived, cutting the number of camp participants from 18 to 16.
Chicago already has 12 players signed but needs at least a league minimum of 13 on the active roster.
Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com thinks the players with the best chances of making the team are center Dexter Pittman and guard Mike James.
Pittman seems like a very logical choice. The Bulls are a little thin in the middle, and adding the former Texas big man would take some strain off Nazr Mohammed backing up Noah—and completely relieve Gibson of third-string center duties.
James seems like a bit of a stretch seeing as how the team is carrying Hinrich and Marquis Teague behind Rose.
James would be a good insurance plan if Hinrich proves fragile again this season—or if Teague shows he’s still not quite ready for prime time.
Another camp hopeful is Dahntay Jones.
He certainly fits the tough, defensive-minded mold that Thibodeau values. It is a specialty that has kept him around the league for 10 years.
However, as Sam already pointed out, numbers don’t favor Jones.
He plays a position that is already occupied by Deng and can be filled in with Butler, Dunleavy or even Tony Snell in a pinch.
If he finds a way onto the roster, it may be in the non-guaranteed, suit-on-the-sideline capacity.
Bringing It Home
To what are you paying the most attention during training camp?
There is a lot of optimism in this training camp.
Boozer believes that having Rose back returns the team in contention—even among other conference clubs who have made strides since last season.
Noah feels like his current teammates are the best assemblage of talent he has ever been a part of.
All of this may be a residual high of finally having Rose back with the team, but you cannot argue with the results Chicago has produced when all hands were on deck.
If health actually holds up for the Bulls this year, they could really shift the league’s balance of power.
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