Bulls: Rose skips USA minicamp; Westbrook praises Rose's workouts


Bulls: Rose skips USA minicamp; Westbrook praises Rose's workouts

Attendance at the USA Basketball minicamp was mandatory for anyone wishing to be considered amongst the final 12 for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and although a couple players had excused absences, Derrick Rose did not.

Rose opted to skip the minicamp, which obviously disappointed USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo, but Colangelo stated the program would move forward without the Bulls’ point guard.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook works out with Rose in Los Angeles and wasn’t surprised Rose decided to skip the minicamp.

“No, it’s his decision,” Westbrook said. “Obviously, he did it before, won a gold medal (in the 2014 World Championships). It’s his first summer to get healthy, to get an opportunity to be healthy and get some rest.”

Westbrook and Rose work out with famed trainer Rob McClanaghan, who was also in attendance at the USA minicamp. McClanaghan said Rose knew the stakes of the three-day event but declined anyhow, and with the glut of point guards who appear to have a leg up on Rose, he wouldn’t be wrong to surmise it would be a tough sell to make the final 12.

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MVP Stephen Curry and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul are locks, along with Westbrook being versatile enough to play both guard spots. Washington’s John Wall and Rose aren’t the traditional international point guards because they aren’t exceptional outside shooters, while Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, when healthy, does fit the mold.

Nevertheless, the good news is Westbrook had high praise for Rose in their summer workouts, considering the two have been linked together as attacking, athletic point guards.

“He looked good. Real good.” Westbrook said. “Back to himself. Back to D-Rose.”

But McClanaghan understood Rose wanting to give himself some time off after undergoing meniscus surgery in late February which made way for his postseason showing.

“Right now, he just wants to stay healthy,” McClanaghan said. “I definitely think his rhythm is back. Just going every day. His timing and his rhythm are his biggest thing.”

“Finishing at the rim. That’s definitely a little better. Just going back to five days a week, coming in every day, same time. He’s been in LA the whole time. He hasn’t had much going on.”

Aside from a trip to China for an Adidas promotion, McClanaghan has said Rose has spent most of his offseason in Los Angeles in preparation for this season—the first time since the 2010-11 season where he finished it healthy.

When someone asked how his explosion looks compared to then, when he was a 22-year old MVP, McClanaghan laughed: “That was awhile back.”

[MORE: Thibodeau has no regrets following departure from Bulls]

“Again, he looks like the old Derrick to me,” he said. “Again, last summer too. But now having that full year and a good playoff run and all that, everything with the mental stuff is back too. I think everything has come together this summer. He’s got momentum going into the summer unlike last year. Mentally, physically, he looks ready to go.”

Multiple knee procedures and setbacks later, there’s again question marks that can’t be answered until he steps on the floor again — honestly, there’ll always be question marks until he proves he can do it consistently.

But Clanaghan believes being paired with Westbrook can help Rose, seeing someone so competitive go after it every day. The two have been linked since the 2008 Final Four, when Rose’s Memphis team beat Westbrook’s UCLA squad in the national semifinal.

“The work he’s put in has been great,” McClanghan said. “So there’s no reason he won’t have a great year. I work Derrick and Russell together. It’s amazing how competitive those guys are in the workout. Unlike many guys in the league, those guys push each other. Being friends is a good thing but within the workout you can see the competition, it’s really fun. Going back to Predraft 08. So getting back to those old times.”

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing


There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges


NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.