Bulls

Gar Forman says Bulls 'retooling'; Rose trade the first step

Gar Forman says Bulls 'retooling'; Rose trade the first step

Trading a player with the stature and allure of Derrick Rose requires more than just a cursory explanation, something Bulls GM Gar Forman was well-aware of when he met with media two hours after the trade was consummated.

Forman said moving on from the 2011 MVP was a step in reshaping this roster, and moving it away from the way things used to be—although now, one doesn’t know what to make of the current state of affairs.

“Derrick has meant a lot to this organization and to this city and to this team and has had to overcome a lot over the years with all the injuries to get back to the point he was,” Forman said. “But in putting our plan together, we felt as a first step this really made sense for us.”

The Bulls acquired Robin Lopez, veteran guard Jose Calderon and 2015 first-round draft pick Jerian Grant for Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick. With the NBA draft on Thursday, it’s another opportunity for the Bulls to move forward, although who they’ll select has become just as murky—considering they’re high on Grant and Calderon started for the Knicks last season.

Forman wouldn’t say if Lopez, a serviceable if not outright revelation for the Knicks last season after signing a free agent deal, would be a starter this coming season as Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are free agents.

Lopez averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Knicks, and league executives say he could be a source of stability on the interior, especially considering he’s played 82 games in three of the last four seasons.

Forman wouldn’t say if this is now officially Jimmy Butler’s team—or if the Bulls would entertain offers for Butler leading into the draft, as he’s been highly coveted by teams looking to make the leap into the land of the elite.

“Basketball is a team game, a five-man game,” Forman said. “Obviously, Jimmy being an All-Star is our best player. But I don’t think you go as far as saying it’s this guy’s team. It’s everybody’s team.”

Either way, the reshaping or in Forman’s words, “retooling” of the Bulls will begin in earnest and take another step forward as free agency begins on July 1.

“We like a lot of the young players we have on this roster, starting with Jimmy, who’s 26,” Forman said. “ (Rookies) Bobby Portis and Felicio, who showed towards the end of the year that (Felicio) has got a lot of upside. Doug McDermott, Niko, we’ve got the first round pick coming up tomorrow night with the possibility of two first round picks next year, so you can see kind of where were kind of trying to go. Obviously at the same time we’re trying to put the best team together that we can. I wouldn’t call it a rebuild; more of a retool.”

Whether it’s a youth movement, athletic movement or whatever you want to call it, it’s a movement and where it’s moving, only Bulls management can chart.

“We felt we need to start changing the roster,” Forman said. “We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic. And I think we’ve done that in Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant. And along with that, get a veteran who we really like in Calderon. That was important to us. It was more from a team-building standpoint trying to get this process started and try to put us in a different direction where we think we can have success down the road.”

Taking a step back for the sake of taking multiple steps forward later seems to be the goal, an aspect that isn’t always easy in today’s superstar-laden NBA. Calderon is an expiring contract at $7.7 million, and the Bulls would also like to retain guard E’Twaun Moore, but he’ll have plenty of suitors around the league as a solid reserve.

Taj Gibson is also entering the final year of his contract, and the Bulls resisted offers from suitors at the deadline last season, namely the Toronto Raptors.

Mirotic will also be a free agent after next season, his third in the NBA.

“Like we should be this time of year, we’re talking to all 29 teams and a lot of different scenarios,” Forman said. “That’s our job, to listen, to know what the market is, to evaluate what’s out there and opportunities to get better and then ultimately make a decision.”

And it looks like the moves are just beginning.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”