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Schanowski: Grading the Bulls' offseason

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Schanowski: Grading the Bulls' offseason

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
5:12 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Now that the Bulls are just a veteran big man away from completing their offseason makeover, we can start to analyze what kind of team were likely to see next season. Taking everything into account, I would give the Bulls front office a "B" for their efforts over the last month or so. How about you? Please post your offseason grades and any comments in the section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail.

Obviously, the Bulls failed in their efforts to recruit one of the top-three free agents available: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so that made it impossible for me to give the front office an "A." But when you take into consideration those three guys had been talking about playing together since the 2008 Olympics, maybe the Bulls and all the other teams with maximum contracts available never really had a fair chance. I give John Paxson and Gar Forman a lot of credit for reacting quickly to the changing marketplace. When Wade and Bosh announced they were going to Miami, the Bulls quickly got a deal worked out with the next best player available, Carlos Boozer, that same day. And, when Orlando decided to match the Bulls offer for restricted free agent guard J.J. Redick, the Bulls quickly got Ronnie Brewer to agree to a three-year contract later that day.

Boozer is the big addition. Hes a two-time All-Star with the low-post skills the Bulls have been looking for ever since Elton Brand was traded away. Boozers experience running the high screen-and-roll with Deron Williams in Utah should make for an easy transition to the offense the Bulls are likely to run with Derrick Rose at the point. Boozer has played in high pressure playoff games with Utah, and hes an underrated rebounder, averaging double figure boards for his career. His ability to score in the post, and hit the mid-range jumper should open things up for Rose and Luol Deng. Plus, hell provide veteran leadership for one of the younger teams in the league. And, hes one of the classiest guys youll ever meet who will represent the organization well off the court.

The Bulls also made an underrated signing in Kyle Korver. The 6-foot-7 swingman is one of the best long-range shooters in the league, matter of fact, he broke Steve Kerrs NBA record by hitting 53 precent from beyond the arc last season. Having Korver available to space the floor will open up driving lanes for Rose and Deng. And, even though Korver isnt the best defensive player around, the Bulls can try to dictate the match-ups hell be facing by giving him minutes at shooting guard and small forward.

Thats why the signing of Ronnie Brewer is so important. At 6-foor-7, he has the length and quickness to defend the leagues elite shooting guards like Kobe Bryant, Wade and Joe Johnson. And, hes also a competent offensive player, averaging around 10 points a game for his career, while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Brewer isnt a three-point threat, but his length and speed make him an ideal finisher on the fastbreak, and the Bulls plan to run whenever possible under new coach Tom Thibodeau.

And, lets not forget about the most recent addition, 6-foot-2 guard C.J. Watson. As a restricted free agent, Watson was coveted by a number of teams. So, give the Bulls front office credit for working out a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State, rather than extending an offer sheet, and possibly getting their money tied up for a week like the Redick situation with Orlando. Watson is coming off his best season as a pro, and hes made a remarkable rise since working his way up from the Developmental League. Even though hes relatively small, Watson has the athleticism to play both guard positions, and teaming him with Rose would form one of the leagues fastest backcourts.

Looking at the Bulls roster now, theyve got quality depth at every position. And, we fully expect the front office will add a veteran big man like Kurt Thomas, Fernando Elson, Fabricio Oberto, Etan Thomas or Kwame Brown.

Now its up to Thibodeau and his staff to go to work trying to integrate all the new players into a cohesive system. Thibodeau is heralded around the league as one of the best defensive tacticians in the game. If he can get this young, athletic group to totally buy in on the defensive end, theres no question they can shoot for 50 wins next season. As things stand, the Bulls look like the favorite in the Central Division over Scott Skiles Bucks, and on paper, they shape up as one of the top-4 teams in the East.

Miami stole all the headlines with their signings of James, Wade and Bosh, but dont underestimate what a real team can do. Im already looking forward to the start of training camp in October, and Im sure all Bulls fans feel the same.

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue break down the Bulls season opener vs the Raptors. They’ll explain why Bulls fans should be very happy with the debut of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kendall points out why he expects the Markkanen/Lavine combo to be great on the offensive end. They’ll also go over their concerns at point guard, and Will shares his story of how Greg Popovich dealt with a losing Spurs team in 1996-97.