Bulls

Thibodeau staying busy with summer league, free agency visits

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Thibodeau staying busy with summer league, free agency visits

The way he tells it, the NBA's offseason is a fairly cut-and-dry process. But as the league's hectic free-agency period continues -- Wednesday is the day all of these reported agreements can become official -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is literally all over the place.
Between personally wooing potential Bulls' free-agent acquisitions, staying in touch with players from last season's team, overseeing the development of his team's young players and of course, watching game film, Thibodeau has been a busy man this summer.
Again, however, the coach who has won 100 regular-season games faster than any of his peers in NBA history eschews the details when breaking it down to an outsider -- in this case, a member of the media -- and simply gives an overview of the process, albeit an informative one, in which some insight into his notoriously methodical manner can be gleaned.
"In the summer, the first thing you get ready for is the draft, and then after the draft you have free agency. Then you have the summer league and then you look at what trades may be available, and then you look at developing your own players. So, theres four ways to really improve your team, and you really want to try to address all four of them in the off-season," he explained to CSNChicago.com recently. "Players have a lot of say in that free agency. They have a right to choose, so you have to determine whether something fits for you, but Ive said this many times: Were happy with the core of our team. The core of our team has won a lot of games the past two years, so we want to try to add to it."
A basketball purist, Thibodeau loves to be hands-on with players, an aspect of his abilities that date back to his 20 years as an NBA assistant coach, and even before those days. From mainstays Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson -- who he went to observe in Las Vegas at the USA Basketball Olympic training camp; Gibson is a member of the USA Select Team -- to youngsters Jimmy Butler and first-round draft pick Marquis Teague, the head coach, rather than simply delegating to his capable staff, joins in the individual instruction at the Berto Center.
"You want to polish things up, you want to work on things, you want to add some things, where you feel maybe you can add something to someones game that theyre already doing well. But the main thing is the conditioning component and just refining everything that theyre doing and also, some things that you think they can add to their game that would make them harder to be guarded the following season," Thibodeau said.
"Jimmys gotten a lot of work in this summer and hes going to play in summer league, which I think is going to be a big plus for him. Joakim has been in. Hes done very well. Hes still strengthening his ankle from the end of the season, but hes put a lot of work in. And of course, Derricks been in almost every day. So, we have a lot of guys that are here and Carlos is working out in Miami, Rips been traveling aroundhes been working outso we have a lot of guys working," he added.
After being deprived of that opportunity due to last year's NBA lockout, just being in the gym is something Thibodeau relishes, and clearly he's pleased that the majority of his players are also taking advantage of that opportunity.
Gibson, however, seems to be his pet project. The backup power forward appears to be on the verge of boosting his league-wide profile with his stint in Las Vegas, during which sources say he's been impressive, potentially leading to his free-agent stock rising next summer.
"Taj has been great. Of course, he was getting ready for the USA Select Team, hes put in a lot of work and this is a big summer for him because its really the first summer that hes healthy. I think hes picked up right where he left off. At the end of season, I thought he was playing great basketball. Unfortunately, he sprained his ankle in Game 5 in Philly, but hes playing at a very high level," Thibodeau said.
"Its great for him, I think the fact that hes being recognized outside of the organization, by his peers also. Hes put a lot of work in. I think hes gotten better and better. Hes becoming more of a complete player. Defense, theres not many guys like him, who can guard nearly every position on the floor and then offensively, I think his confidence has gotten a lot better. He can score a lot of different ways. Hes more comfortable in the post now, hes starting to shoot the ball from 16 to 17 feet very effectively, so its a big plus. But the main thing is his health and I think the fact that he can really work this summer is a big plus."
But the team's known commodities -- definite returnees Gibson, Noah, Hamilton, Butler, Luol Deng and Rose, when he is again healthy enough to play, as well as newcomers Teague and Hinrich, obviously a familiar face -- aren't the issue in Chicago, where whispers of fellow Eastern Conference teams leaving the Bulls behind in the dust in free agency are surfacing. If the Bulls aren't moving fast enough for fans' taste, it's likely by design of the front office, not due to Thibodeau's efforts.
Thibodeau flew to Los Angeles in advance of the July 1 start of free agency to meet with backup center Omer Asik, who agreed to an offer sheet with Houston. He was also in contact with eventual acquisition Hinrich repeatedly before he agreed to terms with the Bulls. He has reached out to various free agents around the league and, aside from Asik, has spoken to the team's other free agents, such as reserve point guards Mike James and John Lucas III, the latter of whom is garnering interest from rivals Boston and Miami, in addition to Toronto, Minnesota and Washington, according to Fox Sports Florida.
Thibodeau has also been in touch with multiple free agents around the NBA, according to a source, and with his knowledge of the league and understanding that his intense philosophy might not be the best fit for every player, no small amount of consideration has been put into that.
"You cant ignore the numbers, but you also have to use the trained eye and you have to see how people fit into a team," explained Thibodeau, who described the Bulls' front office as "inclusive" in discussing the organization's future. "Youre looking at film, youre looking at the numbers, youre looking at where theyve been. Can they fit into a team? All those things, all the intangibles. But you look at a compilation of things. You dont base it, I dont think, on any one particular thing."
But even with all of the work he puts into the Bulls' success, it can't be ignored that Thibodeau doesn't have a contract past the upcoming season, though the team's option for himself and assistant coaches Adrian Griffin and Ed Pinckney have officially been exercised for the 2012-13 campaign.
Another assistant coach, Rick Brunson, departed to join the coaching staff of new Charlotte head coach Mike Dunlap; former Orlando assistant Steve Clifford, who previously worked with Thibodeau in both New York and Houston, will replace him.
Thibodeau is regarded as one of the league's upper-echelon coaches, combined with a Bulls team with lowered expectations with Rose on the shelf heading into next season and the luxury tax-averse organization not getting swept up into free-agent frenzy thus far. So although the franchise has historically played the waiting game with its coaches, there's no guarantee the former league Coach of the Year will be in Chicago for the long-term future.
And although peers such as Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks, who played for Thibodeau and didn't have an extension after the Thunder's NBA Finals appearance, have received deals, the Bulls coach, who was offered and rejected a contract deemed to be under his market value, according to an individual with knowledge of the negotiations, publicly is unconcerned about the unresolved issue.
"Good for Scott. Obviously Scott is a good friend. I coached him in Minnesota and hes done a tremendous job in Oklahoma City, so Im very happy for him," he said after the Bulls formally introduced Teague to the media last Monday. "We havent gotten around to his contract extension yet, but Im fine. The options been picked up, so Im under contract and well address that later in the summer."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Phoenix Suns Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. Something's got to give

What's the opposite of an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object? That's what we'll be looking at when the Bulls have the ball in their hands. Chicago ranks dead last in offensive efficiency, while the Suns have the 2nd worst defensive efficiency in the NBA. That means the Bulls, after scoring a season-high 123 points against the Hornets, can build on that momentum against a Suns defense that allowed 90 points in the FIRST HALF to the Rockets on Thursday.

2. Kris Dunn for real?

Fresh off the best game of his young career - he scored 22 points in a win over the Hornets on Friday - Kris Dunn continues to look like the best point guard on the Bulls roster. He's going through a really solid stretch right now, averaging 13.2 points on 47 percent shooting, 4.2 assists and 2.6 steals over his last four games. With Eric Bledsoe out of Phoenix, Dunn could be in line for another big game going up against Mike James and Tyler Ulis, regardless of whether or not he starts over Jerian Grant.

3. Watch out for Devin Booker

We'll try to get an opponent in here once for every tune-in, and Devin Booker certainly fits the bill. Much like Dunn is doing, Booker is on quite a roll these days. Over his last four games Booker is averaging 30.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. The Bulls will need to keep their eyes on Booker at all times, especially after allowing Kemba Walker to go off for 47 points on Friday.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.