Bulls

Gar Forman: Bulls were active going into deadline, but 'nothing made sense'

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Gar Forman: Bulls were active going into deadline, but 'nothing made sense'

CLEVELAND—The Bulls were quiet at the trade deadline with the exception of lowering their luxury tax deal by trading veteran Kirk Hinrich and acquiring Justin Holiday.

No big time moves, no trading off Pau Gasol or adding a big name to stem the tide from a disappointing first 50-plus games of the season.

The Bulls will regroup in the offseason, general manager Gar Forman told CSNChicago.com in a phone interview shortly after the deadline passed.

“We were very active going into the trade deadline but nothing made sense today,” Forman said.

Forman called Gasol “very valuable” to the Bulls franchise and reiterated the team’s intentions to retain Gasol in free agency this summer when he opts out of his contract to hit the market for one last payday.

He did want to dispute the reports the Bulls were heavily shopping Gasol over the last couple days, which was corroborated by a league executive from another franchise yesterday afternoon in a text to CSNChicago.com, saying the Bulls “took calls” on Gasol.

“We were thrilled when he chose to come to Chicago,” Forman said. “He’s been good on the floor and off the floor with his leadership. We value him greatly. We made no calls to 'shop' Pau. Did we receive calls? Of course we did. It’s our job to listen to what calls are made and have a pulse. The rumors that he was being shopped are false.”

[MORE: Bulls trade Kirk Hinrich to Hawks in cost-cutting move]

What Forman admitted is true is the Bulls’ lackluster season to date. Inconsistency has been the case across the board as several players counted on to step up haven’t filled expectations.

The likes of Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, players the Bulls drafted and invested in, have come up short or in some cases, have been completely nonexistent.

“It’s been a disappointment and we have underachieved,” Forman said. “We’re disappointed and our fans are. We’re accountable from front office to players to coaches.”

He disputed the belief the Bulls came into the season with championship expectations but there’s no doubt nobody expected falling to seventh in the East with their recent slide before the All-Star break.

“We felt had a chance to compete at a high level,” Forman said. “One of the biggest reasons why was continuity with your roster. We haven’t with our injuries. It’s not an excuse but it’s a fact. Starting unit hasn’t spent a single day in practice together. It’s a lot of reasons why we’re disappointed at where we are today.”

Mike Dunleavy’s back injury resulted in surgery before training camp, and Derrick Rose took an inadvertent elbow from Taj Gibson to the eye that resulted in double vision that’s affected him for the first two months of the season.

Joakim Noah’s shoulder injury has him out for the rest of the season and now, Jimmy Butler’s left knee strain has him out for 3-4 weeks, a critical blow as they go through a treacherous stretch for the franchise and new coach Fred Hoiberg.

Hoiberg’s new offense has had some highlights but it’s been spotty at best, while the defense has slipped markedly, an aspect that used to be a mainstay.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Hoiberg, a first-year coach, jumbled the situation involving Noah being removed from the starting lineup in training camp and was called out by Butler in the hopes of being tougher on the players in late December.

“I think Fred’s a very good basketball coach,” Forman said. “He’s extremely sharp, communicates well and an extremely hard worker. Dealt with a difficult situation well.”

“That said he knows he needs to continue to grow. There’s bumps in the road, and we knew there would be ups and downs. But we’re excited about the future.”

For his part, Forman said he wanted to see how this group could deal with a new system and new coach as opposed to making wholesale moves—that is, before things began falling apart.

“We understand the frustration. We’re very hard on ourselves. Up to this point, the ups and downs and not meeting expectations,” Forman said. “Everybody needs to take ownership and be accountable and continue to evaluate ourselves to get where we want to get.”

This summer, Forman said “we’ll hit the offseason and get better,” in reference to the Bulls having salary cap space as money from the new TV contracts will be infused to teams.

At that point, they’ll regroup in what should be a summer of change.

“We have to evaluate our entire team and we’ll have to make decisions,” Forman said. “Our hope (now) is we can get healthy and have rhythm, get into the playoffs and make some noise.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

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USA TODAY

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.