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.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."