Bulls

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

With eight new players and likely three new starters for the Bulls, an adjustment period of roles has started to take place in the opening days of camp.

Shot creators turn into shot makers.

Full-time ball handlers revert back to being part-time dominators.

First-time leaders are supplemented by experienced leaders who bring an instant credibility and speak with a bluntness that wasn’t as present last year—even from the coach.

A new tone of sorts was set when Dwyane Wade didn’t give the stock “nobody cares what happened last year” spiel after being asked if he wondered about what went wrong on the floor and off with the Bulls.

“You ask the guys that were here last year, how rotten it was,” Wade said. “You want to hear from their perspective, whatever it was last year from the standpoint of losing. You don't do that. I come from a different place and a different culture. Things are done differently different places. So I sat down and listened to guys.

“But the thing is, some of the things they talked about I know are not going to take place. Not while I'm here, not while (Rajon) Rondo's here, not while Jimmy (Butler) continues to grow as a leader.”

It adds light to some of the thoughts that Butler expressed after Tuesday’s first practice, and what anyone with a set of eyes could see last season when the Bulls looked like a fractured group that didn’t enjoy playing with each other anymore.

There wasn’t outright disdain, but some of the damaged relationships were never repaired as the season went on. Putting that into an alphabet soup with losing, bad habits and injuries and it spelled out “something’s gotta give.”

“You definitely gotta like each other. If you don’t, and you can say this doesn’t happen, but I feel like if you don’t like a guy you’re not going to pass him the ball,” said Butler, who had some rocky moments last season as a leader. “I think there’s a lot of liking on this team. Like I said, everybody wants everybody to be successful. Do we like each other too much? I hope so.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Refreshing honesty is a change at the Advocate Center, with Wade and Rondo being the adults in the room. The two have the latitude from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to stop practice to get on guys, and they did so Tuesday.

“You just want to cut down all the chatter; it’s early,” Rondo said. “Only a couple of guys should be talking in practice. As far as disrupting when they do stop practice, coach has the voice then assistant coach has the voice and then the older players.”

It’s not a surprise given Hoiberg won’t be one change his ways overnight, and having a player-run team are often the most successful, assuming everyone is on the same page.

It sort of speaks to Bulls vice president John Paxson’s statement on media day about the Bulls’ rebuilding their culture from the ground level.

“You talk about last year, but at the same time, last year doesn't matter,” Wade said. “We have a different core, and I think our culture is fairly different. We have guys now, Rondo's won a championship, I've won championships, we demand respect on the court. But we've got a lot of young guys as well, so they'll listen.”

Wade and Rondo have both said the Bulls are Butler’s team, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be wallflowers if they see things they don’t like. Wade has been a vocal leader in some form for the last decade and Rondo has rarely, if ever, held his tongue.

Rondo, along with being a primary facilitator for Butler to make scoring easier, imparted some wisdom to help Butler in his ever-evolving role as a leader.

“Not doing it with my mouth but with my actions, being consistent; I told Jimmy a leader can’t pick and choose when he wants to lead,” Rondo said. “He has to come out every day, every practice; we’re having two a days. If you are down, need something to get your head right, you have to bring it every day, every day.”

Hoiberg said there has to be a mutual respect amongst the team, which can lead to chemistry and camaraderie.

“It takes a lot of those moments when we all make mistakes and the coach is on us, that's when we come together,” Wade said. “In the locker room, when we're in there talking about anything, talking about whatever. it takes a lot of being on the road, traveling together. You're on a road trip, you go out dinner together. It's going to take a lot of moments to get the chemistry that we need.”

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million. 

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

gar.jpg
USA TODAY

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

"We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic..."

It was 2016 when Bulls general manager Gar Forman made this statement, drawing ire from many Bulls fans for what felt like—at the time—a disingenuous statement. A swap of Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant making you younger and athletic? No one was buying it.

But fast forward to July, 2018, and it is clear that at the very least, Forman has finally made good on his promise. The signing of Jabari Parker has been met with mostly positivity, as a short-term commitment to a former No. 2 overall pick is something that is difficult to hate. But when you factor in the rest of the pieces currently on the roster, it is OK for Bulls fans to be downright giddy over the future.

Lauri Markkanen is 21 years old, Wendell Carter Jr. is 19, Zach LaVine is 23, Jabari Parker is 23 and Kris Dunn is the elder statesmen of the group at 24 years old. If these five become the starting group moving forward, as expected, it would represent one of the youngest starting groups in the league with an average age of 22. 

And athleticism can be checked off the list as well. We know Markkanen has hopsLaVine showed off the explosiveness he was known for last season and Dunn had some dunks last year that legitimately gave fans a Rose flashback

Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both flashed the ability to switch onto guards for a limited amount of time and guard in space, a huge component of any defense that wants to switch a lot. And it also is the type of athleticism that is much more important at their position.

At this stage, Parker represents the biggest question mark athletically speaking. Despite his young age, the two ACL injuries make you wonder if there is any room for him to improve his agility. But at the least, Parker can drive to the basket and finish over the top with authority, even if his defense doesn't catch up.

So, Bulls fans are starting to become intrigued with this roster.

Fred Hoiberg wants his teams to play an up-tempo game, and last season was the first year during Hoiberg's Bulls tenure where the team actually ranked in the top 10 in pace. So if you have followed the Bulls carefully since Thibodeau's departure, you see a front-office that supports their new head coach, yet wasted a couple years to commit fully to his vision, and to a direction for the franchise.

But the point is Forman finally chose a direction.

The Bulls have a young core, and financial flexibility moving forward. And for all the jokes the "GarPax" regime have endured over the years, they have put the team in a position to have sustained success if they hit on all the young players they have acquired. 

And if they are wrong in their assessment of their young talent? 

The Bulls would be able to let Parker go, now that we know the second year of his contract is a team option. LaVine's offensive skill set will allow him to still have trade value years from now, as his contract won't look nearly as bad over time. 

And if the Bulls flurry of moves make the team significantly worse in a year where many expect them to take a step forward, all it would mean is being equipped with a high lottery pick in what is shaping up to be a top-heavy 2019 NBA Draft.

So Gar Forman wanted the team to get younger and more athletic, and though it took longer than it should've, the front-office made good on their promise. That is something that Bulls fans can believe in.