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Stiff neck sidelines Rose; Boozer regaining touch

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Stiff neck sidelines Rose; Boozer regaining touch

Friday, Nov. 27, 2010
Updated 6:35 p.m.

By Aggrey SamCSNChicago.com

DENVER -- Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is out for Friday's game against the Nuggets after experiencing neck spasms since Wednesday's dramatic double-overtime win in Phoenix.

Rose, who got treatment for his neck before the tilt in Denver, briefly spoke to reporters in the Pepsi Center visiting locker room prior to the game.

"I don't know where it came from. Probably sleeping, changing beds in hotels during the team's current seven-game road trip. I don't know what it is," said Rose, who continued to struggle turning his neck to address reporters. "It's too early right now to know if I'll play Saturday against Sacramento. I would hate to miss two games, but I talked to Bulls general manager Gar Forman, I talked to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. They said that if it's not feeling right, it's not a problem for him to miss the game."

"I was under the impression that it was a stiff neck. We were hopeful that he would be better today and he wasn't," said Thibodeau. "We wanted to see how he would be right before the game and it's a little bit better, but not good enough where he can play."

"It's day-to-day. Hopefully it'll be better tomorrow."

"For me to have this injury, it's hard. Knowing that we were getting into a little groove, coming off a big win like that, then coming here and having to sit out, it's tough," added Rose, who said he experienced neck problems during high school, but usually after being fouled hard or taking a charge. "But I guess I've just got to suck it up. It's all about trust and having confidence in your team. I've got trust and I have confidence in my teammates."

Although backup point guard C.J. Watson will start in Rose's place, one of those teammates is John Lucas III, a familiar face. The free agent point guard -- who was with the Bulls in training camp before being waived toward the end of the preseason -- was signed by the Bulls today and flew from his home in Houston to Denver just in time for the game (he arrived at 3:45 for the 7:00 tip-off, taking a cab from the airport directly to the arena).

"I didn't know what I was going to do, if I was going to go overseas or come back," said Lucas, who averaged 2.2 points and 0.8 assists in five preseason contests. "If I was going to go overseas, I was going to go to China where he played last season for the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks. The season doesn't start until later on in December, so I was just down there in Houston working out with my dad former NBA player and coach John Lucas and a couple other players who were still waiting to go overseas or trying to get into the D-League. I really didn't give myself a deadline to make a decision. I just wanted to enjoy the holidays with my family because last year being overseas, I missed every holiday. I kind of took the time to relax, follow my little brother University of Texas point guard Jai Lucas because it's his senior year, so I got to make all of his games, and just work out. Just stay fit, stay ready because you never know when the call would come, like today. I was literally at Wing Stop eating and I got the phone call. I had to rush to the house, pack bags and head to the airport.

"We just got done working out. We got done with our second workout for the day -- I'm excited. I'm glad to be back. Great group of guys, coaching staff," continued Lucas, who spent parts of two NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets. "When my mom was driving me to the highway, I was going over the playbook, so I could remember all the actions, so if I do get a chance to get in today, I'm not confused about anything -- I'm here, I'm going to give it everything I've got like always and prepare myself for each and every game."

Thibodeau was glad to get insurance in Rose's absence.

"I thought he played well in training camp. He's got experience in the league. Wherever he's been, he's dominated the level of play below the NBA," said Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach under the elder Lucas in Philadelphia. "Obviously with Derrick being out, we wanted another player for insurance at that position and we can also play Ronnie Brewer there -- Lucas knows the system, he knows how to run the team and he can shoot.

"We have more than enough to win with. C.J.'s going to start. He'll play more minutes; he'll play starter's minutes. The bench will get more minutes. When they've gotten more minutes, they've played well."

In other injury pregame news, Bulls power forward Taj Gibson will play Friday after missing Wednesday's win with a sore right ankle. Denver's starting point guard, Chauncey Billups, is out.

Boozer making progress

Currently sidelined Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer continues to make progress, appearing to be regaining his touch in a pregame workout Friday at the Pepsi Center.

"It felt good. Got a chance to work out again. Worked out yesterday, worked out today. Feels good. It's a little sore. Still not strong enough," said Boozer, who told reporters he "100 percent" expects to practice Monday in Chicago.

As for when he'll play in a game, Boozer was a bit more coy.

"I do have a target date, but I'm going to keep that to myself. I've got to have a little bit of mystery. I can't tell you all everything," quipped Boozer. "When it doesn't hurt anymore. When I go out there, work out, shoot, do all my drills, play five-on-five with the guys, let it get hit in practice and it doesn't hurt. To be truthful, I'll probably end up playing through that pain for the first couple weeks because I'm anxious to get back out there. Not where it would detriment my hand -- because it hasn't moved in five weeks. Now that it's moving again and I'm shooting and I'm working it, there's going to be a little something pain there for a little bit, until it gets stronger. Just sitting in a cast for five weeks."

"It's hard right now because we're really not practicing, but it was encouraging to see him do all the things that he did today. Of course, tomorrow there won't be anything and when we get back, I expect him to practice," confirmed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "He actually looked good in the shootaround today. He was making shots. He's been shooting, but he was actually making some today. He hasn't gone through contact yet. Shootaround this morning was basically shooting, running through offense and going over the schemes, and he was fine, but it was the first practice he really went through."

Boozer was just happy to be out on the court with his teammates.

"I bet Tom did say that," laughed Boozer. "It just feels good to get back out there. I've been shooting little bunny shots around the rim -- I'll be back out there soon."

"It's soreness and pain just from moving the wrist. I was talking to 'Lu' Bulls teammate Luol Deng about it because he went through it a few years back, and he just told me it takes time to get stronger. There isn't anything like playing shape. I think I've done as good of a job without contact and playing, but playing with these guys in practice and playing in games will get me back where I was at."

Boozer also discussed his adjustment to his two-fingered protective glove apparatus.

"It's OK. It's not my favorite. I'd rather wear nothing, but I might have to wear something for the first couple days. I don't know if I'm going to wear it too much. I'd rather just play without it, to be honest. We'll see."

"We've got some good doctors in Chicago."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

With 2021 NBA Free Agency looming, Bulls fired Jim Boylen in the nick of time

With 2021 NBA Free Agency looming, Bulls fired Jim Boylen in the nick of time

In retrospect, we should have all seen it coming. On the final day of the NBA regular season, Arturas Karnisovas fired Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, ending a nearly two-year tenure that saw the team play to a 39-84 record.

“I thought the timing was right right now, going into the lottery and the draft process. It’s an official offseason for us. So we thought it was good timing,” Karnisovas said in a conference call Friday.

The seeding phase of the league’s restart ending Friday and the draft lottery six days ahead does provide a nice bit of symmetry. But was Aug. 14 too long to wait? Karnisovas officially accepted his position as executive vice president of basketball operations on April 13. He brought in new front office hires in Marc Eversley, J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly in early May. Yet Boylen’s tenure dragged into the dog days of summer.

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Why? Karnisovas addressed that on said conference call.

“I took my time for a reason. It was a process to make that decision. Over the last few months, since I was hired in April, I had no timeline,” he said. “This was the right time to make this change.”

“Since it was a very unique situation to be hired in April, we took our time. The restrictions were lifted a little bit more. Interaction was involved.”

That answer echoes Karnisovas’ reputation as a thoughtful and deliberate decision-maker. He’s also said in the past that, in his eyes, forming personal relationships is requisite to holding employees accountable — player or coach. Some will appreciate that approach applied in this context, especially given that he’s inheriting a franchise that has twice in the past has parted ways with coaches on Christmas Eve. Some may not.

But bottom line: The end result is the one the Bulls badly needed to reach, and just in the nick of time.

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The cruciality of moving on from Boylen now is multi-layered. For one, there appears to be burbling optimism that the eight teams excluded from the NBA’s Disney World restart will find a way to resume basketball activities in some capacity soon. It may not be in a second bubble, but even organized OTAs with group activities would be a step up for a Bulls team that has been constrained to voluntary individual workouts with stringent protocols thus far. 

“The players now can work out individually in our practice facility, and our gym is pretty,” Karnisovas said on the call. “So while we’re waiting, if we can get any additional support from the league — again, overall the league regrets that we couldn’t get anything done until now. But I’m hopeful to get something soon.”

Starting the search “immediately” (in Karnisovas’ words) could have a new coach in the Advocate Center doors for all or some of those activities, should they come to fruition. Even if it doesn’t, the Bulls still have plenty of runway before the start of the 2020-21 campaign, which has yet to be finalized.

And in a big picture sense, getting fresh blood in the building has the potential to further a much-needed shift in the Bulls’ league wide perception that was catalyzed by its front office facelift months ago. 

Because this decision makes the organizational message clear: No half-measures. With a new executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager, burgeoning player development personnel, and soon a new coach — particularly, one that will replace a coach that lost games at a historic clip and often prompted questions about his player relationships — there are no caveats required to call this a new era of Bulls basketball; an era in which player development appears to be king, and mediocrity isn’t tolerated.

“The signal is that we’re changing things. It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next,” Karnisovas said. “We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”

The looming free agency period of 2021 makes sending that signal now all the more important. Of course, firing Boylen doesn’t guarantee the Bulls Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo. It might not even get them a meeting. 

For the time being, the Bulls are pretty much locked in place from a roster standpoint. Otto Porter Jr. opting in to his $28.5 million player option — which still qualifies as a near-certainty — and the cap hits the team’s first- and second-round draft choices will eventually invoke will cinch the Bulls in as an over-the-cap club for the 2020-21 season. 

So, the ship likely isn’t getting entirely righted overnight. Whatever your opinion of Boylen, some share of the blame for a 22-win season falls on the roster, as well. However talented you deem the Bulls’ core pieces, new leadership won’t vault them straight to title contention. 

But they don’t necessarily need to, at least not next season. The foundation has to start somewhere, and that summer of 2021 is where things get interesting. To steal a chart from myself, here’s what the Bulls books roughly look heading into that summer, as matters stand right now (via Spotrac): 

  2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 2023-24
Total Cap Allocations $106,027,707 $65,249,867 $9,344,636 $0
Signed Players 13 8 2 0

A possible Lauri Markkanen’s extension is pending, but partial guarantees on the third years of Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young’s contracts, as well as a team option on the third year of Ryan Arcidiacono’s, provides flexibility. Bottom line: They’ll be in a position to make major changes, possibly a splash — assuming the salary cap holds in the vicinity of its current $109.1 million status.

Which makes it all the more imperative that the 2020-21 season not play out as 2019-20 did. The Bulls are an attractive coaching job for the same reasons they were an attractive front office gig — young talent on the roster (albeit largely unproven), own all their own draft capital, cap space coming, big market, rabid fanbase — but to leverage all of that into being a desirable player destination, the soggy hunk of clay that is this rebuild needs to take shape. 

To follow in the footsteps of recent successful rebuilds — think Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers; big-market teams that parlayed modica of promising talent into scrappy overperformance on the court, and, in turn, big moves on the trade and free agent markets — the Bulls need to transform themselves into a team on the rise. 

That doesn’t have to mean a top-four seed or a first-round playoff victory from the jump. But it starts with maximizing the pieces on the team now and improving next season, so that, in the age or perpetual player movement, when opportunity comes knocking, they’ll be prepared to seize it. It’s evident by the results that Boylen wasn’t the person to foster such progression.

A coach with a specialization in player development and relationships — which Karnisvoas said will be a focal point in the search — will be a foundational step. What the changes necessary will look like specifically may have to wait until Karnisovas and Co. have a precise candidate in their sights. Fortunately, there’s just about nowhere to go but up.

For now, it’s at least refreshing to know the Bulls are on the right track.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Once the regular season ended, the official start of the offseason began and the Bulls' first move was to let Jim Boylen go. In an emergency edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, host Jason Goff is joined by Bulls insider K.C. Johnson and Bulls beat writer Rob Schaefer as they discuss the decision.

(1:30) - What led Arturas Karnisovas to the decision to let go, Jim Boylen

(6:00) - Arturas Karnisovas on having full power to make decisions

(16:30) - Potential candidates to replace Jim Boylen

(25:20) - How can a coach get the best out of the current Bulls roster

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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