The biggest question for the Bulls as they get ready to begin an abbreviated training camp and shortened NBA season is whether they can land an offensive upgrade at shooting guard.
Derrick Rose, on the other hand, cast a vote for the incumbent — Keith Bogans.
“I’m rolling with Keith,” Rose told a crowd of reporters Thursday at the Berto Center. “We’re fine. Like I said, with my teammates we have right now, we made it that far (to the Eastern Conference finals).
“It wasn’t my teammates’ fault that we lost (to Miami) last year, it was me. Me not making the plays and me not playing smart enough throughout the whole game.”
Many would dispute that claim, but Rose is entitled to his opinion. The Bulls weren’t exactly open for business on Thursday, but players were allowed inside the building for the first time since the lockout began on July 1.
Training camps are expected to open Dec. 9, with the Bulls opening a 66-game regular-season schedule on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 25. The new labor deal has yet to be ratified by players, but that figures to be a formality.
“This year, our goal is nothing else but a championship,” Rose said. “I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m going to stand on my teammates. I know they’re going to do the same thing. We’re just trying to hold each other accountable while we’re on the court and off the court.”
So, will Rose have any new teammates? Nine regulars from last year are under contract — Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Omer Asik. Rookie forward Jimmy Butler is on board, while the agent for Kurt Thomas told the New York Post the veteran center is leaning toward returning to the Bulls.
Bogans remains a remote possibility. His contract option for the coming season went unresolved during the lockout.
There’s little question, though, that the Bulls are seeking an offensive upgrade. No NBA team in the last 40 years has reached the Finals with a starting two guard who averaged as few as 4.4 points per game, which Bogans did last season.
The Bulls best chance at adding a free agent would be to offer the midlevel exception, worth $5 million. They should be able to use the full midlevel without exceeding the luxury tax threshold, but the exact numbers have yet to be released. Last year’s tax threshold was $70.3 million and the Bulls have roughly $61 million on the payroll.
With limited resources, the Bulls will target older players who figure to be more concerned with winning than the size of their contract. Orlando’s Jason Richardson, Memphis’ Shane Battier, Dallas’ Caron Butler and Washington’s Josh Howard are strong candidates.
Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford is less likely. Don’t count out Vince Carter, last seen playing for Phoenix. For now, the Bulls are keeping their options open and are not focused on a specific target.
There were reports of mutual interest from Butler, a native of Racine, Wis. The Bulls were worried about the health of his knees before the 2002 draft. Now Butler is coming off a patellar tendon injury suffered last Jan. 1.
Another wild card in the Butler chase is he’s represented by Raymond Brothers, who handled the rocky negotiations between Ben Gordon and the Bulls in 2009. Would the Bulls pass on adding another Brothers’ client to the roster? Probably not, but you never know.
Howard is a longtime favorite of the Bulls, but he’s also coming off a knee injury and averaged just 8.4 points in 18 games last season.
Restricted free agents such as Washington’s Nick Young or Sacramento’s Marcus Thornton are not likely, since any offer the Bulls make figures to be matched.
The Bulls have also reached out to former Indiana point guard T.J. Ford, who always seemed to play well against them; 3-point specialist Shawne Williams and ex-Milwaukee scorer Michael Redd.
Redd has ties to Bulls assistant Ron Adams from their days with the Bucks. But Redd is coming off a serious knee injury and the Bulls would probably want him to sign a non-guaranteed contract and demonstrate he can still play.
Will defense be an issue when shopping for a shooting guard? Maybe not. Dallas won the NBA title with Jason Terry getting most of the minutes at two guard, proving that clutch shooting sometimes trumps strong defense.
There was a report that Portland might consider using the amnesty clause to release all-star guard Brandon Roy, who has struggled with knee issues. The Bulls would surely be interested, but players cut through the amnesty clause won’t be free to join any team they choose. Teams can now makes offers to take on a portion of the existing contract and be awarded that player similar to a waiver claim. Roy would likely land on a team with cap room.
A couple of shooting guards who could end up on the amnesty track are Detroit’s Richard Hamilton and ex-Bull John Salmons, now back with Sacramento.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.