Still moves to be made, but Bulls hope to start strong
Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau directs his team during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Monday, March 21, 2011, in Chicago. The Bulls won 132-92.
The Bulls are still waiting for a new shooting guard to arrive, but they also have nine regulars back from last season's team, which posted the league's best record at 62-20.
With a short training camp and condensed 66-game season, the Bulls should be in better shape than most teams when it comes to chemistry and cohesion.
Joakim Noah can relate, having won two NCAA titles at Florida with essentially the same squad. The difference, of course, is the Bulls are coming off a five-game loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, not a championship.
"When you lose the way we lost in the playoffs last year, it makes you hungry to work on your game," Noah said Saturday at the Berto Center.
"Coach always talks about going through the fire together. We did that last year. I think that's going to help us. You learn from your experiences, good and bad. That's what makes your unit stronger."
At the same time, coach Tom Thibodeau has also been reminding everyone that this is a new season. Winning 62 games last year means nothing heading into this lockout-shortened, 66-game slate.
"I think the important thing for us is not to look back, to be focused on training camp," Thibodeau said. "We have to be careful not to skip steps. We have to be a great practice team first."
Miami obviously qualifies as the Bulls' most formidable competition in the East. Even with the shortened training camp, the Heat will have more time for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to mesh.
Boston will have Rajon Rondo and the aging Big Three back again. The Celtics are sending Glen Davis to Orlando and hoping to add ex-Hornets power forward David West in a sign-and-trade.
The Magic is dealing with whether or not Dwight Howard wants to stay, while Atlanta has most of its team back except free agent Jamal Crawford.
"Right now, it's whoever can gel quick enough to go out there and play good basketball," Derrick Rose said. "Everybody's making trades. Everybody's coming in, trying to get their rhythm. It's whoever can get on a roll quick."
It continued to seem likely the Bulls' next addition will be former Pistons shooting guard Richard Hamilton. He agreed to a contract buyout and was released by Detroit. It takes 48 hours to clear waivers, so he doesn't figure to arrive until Monday or Tuesday at the earliest.
Two other free agents that interested the Bulls, Crawford and Jason Richardson, don't seem willing to sign for the midlevel exception of $5 million, which is all the Bulls can offer without a trade.
Crawford, 31, and Richardson, 30, are both at a point in their careers where they're hoping to land one more sizable contract. So while teams under the cap — such as New Orleans, Denver and Indiana — are still sitting on offers, committing to the Bulls may not make financial sense.
The Bulls have a contract option on Keith Bogans, last year's starting two guard, but he's not practicing with the team.
"It's an unusual set of circumstances right now," Thibodeau said. "We just have to be patient. (Bogans) did a great job for us. Played great defense, hit spot-up shots. He's the consummate professional."
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