By Mike McGraw
Ninth in a series
Before leaving the locker room at Miami's American Airlines Arena on May 15, Nazr Mohammed vowed to call the Bulls himself and tell them he'd like to come back next season.
Here's one question: Why does he want to come back?
After 14 NBA seasons, Mohammed finally returned to his hometown of Chicago, where he had one of the best seats at the United Center for roughly two-thirds of the season.
In the first 59 games, Mohammed did not play at all 20 times and played more than 10 minutes on just nine occasions. He seemed largely forgotten during those months, which seemed curious later when center Joakim Noah had a recurrence of plantar fasciitis.
There's no way to tell if playing Mohammed more and Noah less earlier in the season would have changed anything, but it was something to consider.
Coach Tom Thibodeau talked often about how the 6-foot-10 Mohammed matched up better against taller front lines, and that made plenty of sense. At age 35, Mohammed isn't the ideal candidate to chase smaller, faster opponents.
But when pressed into action late in the season, the Kenwood Academy grad did fine. He produced 16 points and 13 rebounds in a game at Toronto, 17 and 7 against Washington, 12 and 12 in another game against the Wizards. He even played 30-plus minutes in three straight games at the start of April.
In the playoffs against Brooklyn, he scored a combined 22 points during three straight Bulls wins in Games 2 through 4. Maybe he got carried away with the shove against Miami's LeBron James and ejection in Game 3 of the second round, but Chicago fans will probably forgive that one easily.
So, Mohammed probably should have played more than he did last season. He still wants to come back, though, and explained why on that night in Miami.
"I'm a Chicago guy. We had good year overall," he said. "I would love to have a year to play with Derrick (Rose). That's something I would definitely like to look at, but you know how it is -- this is a business. This is all talk right now. What you want and what you get are two different things. We've got to hope that we both want the same thing."
The Bulls needed an extra big man last season and they'll need one again. Mohammed turns 36 in September and has no plans to retire.
Realistically, for a high-payroll team such as the Bulls, looking for a big man to play for the veteran's minimum, they'll have trouble doing better than Mohammed. There might be more talented backup centers out there, but they'll be paid accordingly by teams with more money to spend.
Even if the Bulls draft a center with the No. 20 pick (a realistic outcome), a team hoping to challenge for a spot in the Finals needs veteran experience. So when Mohammed calls, they should be receptive.
Next man up: Marquis Teague