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updated: 7/18/2014 4:46 PM

Gasol, Mirotic ready to run with the Bulls

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  • Nikola Mirotic, left, and Pau Gasol pose with their Bulls jerseys Friday at the United Center.

      Nikola Mirotic, left, and Pau Gasol pose with their Bulls jerseys Friday at the United Center.
    Associated Press

 
 

Pau Gasol is soft-spoken and intelligent, with an unfulfilled life dream of attending medical school.

As level-headed as the veteran power forward is, Gasol wasn't shy about bringing a little "kapow" to his introductory news conference Friday.

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While meeting the media at the United Center, Gasol emphasized that he signed with the Bulls because he thinks they have what it takes to immediately compete for an NBA championship.

"If I didn't believe we had that potential, I wouldn't have come here," Gasol said. "I think we have all the pieces. We have all the elements to get there. It's not an easy thing to do. I think there is great competition, very tough teams.

"With the spirit of the guys that are here, we can make it happen. But it's a process and we'll see what we can do."

The Bulls introduced two new additions Friday -- Gasol and 6-foot-10 forward Nikola Mirotic. The two players made similar journeys to reach the NBA, 13 years apart.

Gasol, 34, is a native of Barcelona, Spain, and was the No. 3 pick of the 2001 NBA draft. He was chosen between two ex-Bulls, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. Gasol said he grew up watching the Bulls in the '90s and had Michael Jordan posters hanging on the walls of his bedroom.

Mirotic, 23, is from Montenegro, but he spent the past five years in Spain playing for Real Madrid. Mirotic crosses the Atlantic with impressive credentials as the only two-time winner of the EuroLeague's rising star award, given to the best player under 23. The Bulls have held Mirotic's rights since acquiring him in the 2011 NBA draft.

"Since I was drafted, I've watched many games of the Bulls," Mirotic said. "I've always dreamt about being here and playing with them."

This won't be Gasol's first chance to push a team over the top. After starting his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies, Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers midway through the 2007-08 season. With Gasol playing a key role, the Lakers went to three straight NBA Finals and won championships in 2009 and '10.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau shared that experience, in a way. He was on the opposing bench with the Boston Celtics during the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals.

"Money wasn't the priority here," Gasol said. "I turned down bigger offers and I prioritized being on a championship-caliber team. I want to be in a position where I can hopefully push that team over the top with my game. I feel that here I'm going to have that opportunity."

Gasol was courted aggressively by San Antonio and Oklahoma City during the free-agent process and also talked to Carmelo Anthony about possibly getting together in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.

He also heard from several Bulls. Joakim Noah flew to Los Angeles with Bulls management to meet with Gasol during the opening days of free agency. Gasol also spoke to Derrick Rose, Mike Dunleavy and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Asked what he gained from speaking to his future teammates, Gasol said he appreciated their interest and also their humility.

"I think it's real important to not have big egos. That makes things a lot easier," Gasol said. "Another factor that helps as well is they're hungry. Hungry to win. That's something I wanted to come into, be part of a hungry team, a team that is willing to do whatever it takes. They're ready -- that's what I perceive and I really think that they are."

Gasol chose the Bulls even though the team doesn't have a glaring need at power forward. He'll be part of a three big man rotation here with Noah and Taj Gibson

"It should be a lot of fun. I think they have a really deep front line," Gasol said. "Those two guys are talented players. I think I fit well with them. I bring maybe a different profile, but I'm also ready to compete with them, ready to make each other better during the season, during practices."

Mirotic's role will be less defined heading into the season. He's widely regarded as a "stretch four," a power forward who can step outside and make 3-point shots, as well as attack the basket. With Gasol and Gibson also at the four, the Bulls will probably experiment with Mirotic at small forward during preseason.

At the start of his news conference, Mirotic apologized for his limited English. He answered some questions himself and others with the help of his agent, Igor Crespo. Mirotic said he plans to return to Madrid on Saturday and spend the rest of the summer working out in Montenegro.

"I strongly believe I am ready for this challenge and I'm going to show it by practicing and playing hard," he said.

• Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

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