Bulls try to score points by focusing on the defense

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman listens to questions during NBA basketball media day in Deerfield, Ill., Friday.

    Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman listens to questions during NBA basketball media day in Deerfield, Ill., Friday. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/26/2009 12:13 AM

At the start of Bulls media day, general manger Gar Forman - who took over from John Paxson as voice of the front office in the spring - sat down at the microphone and, while barely taking a breath, listed his thoughts on every issue and player as the team opens training camp.

He didn't even use a teleprompter, just a single sheet of notes.

 

Any questions? Well, not many. Ben Gordon, the Bulls' top scorer the past four seasons, jumped to Detroit as a free agent. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same team that went 41-41 last season and lost to Boston in a memorable first-round playoff series.

Speaking Friday at the Berto Center, Forman made sure to downplay next summer's free agent chase, when the Bulls will have the salary-cap room to pursue Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer or others.

"That's not our focus. We like this team," Forman said. "Our focus is on this team and we're looking forward to a good season ahead. It's our opinion we have the talent to compete."

Compete for what exactly was left unsaid. No one is calling the Bulls a championship contender, but if things go well this season, a top four playoff seed in the Eastern Conference might be within reach.

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The buzzword at the Berto Center, where two-a-day practices start on Saturday, is defense. The Bulls ranked eighth in the league in points scored with 102.2, but gave up 102.5.

"We're all on the same page that we must get better defensively," Forman said.

"We'll emphasize defense. We'll emphasize rebounding," added second-year coach Vinny Del Negro. "Offense usually takes care of itself."

Most of the actual questions surrounding the Bulls were related to injuries. Forward Luol Deng missed the final 29 games, including playoffs, with a stress fracture in his right shin.

Deng feels good, but has only been going full speed for about a month. So he's not sure exactly how his leg will respond during five straight days of double sessions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I'm going to go by how I feel," Deng said. "I think I'll be able to (make it through all the practices). I feel great. But if I feel anything early, I think we'll try to monitor it."

Forman tried to ease concerns with a story about how much time Deng put into rehabilitation this summer. The 6-foot-9 small forward averaged 18.8 points in 2006-07, then slumped in every category the past two seasons.

"Luol basically lived in this gym to the point where at times we felt like we had to kick him out of here," Forman said. "I remember early in the summer, we were preparing for the draft. He had worked out in the morning in the weight room, then he worked out in the afternoon doing some skill work.

"I go down to our kitchen at about 6 o'clock at night and he's down here eating dinner. I said, 'Luol, what are you doing here?' Rather than go home, he was bringing his dinner to the Berto Center, heating it up in our kitchen, then getting another workout in in the evening."

In other injury news, swingman John Salmons said he's fully recovered from the groin strain that slowed him late last season. Guard Jannero Pargo had surgery to repair a sports hernia early in the summer and admitted he might have to take things slowly at the start of camp.

There wasn't much talk about Gordon's departure. The Bulls expect the 6-foot-6 Salmons to start at shooting guard, with Kirk Hinrich filling in at both guard spots. Forman lauded Hinrich for having his most productive summer in six seasons with the Bulls.

"I feel like I had a good summer," Hinrich said. "I don't know if this is my best one. I feel like I'm ready. I'm excited about the group we've got. We've got good guys. It's going to be a lot of fun, hopefully.

"We're going to miss Ben's explosive scoring a little bit. But we've got guys who can score. It was five years, I guess, so it's a little different not having him here. I've known for a while he wasn't going to be here, though."

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