NBA: Bulls still have issues
CHICAGO ó The Chicago Bulls answered one key question when they took Derrick Rose over Michael Beasley with the first pick in the draft on Thursday.
Next question: Now what?
The Bulls insist they won’t rush Rose, or rush into a trade, even though somebody figures to be the odd man out in a crowded backcourt.
“I think Kirk Hinrich can play very effectively with Derrick Rose,” general manager John Paxson said. “And I think Ben Gordon can play very effectively with Derrick Rose. And I think Thabo (Sefolosha) can. And we have Larry Hughes.”
But can Hinrich, Gordon, Sefolosha and Hughes all play effectively with Rose? Or does someone need to go?
The Bulls entered last season expecting to contend for the Eastern Conference championship, only to unravel at 33-49 as players bickered with each other and their coaches. Interim coach Jim Boylan could not turn things around after Scott Skiles was fired in December and got dismissed at the end of the season.
The Bulls finally hired Vinny Del Negro after a drawn-out coaching search. And their luck took a turn for the better when they won the lottery despite 1.7 percent odds.
Weeks of evaluation ended with the Bulls taking Rose, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side and led Memphis to the NCAA championship game in his lone college season. Now they have to figure out what to do with the rest of the team.
The most immediate issues involve Gordon and forward Luol Deng, their top two scorers. Both are restricted free agents after turning down five-year extensions worth more than $50 million last fall, and Paxson said no trades ó if any ó will be made until their situations are resolved.
If the Bulls re-sign Gordon, who averaged a team-leading 18.6 points, the backcourt would be overloaded unless there’s a trade.
Hinrich seems like the most logical candidate to be moved. He can contribute on offense and defense, while Hughes has a contract that would be more difficult to deal. He signed for five years and $60 million with Cleveland in 2005 and is coming off a season in which he averaged just 12.2 points while shooting 38.1 percent.
The Bulls could move Hinrich to shooting guard, but where would that leave Gordon, Sefolosha and Hughes?
“There’s no set rotation right now,” Del Negro said. “I’ve met with all the players, talked to them, been around them, gotten to know them a little bit. There are no preconceived notions on anything that’s happened in the past.”
In the not-too-distant past, the Bulls were defined by unselfish, hard-nosed play that led them to three straight postseason appearances and made them think they would contend for the conference championship last season.
That’s where Rose comes in.
He tagged around his older brothers as a youngster and most of his friends have a few years on him, so he sees no reason why a 19-year-old can’t lead an NBA team. He’s convinced he’ll fit in just fine after meeting Gordon, Hinrich and Joakim Noah during his visit with the Bulls last week.
“I think I can blend in great,” Rose said. “They’re young. We’ll be able to talk to each other. They’re great guys.”
Although Paxson and Del Negro preached patience, they expect the young point guard to provide the leadership that was lacking last season. They believe he will help unify a disjointed group by creating opportunities for his teammates, particularly Tyrus Thomas. Paxson singled out the athletic power forward, who can wow the crowd with his blocks and dunks but has not consistently performed well in two seasons.
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