Bulls GM Forman coy about team's plans on media day

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Bulls GM Forman coy about team's plans on media day

In his first official appearance in front of the media, Bulls general manager Gar Forman didn't shed much light on the organization's future transactions. When questioned about issues ranging from the potential acquisition of shooting guard Rip Hamilton and the team's involvement in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to veteran big man Kurt Thomas signing with Portland and the status of Keith Bogans, last season's starting shooting guard, Forman played coy.

"Really, all I know is what Ive read," Forman said regarding Hamilton, reportedly bought out by the Pistons, though the process might not be completed yet. "I dont want to talk about other teams' players."

About Howard, Forman offered one of his standard lines, saying, "Its our job to be in touch with all 29 teams around the league and we have been in the last week.

"I wouldnt mention individual names or share our business or who were talking to as far as players are concerned," he continued. "Were having conversations throughout the league."

As far as Bogans, Forman reiterated the stance he took in a statement released by the team on Friday, when the veteran shooting guard was pulled off the Berto Center practice floor in the first practice of training camp. However, despite his praise of Bogans, it now seems unlikely that he'll return to Chicago or that the Bulls will have a chance to exercise their 1.73 million team option by the Dec. 19 deadline.

Forman took his shtick even further when Thomas--who reportedly signed a two-year contract with the Trail Blazers--was mentioned, professing that he wasn't aware of the deal for the league's elder statesman, a valuable member of the Bulls' 62-win regular-season team a year ago, before offering platitudes.

"Obviously we wanted Kurt back and we offered Kurt a contract. He was a big part of what we did a year ago," he said. "But Kurt had to evaluate the situation from his perspective and obviously he must have felt that Portland presented a better opportunity off him.

"Well have to have some depth behind them, even if its just from a practice standpoint. Its hard to go through a season with just four bigs. Thats still something were taking a look at, whether we add another four or a five," Forman added, when asked whether the Bulls would another insurance-policy post player to their frontline. "Again, if we dont find the right guy well be patient with it try to keep some flexibility with that position. If we dont address it right away, we may address it down the road."

Forman did offer some clarity as to the Bulls' thought process during the NBA's chaotic, truncated free-agency period, indicating that the franchise would exercise patience and are confident in the current roster.

"It was our goal to bring the nucleus of this team back and we have. We love the makeup and character of this basketball team. What we really like is the chemistry that weve got and the way these guys work together," said Forman. "We're still exploring ways we can improve this basketball team moving forward, and and we still have some roster spots and a little bit of flexibility, and were exploring options, as far as making additions to this team, and hopefully something will happen in regards to that in the next few days.

"The way weve approached this free agency, weve been in contact with a number of players and weve really tried to explore a number of different options we feel we would have a chance to improve this basketball team. If we find the right player or players that we feel give us a chance to get better, well certainly make a move. That said, our feeling has always been were not going to make a move just to make a move. If we dont feel its a plus for this team, well bring this team back as is and feel really good about our group of guys and give them a chance to continue to grow," he continued. "I dont want to talk about specific players, but obviously right now weve got 11 guys under contract and we still have some spots to fill and some flexibility as to how we approach it."

One thing the general manager didn't hem and haw about, however, was their efforts in the process to get the league MVP signed to a long-term extension to remain in his hometown.

"Derrick is the centerpiece of what were trying to put together here. Obviously, we want Derrick to be a Chicago Bull for a long, long time," said Forman. "To us, its obviously very important that we put the right pieces around Derrick and hes able to have success, that we have success, and that he remains a Chicago Bull.

"Were talking to his representatives now and hopefully well be able to get something done in a pretty short amount of time."

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Being a better defensive team was a prime objective for Fred Hoiberg coming into camp, as the Bulls hope to reclaim some of their defensive identity that disappeared last season.

Reciting a not-so-true stat routinely to reporters in the first few days, that the Bulls were last in forcing turnovers in 2015-16, means he’s likely barking it to the team in practices (they were actually second-to-last behind the New York Knicks).

“Absolutely,” said Hoiberg when asked if being more aggressive defensively is a goal. “We are turning the ball over way too much. After watching film, our defense is responsible for some of that. We have a guy in (Rajon) Rondo that's a high steals guy, got great hands, great instincts, great wingspan. Jimmy (Butler) is always had great anticipation and one of the top steals guy.”

Butler is one of the best two-way players, along with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George, but even he admitted his defense slipped last year as the Bulls fell to a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of advanced defensive rankings (15th).

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Rondo was once one of the league’s best defensive point guards before tearing up his knee his last full season in Boston, and averaged two steals last year in Sacramento, but gave up a career-high 107 points per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.

Whether Rondo was a function of a bad defense overall for the Kings or a player who no longer fully commits himself to that end remains to be seen, but it’s clear Hoiberg wants a more hands-y defense. Too many times last year, the Bulls defense had leaks from the top down, resulting in compromised drives to the basket and breakdowns all around.

More than anything, the Bulls defense was one of indifference, especially after the first 30 games or so.

“Like all staffs we watched a ton of film and tried to figure out with this group how to create more turnovers, how to impact the ball better,” Hoiberg said. “Every day it's been a big emphasis in our defense and we get out and force turnovers and make sure the help is there behind the trap and being aggressive on the ball.”

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

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He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”