The Bulls held introductory press conferences for veteran big man Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, the team’s 2011 first-round draft pick, Friday at the United Center, but as always, Derrick Rose was also a topic of conversation. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, also a USA Basketball assistant, was optimistic about Rose’s status and believes the former league MVP will make the cut at the upcoming national-team mini-camp in Las Vegas.
“I think he’s great. He went through the summer-league practices. He’s progressing well. I think the USA thing will be terrific for him. when you go back to his MVP year, he played with Team USA that summer and I thought that prepared him very well for the season, so we’re expecting that to be the same this year now, in terms of he just hasn’t played in a long time. So it’s a good opportunity to get that out of the way and it’s a different role for him with this team because you’re going to have 12 great players. So he won’t have the burden to play a lot of minutes and have to score a lot of points. He can just fit in and run the team. The way he ran the team in 2010, it was a big part of why, I thought, they won and that’s all he has to do because there’s so many different players that can score there. So I think it’ll be great for him,” Thibodeau said of the point guard, who will be competing against All-Stars at his position like Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Portland’s Damian Lillard. “As long as it goes well. Obviously from a talent standpoint. But there’s rust that he has to shake off. He looked good in the summer-league practices. He put a lot of work in. He’s spent a lot of time shooting. So I’m expecting him to play well and then the ultimate decision will be made by Mr. Colangelo, so hopefully he sees it that way.”
Bulls general manager Gar Forman also commented on Rose, saying, “Of course, Derrick’s health has been a big part of our offseason. It’s been terrific watching Derrick play the last month or two at the Berto and watch the progress he’s made. He looks good.”
[MORE: Bulls' Mirotic finally arrives in Chicago]
Hinrich re-signing official
Lost in all the fanfare of Gasol and Mirotic was the fact that Bulls veteran floor general Kirk Hinrich also officially signed his contract Friday, reportedly a two-year, $5.6-million deal.
About Hinrich, who was drafted by the Bulls in 2003, Thibodeau said, “It was huge for us because basically, he’s saved us the last two seasons. With Derrick being out, he probably doesn’t get enough credit. You really can’t measure him statistically, but he has the ability to start at the point, you can start him at the two, you can bring him off the bench, you can play him with Derrick. So I think it’s critical for us and he adds a lot of toughness to your team, he’s a great leader. So we’re obviously very pleased about that.”
Thibs praises Boozer
Although Thibodeau’s relationship with Carlos Boozer, who the Bulls amnestied Tuesday and was acquired by the Lakers—coincidentally, Gasol’s previous team—Thursday, deteriorated toward the end of last season, the coach spoke highly of the veteran power forward.
“When you look at four years and you win 200 games, he did a terrific job for us and Carlos has had a great career. He did his job here and we wish him nothing but the best. I think the Lakers, I think that’ll be a good fit for him. But he did a great job for us,” Thibodeau said.
Gasol talks medicine, Kobe
Known as one of the more cerebral players on the court in the NBA, Gasol is also smart off the court and is known to visit hospitals around the country in his spare time, a practice that began with his first team, the Grizzlies, as he would stop by Memphis’ famed St. Jude’s children’s hospital.
“Well, I do have a big interest in medicine. There’s no question about that. I will make sure I will make contact with hospitals here, to see which hospitals I can work with and collaborate and help out because it’s one of my biggest passions. I don’t think I will be able to go into medicine and get my degree or become a doctor,” he explained. I will always work with hospitals and with patients, kids, families because I think it makes a huge difference and it’s extremely rewarding to me. As an assistant trainer, I don’t think that’ll happen, but you never know. I do have good knowledge of my body and I try to help out teammates to deal with injuries that maybe I suffered or give them advice on how to treat or handle different things for them to feel better, to feel healthier.”
[RELATED: Experienced Pau Gasol comes to Bulls with title aspirations]
A reporter then joked if Gasol could help his new teammate Rose’s knees, to which he responded, “I don’t know if there’s anything I can do, but I think, like Gar said, Derrick—and when I’ve talked to him, as well—he feels well, he’s looking good and I hope that he stays healthy, just like everybody else on the team. I don’t know if there’s much I can do. There’s experts, there’s specialists that I’m sure can do much more than I can. But hopefully there’s no need for me to help him.”
Gasol also discussed breaking the news that he wouldn’t be returning to the Lakers to longtime teammate Kobe Bryant.
“It was difficult. We have a close friendship. We’ve been through a lot together and I’m sure I’ll miss him. But we’ll talk to each other and our relationship goes to beyond basketball, and we’ll always have a friendship and that’s how it will stay,” Gasol recounted. “But he was very supportive and he understood that I had to do what was best for me, what felt right to me. He was going to support me no matter what. That’s what friends and brothers do. That’s how we are.”
Asked to compare Thibodeau and current Knicks president Phil Jackson, who coached him in Los Angeles and also previously coached in Chicago, Gasol was diplomatic: “Phil’s a very unique coach, different than the rest, and I’m sure Tom will be, as well. So it’s just a matter of getting to know each other a little more as we go along, and hopefully he’ll get the best out of me and I’ll get the best out of him. That’s the plan.”