James, Pittman could lead race for final Bulls roster spot

James, Pittman could lead race for final Bulls roster spot
October 1, 2013, 1:45 pm
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As for which of the free agents could earn the Bulls’ 13th roster spot—the league-mandated minimum; the Bulls have 12 players under guaranteed contract at the moment—Thibodeau said, “It’s a little early. We’ll continue to evaluate that.”

While the aforementioned Dahntay Jones, a defensive-minded swingman, fits the team’s mold of toughness, he doesn’t play a position of need. The same goes for power forward D.J. White, another player with NBA experience, as Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson will play the majority of those minutes and second-round draft pick Erik Murphy brings a different dimension to the position. Guards Kalin Lucas and Patrick Christopher are extreme long shots to even survive the first round of cuts.

Center Dexter Pittman, however, stands a chance, due to his massive size and the fact that more depth behind Joakim Noah and veteran Nazr Mohammed could be used.

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“Just experience, hard-playing, been around,” Thibodeau responded when asked what Pittman brings to the table. “He has shown some signs that he’s capable. I like what he did in the fall. He’s a big guy who has presence in front of the rim. He brings good energy to practice.”

Noah has been healthy through the early stages of camp, according to Thibodeau, but with his re-occuring bouts of plantar fasciitis, minutes are somewhat of a concern.

"He looks great. He’s running the floor really well. He’s playing his usual defense. He’s done a good job. His conditioning is great," Thibodeau said of the All-Star center.

Pittman, who reportedly weighed in the neighborhood of 400 pounds early in his college days at Texas, where he played alongside Kevin Durant, started his NBA career in Miami, then played part of last season in Memphis. Thibodeau doesn’t expect his knowledge of the rival Heat to benefit the Bulls.

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“If we have to rely on that, we’re in trouble,” he joked about the big man, who arrived in Chicago early last month for workouts at the Berto Center. “Dexter has done a good job. But we’re not trying to trick anyone.”

Pittman’s primary competition for the Bulls’ final spot—though the team could certainly add a 14th, and even league-maximum 15th player—is likely veteran point guard Mike James. Although there is depth at the position with Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague, the 38-year-old journeyman, who ended last season as a Dallas Mavericks starter—after a stint in the D-League, similar to the 2011-12 campaign, in which he finished the year in Chicago—appears to be in tremendous physical condition, knows the system and is a Thibodeau favorite from their days together in Houston with the Jeff Van Gundy-coached Rockets.

“Mike’s one of those guys. You can never underestimate him. He always finds his way onto the roster. He’s been around. He’s won a championship. Good veteran leadership and experience, a lot of toughness,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll see how it unfolds.”