LAS VEGAS—For all of the perception that Derrick Rose isn’t a willing recruiter of free agents, the former league MVP revealed that he reached out to the Bulls’ biggest addition this offseason, veteran big man Pau Gasol.
“I talked to him before he signed and he said when we get to Spain that we’ll probably get something to eat, so I’ll probably catch up with him, get dinner or something. If not, I’ll catch up to him when we get to Chicago,” Rose said of Gasol, who shares the same agency, Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group. “I called him. Got his number and ended up reaching out to him. I’m happy he showed gratitude and picked up. It seems like he’s a cool dude. Just can’t wait to see how I play with him.”
But re-read the details of what Rose said: “He said when we get to Spain that we’ll probably get something to eat, so I’ll probably catch up with him, get dinner or something.” That seems to be an indication that the point guard is either confident that he’ll make the team — no surprise by not only his words, but how he’s played in training camp — or he knows something the rest of us don’t.
Rose seemed to understand the implication of his words, later responding, “Here, I think my schedule would probably be lift two times a week — if I was to make the team — and every day, it’s kind of like a recovery day after practice,” to an innocuous question about his training regimen.
Love-to-Chicago rumors fading away
As reported by CSNChicago.com last week, it isn’t believed that the Bulls were ever seriously considering trying to acquire Minnesota’s Kevin Love, as was discussed by other outlets as of late. Now, it’s beginning to be universally understood that the disgruntled All-Star power forward will be dealt to Cleveland at some point, with the Cavaliers sending back No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Bulls general manager Gar Forman, without addressing Love specifically, indicated that the organization is done making major moves this offseason, though they’ll likely add the best available wing scorer or true center on the market for a veteran’s minimum contract.
“It’s become a 12-month cycle. The NBA used to be about this time of year things would kind of die. The sense is it’s not like that anymore. There’s always some talk. That’s our job. We’re always going to try to talk to people around the league and get a feel for what’s going on in the market and if there are opportunities, we’ll look at them,” Forman said. “With that said, we really like the group we have and we look forward to getting going in October with that group.”
[MORE: Report: Bulls 'moving on' from Kevin Love]
Rose, Love’s longtime friend and offseason workout partner, said he’s only been briefly in contact with the double-double machine and stretch power forward — who reportedly pulled out of USA Basketball’s ongoing training camp because of his current status — recently.
“I saw him when he first came to town here [in Las Vegas], but I haven’t seen him since,” he said. “It was just a stop and say what’s up to him, and then I had to hurry up and get to a meeting, so I didn’t have a chance [to have a long conversation].”
Prior to last month’s NBA Draft, when the Bulls had more assets at their disposal — two first-round picks, the amnestied Carlos Boozer’s final year of an expiring contract, the rights to 2011 draftee Nikola Mirotic before he signed his three-year deal — the franchise did have exploratory conversations with the Timberwolves, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, before switching gears to focus on free agency.
Rose excited to play with rookie McDermott
Team USA’s training camp isn’t Rose's first opportunity to observe Bulls rookie Doug McDermott, a member of the Select Team, up close. Rose played alongside McDermott during the Bulls’ summer-league team’s practices at the Berto Center, so he already has firsthand familiarity with the Creighton product’s highly-touted perimeter marksmanship, potentially a great fit with the point guard’s drive-and-kick game.
[RELATED: Derrick Rose fares well on second day of USA Basketball practice]
“He rarely messes up. He never pushes the issue, I would say. He never tries things he can’t do. He knows exactly what type of play he wants. For me, I need him because you can’t leave him. He has a lot of confidence in his shot, and he works on his shot every day. When I was playing with him while we were back in Chicago, I had to tell him whenever he’s open, I’m passing him the ball and he better shoot or I’m going to yell at him every time,” Rose said of McDermott, who was one of two college players — the other was Celtics rookie Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State — to participate in the Select Team mini-camp in Las Vegas last summer, giving Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau a look at him, too. “If you can shoot, you can fit in. For me, if you can shoot that ball you can fit in.”
Chicago native Davis continues to draw praise
Perspectives Charter School product Anthony Davis, a native of the Englewood neighborhood, was a first-time All-Star last season and at the end of the campaign, started to quietly appear as if he was ready to take the next step in his development and enter the conversation as one of the NBA’s best big men. Already one of the more intimidating defenders in the league (he was the league-leading shot-blocker), equipped with uncanny quickness, length, athleticism and a skilled face-up game (a byproduct of his famed growth spurt from being a 6-foot-2 guard as an unknown high-school sophomore), Davis added some bulk and with the presence of newly-acquired ex-Bulls center Omer Asik, should be able to play as more of a natural power forward next season, instead of battling with stronger center.
New Orleans, coached by USA Basketball assistant Dell Demps, could be a sleeper team in the rugged Southwest Division and a fringe playoff contender in the strong Western Conference, armed with potentially one of the league’s best frontcourts (sixth man Ryan Anderson is one of the NBA’s elite stretch power forwards) and a talented, if still-meshing backcourt of former All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and scorers Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. But the Pelicans’ fortunes all depend on the team’s overall health and more importantly, the 21-year-old Davis, who is on track to be Team USA’s starting center, taking his skilled, dynamic inside-outside game to the next level.
[MORE: USA Basketball notes: Chicago native Davis a top big man]
“Oh man, he’s terrific. There’s not much he can’t do. He has got great quickness, size, length, anticipation. He is much more confident offensively. I think the defensive component was always there. He can cover a lot of ground very quickly. But he’s very skilled and he has gotten a lot stronger. He’s another guy that I think this experience will really help him. I thought he was terrific last year. I think Monty does a great job down there. They’re going to be a terrific team this year,” Thibodeau said. “You can put him up there for sure. You have to wait and see how the season unfolds. But this guy has made tremendous progress each year and I think Monty has done a great job developing him. They’ve had the misfortune of having a number of injuries. But when you look at their roster now, they’re going to have a heck of a team. They’ve all gotten better. Anthony in particular has gotten significantly better. I think they’re going to be very dangerous.
Fellow South Side native Rose added: “He’s been playing good. It looks like he put on a little weight, too. He works out every time we get done practicing. He has a lot of energy. I think he’s trying to put a little more weight on, but he’s a good player.”
Swanson making her presence felt with Bulls
Bulls’ director of athletic performance Jen Swanson has a quiet demeanor and prefers to work behind the scenes, but with Rose constantly referring to her treatment methods — she worked with him during his California-based rehabilitation from his 2012 torn left ACL before the Bulls hired her prior to last season — her name has come up a lot more frequently these days. Thibodeau also spoke highly of Swanson, who is traveling with Team USA specifically to monitor Rose.
“It’s good. What she has done with the team has sort of been the next step for our league. More teams have added that type of person where they’re involved with correcting whatever issues a player may have prior to even being injured. It’s ideal,” Thibodeau explained about the role of Swanson, who generally doesn’t talk to the media. “It’s a piece that probably was missing. You have a trainer, you have a strength coach and now you have a person where if you’re weak in a certain area, they can sort of lock into that. So I think it has been a big plus for us.”
Calipari has quartet of former players at USA camp
University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari briefly interrupted Rose’s interview session with reporters to invite his star out to dinner. Rose, who played for Calipari at the University of Memphis, was seated next to fellow point guard, adidas endorser and former No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall, a Kentucky product who plays for the Wizards, the team that ousted the Bulls in last spring’s playoffs. Calipari eventually circled back to change the time of the dinner, as he had to juggle the schedules of not only Rose and Wall, but former Kentucky players Davis and DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings.