Tuesday, September 22nd
I had a chance to sit down with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah today to get their thoughts on the start of training camp and the upcoming season. You can watch my conversation with Luol here on CSNChicago.com. I'll let you know when the interview with Joakim will be aired.
I was very impressed with Luol's candor about his injury, and the criticism he received in some circles for not finding a way to get back on the court for the Bulls' playoff run. Deng told me the criticism never bothered him because once he looks someone in the eye and tells them the truth, he can't force them to believe what he's saying. He says the stress fracture in his right leg was serious, and he won't be sure he's 100 percent recovered until he gets out on the floor during training camp and competes with his teammates. Luol says he's been playing fullcourt games and doing all his conditioning work without any restrictions, and he's confident he can come back as strong as ever for the upcoming season. He also is looking forward to an expanded role in the offense with Ben Gordon moving on to Detroit, and he's optimistic the Bulls can be an excellent team with a full season of John Salmons and Brad Miller, plus improved play from Noah and Tyrus Thomas.
As for Noah, he told me about his summer vacation trips to France, Las Vegas and his college campus in Gainesville, Florida, but he also spent a lot of time in the gym working on his game. Coaches at the I.M.G. basketball academy in Florida raved about his work ethic and his improved jump shot. Joakim told me not to say anything about his improved offensive arsenal, because he wants to catch the rest of the NBA by surprise. Well, sorry Joakim, but if you're ready to unleash an expanded offensive game, Bulls' fans want to know about it! Joakim also raved about the summer work put in by Tyrus, Derrick Rose and the rest of the Bulls' players. He says the hard work will pay off in better play during the regular season, and more consistency throughout the year. He also believes he's ready to take a big step forward in his career and can't wait to get the season started after the classic playoff series against Boston.
I can't tell you how much I was impressed by the players dedication and optimism for the season ahead. Luol told me most of the team has been back at the Berto Center, doing their conditioning and weight-lifting and also scrimmaging in preparation for the start of camp. Both players said they'll miss Ben Gordon as a teammate, but theyre confident the Bulls have the firepower to replace his offense. Every team in the NBA has reasons to be optimistic heading into a new season, but it sounds like the Bulls believe they're building something special. Only time will tell if they're right, but it should be a fun and entertaining season ahead.
One other Bulls' note, Aaron Gray accepted the team's one year qualifying offer, and he'll return to back up Noah and Miller this season. The Bulls have a well-rounded and versatile roster with 4 centers (including the injured Jerome James), 4 forwards and 5 guards. It's time to get to work with Media Day at the Berto Center on Friday, followed by two-a-day practice sessions on Saturday.
As always, feel free to drop me an e-mail with your questions and comments.