Despite youth, Cook brings experience to Bulls

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Despite youth, Cook brings experience to Bulls

DEERFIELD -- Newly acquired Bulls sharpshooter Daequan Cook is just 25 years old, but he brings to his new team a winning background.

In his lone year of college at Ohio State, the Dayton, Ohio, native played in the NCAA championship gamelosing to Joakim Noahs Florida teamand last season, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, he played in the NBA Finals alongside Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed, albeit for spot minutes.

Still, the six-year NBA veteran is confident that his experience, as well as his renowned outside marksmanshiphe was the NBA All-Star weekend three-point shootout winner in 2009can help the Bulls.

I feel like its a good opportunity for me. Im looking forward to it and today was a great start, he said after Sunday afternoons practice at the Berto Center. The biggest part was playing on a team thats been to the Finals, having that experience as a young player. Coming into this team with a lot of guys that love to play hard and have the opportunity to play in the playoffs. I think thats one of the biggest roles I have right now.

The Bulls are a very exciting team, very young team and they play very well together. The most important thing for me is to play my role and do whatever Coach asks me to do, continued the shooting guard, who noted that a few teams contacted him after he cleared waivers Friday afternoon, following the Rockets waiving him last week.

Chicago was one of the first ones, but I went with what was the best for for me, give me the best opportunity and Chicago was the team.

The Bulls will be Cooks fourth NBA team after beginning in his career in Miami under Pat Riley, being a fringe member of the Thunders rotation, then getting traded to Houston in the early-season blockbuster James Harden trade. A 6.9 points-per-game career scorer, he averaged 3.4 points a contest in 16 games for the Rockets this season.

Were excited to have the opportunity to pick him up, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Cook, a career 36.5 percent three-point shooter. Hes another quality shooter, he can shoot the three, so hes got to come in, learn his teammates, learn the system and just get ready.

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Thibodeau was hesitant to say whether Cook, the 14th player on the Bulls roster, would get a chance to crack the rotation, making the situation seem reminiscent of their mid-season acquisition of veteran swingman Rasual Butler two seasons ago.

Were going to see. I thought early on, hes a pretty good team defender. I think he still can improve with his individual defense and well see where he is once he gets going a little bit, Thibodeau said. Right now, were pretty much set with our rotation. He has to learn, get ready and you never know. Over the course of the season, you need everybody. Hes been around a little bit, so we know what hes capable of. He can come in and knock down a couple three-point shots in a very short amount of time, so I think he complements the players that we have.

Cook said he harbored no animosity toward the Rockets for waiving him, indicating that it was a mutual decision.

The most important thing was there wasnt going to be an opportunity for me to play and that was the thing, and we parted ways. I have nothing bad to say about the team, which is good and thats about it. Now its time to get focused and get prepared to play with the Bulls now, he explained. Im going to work. The most important thing here is just working hard and being patient, and when I get the opportunity to play, just play my heart out.

He understands that if and when he does receive playing time, hes expected to help the shooting-deficient Bulls improve from long range.

I take a lot of pride in that. Being young in this league and known as one of the best shooters in this league right now is a good thing, but I just cant settle for that, knowing how important it is to know that its going to be more than my shooting that gets me out there on the floor, he said. Whatever my role is on this team, whether its shooting, rebounding or defending, Im going to play that role to the best of my ability and Im just looking forward to doing it.

Everybody goes into a slump from time to time. I wasnt pinpointing the Bulls because of that. I just came over here, just figuring out what team I could help best, regardless of what it was.

Besides Mohammed, Cook was also teammates with Nate Robinson during the diminutive scorers stint in Oklahoma City. While Cook acknowledged that hes aware of Robinsons verbal tendencies, hes also been picking the backup point guards brain to speed up his adjustment to the Bulls.

Weve been talking all day, especially with Nate more than anything because hes a guard, Im a guard, of course, and hes been in a lot of positions Im going to be in on the court, so talking to Nate more than anything about a lot of the things that have been going on out here, he said. Being around Nate, thats one of the things youve got to roll with. Hes a great guy.

Perhaps Robinsons advice included tips on playing for Thibodeau, but after Cooks experience with the Heat upon entering the league, hes confident that hell be able to fit in quickly.

Ive played for Pat Riley, one of the best in the league, so I dont think hell be much tougher than Pat. So, Im just looking forward to having the opportunity to play for Coach, Cook said. Coach Riley was a great coach and now I get the opportunity to play for Coach Thibs, whos an up-and-coming great coach, as well.

Even if Cook doesnt see the court much this seasonbarring injury to the shooting guards ahead of him in the rotation, though his signing could make starter Rip Hamilton more expendable as next months league-wide trade deadline loomswith his youth and ability to spread the floor, his half-season stint could be a somewhat of an extended tryout for the future.

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NBA Buzz: In wake of trade deadline, Bulls again caught in the middle

NBA Buzz: In wake of trade deadline, Bulls again caught in the middle

Thursday's trade with Oklahoma City points out the problem with trying to stay in playoff contention while also rebuilding the roster with more young and athletic players.

The Bulls obviously hurt their postseason chances by dealing locker-room leader and rock-solid pro Taj Gibson and their best 3-point shooter in Doug McDermott. And, at first glance, the players they got back don't look very impressive.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson made it clear that one of the objectives in Thursday's deal was to free up playing time for his last two first-round draft picks, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis. He also made it clear that newly acquired point guard Cameron Payne would play a lot over the final 25 games of the season.

So, how does Fred Hoiberg now deal with an unwieldy number of players expecting to get minutes? If Payne is going to play, that probably means Rajon Rondo is out of the rotation. But will Rondo sit by quietly so the Bulls can preserve his $14 million salary slot for possible trades this summer? Or will the front office be forced to offer him a contract buyout?

And what about the other two players acquired in the Oklahoma City deal? Long-range specialist Anthony Morrow is suffering through one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting just 29 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. Will he get the minutes previously given to McDermott, or is he a candidate for a buyout? Paxson cryptically said Morrow's role is "still to be defined."

Joffrey Lauvergne, a 6-foot-11 center, has some ability, but he's a restricted free agent at season's end and it's hard to project him getting any meaningful playing time behind Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio.

So let's add it all up. Hoiberg now has four point guards — five if you count Isaiah Canaan — and three centers to juggle, plus he'll have to find minutes for Valentine, Morrow and Paul Zipser at the wing spots behind Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.

How will Portis fare as the new starting power forward? And what to do with Nikola Mirotic? His fading confidence is probably at a new low after the team's failed efforts to find him a new home before the deadline.

It will be fascinating to see if this team can manage to hold onto a playoff spot after losing Gibson and McDermott, to say nothing of the maddening inconsistency we've witnessed over the first 57 games of the season.

Good health will be critical, with the team's two best players, Butler and Wade, each enduring some bumps and bruises in the final weeks leading up to the All-Star break. We've seen what the Bulls look like without Butler, and it's not pretty. They're 1-5 in the games Butler missed because of illness and a right heel contusion.

The story is different when Wade has been out. The Bulls are 5-4 in the games he's missed because of illness, injury or just plain rest. Still, the 12-time All Star has shown the ability to raise the level of his play when the games matter most, and you can expect he'll be a big factor for the Bulls down the stretch. Don't forget, Wade almost single-handedly took an undermanned Miami team to within a win of the Eastern Conference Finals last season with a turn-back-the-clock playoff performance.

Hard to gain much from looking at the remaining schedule. Only 11 of the remaining 25 opponents have winning records, but we've all seen how that's gone in the past. If the Bulls can head into April around .500, they should be in position to make a strong closing run with a pair of matchups against the NBA's worst team, Brooklyn, along with games against the Pelicans, Knicks, 76ers and Magic to close out the regular season.

Of course, since Hoiberg has been told to give significant minutes to Portis, Valentine and Payne the rest of the way, it's possible making the playoffs isn't quite as important as it was at the start of the season. Questions about Butler's future will start up again as we approach the NBA Draft in June since Paxson wouldn't commit to trying to build around the three-time All Star, and if Butler goes, it's a pretty safe bet that Wade follows him out the door.

Life's never easy in the NBA when you're stuck in the middle. Maybe the trade with Oklahoma City is the signal we've been waiting for that a full rebuild is on the horizon.

[MORE BULLS: What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne]

Here are a few stories from around the Association that have caught my attention.

Off to see the Wizards

The Wizards have been on fire since Dec. 12, putting together a 25-12 record. In case you haven't noticed, fourth-year forward Otto Porter is among the league leaders in 3-point percentage, shooting 46.5 percent to go along with 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. It's going to cost the Wizards a small fortune to sign the restricted free agent this summer.

Washington's backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is finally starting to reach the potential everyone saw when the Wizards upset the Bulls in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. The two are combining for an average of 45 points and 14 assists per game, with Wall now a perennial All Star capable of taking over games with his scoring and playmaking. Beal probably should have made the Eastern Conference All-Star team as well with his 22.2 points per game scoring average, shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from behind the 3-point line.

The Wizards also made an under-the-radar pick-up, getting Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn for a first-round pick in this summer's draft. You probably haven't watched a lot of Brooklyn Nets basketball over the last couple years, but Bogdanovic is a good 3-point shooter who can also score off the dribble, averaging 14 points a game this season, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3-point range. Bogdanovic will be a major upgrade for a Wizards bench that's struggled this season.

Moving to Canada

Toronto made two good moves before the deadline, acquiring a starting power forward in Serge Ibaka and a backup small forward in P.J. Tucker. Ibaka's ability to block shots and stretch the floor from the 3-point line should help the Raptors on both ends, while Tucker gives them another strong perimeter defender to go along with DeMarre Carroll in a possible playoff series against LeBron James and the Cavs.

LeBron loading up

Speaking of the Cavs, they're expected to add former Illini star Deron Williams to their bench once he clears waivers and completes a buyout with Dallas. Williams gives Cleveland the additional playmaker James has been demanding for the last couple months and sets up a potentially epic Finals matchup against Golden State. Williams gets a chance to compete for a championship late in his career, and he's still capable of being a difference maker in big games, averaging 13 points and seven assists per game. Cleveland is now loaded in the backcourt with Kyrie Irving, Williams, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and swingman Kyle Korver.

No luck for the Celtics

The one contending team that didn't make a move at the deadline is Boston. Danny Ainge talked trade with the Bulls about Butler and with Indiana about Paul George, but in the end he wasn't willing to give up those precious Brooklyn first-round draft picks he's been hoarding for years. Keep in mind the Celtics reportedly love University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz, who's expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, and they'll have enough cap room to make a run at free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played for Brad Stevens at Butler.

Even with the addition of Butler or George, the Celtics might not have been able to take down King James and the Cavs in this year's playoffs, but they are still lurking as the rising power in the East. Now, we'll all have to wait to see what Ainge does in the days leading up to the draft.

Quote of the week

Gibson gave the Chicago media one last lengthy session before boarding a private jet with McDermott to their new home in Oklahoma City.

On his time in Chicago: "Every day I came to the locker room just seeing my name on the back of a Bulls jersey was a dream come true."

So what will it be like to join a new team after eight and a half seasons in Chicago? "I'm like a kid going to a new school. I don't know where to sit on the bus."

Something tells me Russell Westbrook and the Thunder will let Gibson have any seat he wants.

Good luck in Oklahoma City, Taj (and Doug). You will be missed by Bulls fans and media.