Bulls' patience in hectic times should pay off

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Bulls' patience in hectic times should pay off

Bulls management hasn't made waves in NBA free agency thus far the way some observers expected, and for that, fans of the team should be somewhat grateful.

While the departure of Kurt Thomas to Portland and Keith Bogans being unlikely to return to Chicago subtract two important, if underappreciated veterans from last season's cohesive, 62-win regular-season squad that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, at least the organization has generally steered clear of a bizarre post-lockout period that's already been wilder than Saturday's ugly Xavier-Cincinnati brawl.

While general manager Gar Forman didn't exactly deny the team's interest in acquiring disgruntled (or not?) Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, the fact that detailed information of the organization's pursuit of the reigning three-time Defensive Player of the Year hasn't leaked means that either the front office is doing an excellent job of playing its cards close to the vest or Forman's claim of wanting to keep the club's nucleus together is accurate.

Besides, with the hullabaloo Howard has caused as of late--an alleged meeting in Miami with the Nets' braintrust, reportedly asking for a trade, insisting he'd prefer to remain in Orlando, but only if changes are made--is drama the Bulls can do without, especially at the risk of irritating speculated trade bait Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, among others, just before a season in which they are expected to be a title contender.

Instead, the focus has been on making less high-profile additions, such as veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton, who was officially waived by the Pistons on Monday, is expected to sign for the mid-level exception--two years for 10 million--and should be in Chicago this week, likely by Wednesday. While Hamilton has declined from his past All-Star days, he offers a legitimate scoring threat next to Derrick Rose, championship experience, solid team defensive principles and allows Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to keep the effective "Bench Mob" second unit intact.

Another subtle move made by management was re-signing Brian Scalabrine, a reliable locker-room presence and pseudo-assistant coach, to a non-guaranteed contract; the veteran forward reportedly settled his situation with FIBA after playing professionally in Italy during the lockout.

Most importantly, however, the Bulls will likely soon agree to terms with Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history, on a five-year contract extension, made more lucrative as a product of his namesake rule, negotiated in the newly-ratified CBA.

Forget how the Bulls' patience, rather than rushing into an ill-advised bidding war for a mediocre crop of free agents (Hamilton is still at least close to the same level of many of the so-called top players at the position on the market), has already paid off; their wise choice to stay out of the chaotic mix to chase Howard--let alone Chris Paul (whose trade to a second L.A. team seemingly won't happen, this time because the league reportedly pushed the Clippers for one asset too many in promising young guard Eric Gordon for the NBA-owned Hornets; perhaps to encourage Paul to remain in New Orleans?) or Chauncey Billups (the floor general, amnestied by the Knicks, was snatched off waivers by the aforementioned Clippers, in the wake of the veteran's weekend comments to Yahoo about being frustrated by the situation), not that either of those players were options for Chicago--and virtually stand pat, assuming the Hamilton deal gets done and they add a veteran big man, so far looks to be a winner.

While teams like defending champion Dallas (adding productive veterans Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West), New York (former Bulls center Tyson Chandler via the Mavericks, with the potential Cavaliers amnesty casualty Baron Davis looming), Miami (Shane Battier and a wild card in another ex-Bulls center, Eddy Curry) and even Indiana (underrated power forward David West, erstwhile Bulls talking point O.J. Mayo and draft-day acquisition George Hill) have certainly improved, the team with the league's top record last season--as Rose said Sunday, "Maybe people forgot"--will be just fine.

Making adjustments nothing new for new Bulls star Dwyane Wade

Making adjustments nothing new for new Bulls star Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade has always had eclectic tastes in threads, but considering the career adjustments he’s had to make, the 34-year old might decide to be a tailor when he hangs up his Way of Wade kicks.

Going from point guard to shooting guard after his rookie year? No problem.

Assuaging the sensitive ego of Shaquille O’Neal after O’Neal’s rocky breakup with Kobe Bryant? Child’s play.

Allowing LeBron James to take over his team and his city after two seasons where he averaged 28 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals? Sure, since it meant more rings.

Adjusting to his knees robbing him of his transcendent explosiveness? Excuse him while he walks to meet the media with both knees wrapped in ice — while wearing a smile.

Being introduced first, second or last? Doesn’t matter, as long as Tommy Edwards says “from Chicago” as a nod to Wade’s hometown roots.

So in making the biggest geographical change to date, moving back to Chicago after 13 years in Miami, Wade is prepared to shift again — even if it means being a 3-point shooter, even if it means playing different roles to suit the changing needs of this roster.

“My game translates anywhere,” Wade said after Wednesday’s morning practice, “I’ve played with so many different players before. I’m not worried about that. It’s me trying to understand offense, understand what we’re trying to do. Get to know my teammates. But I know where my sweet spot is, when to get aggressive, etc. One thing I’m trying to get used to is that 3-point shot is going to be open a little bit more for me, and coach is telling me to shoot it. That’s a little new era for me.”

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Bulls fans probably remember Wade hitting his share of devastating 3-pointers against them over the years, even though his 386 career makes only account for .05 percent of his made field goals.

There was the four-point play in Game 5 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals at the United Center when Wade’s Heat stormed back late to clinch a trip to The Finals. Very few can forget the heartbreaking, buzzer-beating running triple after a blindside steal from John Salmons in the 2008-09 season, so it’s not that he lacks the ability.

The Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors found that out last spring when he hit 12 in 14 playoff games for the Heat.

“In the playoffs they take things away, right,” Wade said. “In the regular season, you play so many games teams sometimes don’t get a long time to prepare for you, so they may try and take one thing away.”

The logic was followed by a little hubris, earned considering he’s risen to such heights without having to rely on it.

“For me a lot of people have talked about me not shooting threes, but no one has been able to take away what I wanted to do. So why would I do something else?” Wade queried. “But then when you take it away I have the ability to knock it down. I’m not Doug McDermott. I’m not Niko (Mirotic). But I’m comfortable with the shot, and I’m going to shoot it. I know it’s going to be there, so I have a better chance of knocking it down. Coach has been on me about it.”

Wade will have to take the shot to keep defenses from sagging too far down on Jimmy Butler drives, and the hope is Butler goes back to shooting 38 percent from the long line as he did in 2014-15 as opposed to the 31 percent he shot last season.

For things to work in a potentially awkward situation, Wade has to be willing to step a little outside himself and seems prepared to.

“Normally I had to be the guy that would put it on the floor, but more so than that just pick my spots,” Wade said. “Understand when to be aggressive, but I’m a play-maker as well. I’m always looking to make plays for my guys.’’

Wade understands Fred Hoiberg’s offense is more equal opportunity than isolation-based but knows the instances will come when he must be the primary scorer — particularly late when he’s one of the league’s premier fourth-quarter scorers.

“Last year I averaged 19, the other 21.5. I can score, that's fine with me,” Wade said. “I'm willing to do whatever it takes. Scoring is one of those things that comes natural. It just depends on how high field-goal percentage I shoot. I'm not concerned about that. If coach wants me to score, then thank you.”

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

With eight new players and likely three new starters for the Bulls, an adjustment period of roles has started to take place in the opening days of camp.

Shot creators turn into shot makers.

Full-time ball handlers revert back to being part-time dominators.

First-time leaders are supplemented by experienced leaders who bring an instant credibility and speak with a bluntness that wasn’t as present last year—even from the coach.

A new tone of sorts was set when Dwyane Wade didn’t give the stock “nobody cares what happened last year” spiel after being asked if he wondered about what went wrong on the floor and off with the Bulls.

“You ask the guys that were here last year, how rotten it was,” Wade said. “You want to hear from their perspective, whatever it was last year from the standpoint of losing. You don't do that. I come from a different place and a different culture. Things are done differently different places. So I sat down and listened to guys.

“But the thing is, some of the things they talked about I know are not going to take place. Not while I'm here, not while (Rajon) Rondo's here, not while Jimmy (Butler) continues to grow as a leader.”

It adds light to some of the thoughts that Butler expressed after Tuesday’s first practice, and what anyone with a set of eyes could see last season when the Bulls looked like a fractured group that didn’t enjoy playing with each other anymore.

There wasn’t outright disdain, but some of the damaged relationships were never repaired as the season went on. Putting that into an alphabet soup with losing, bad habits and injuries and it spelled out “something’s gotta give.”

“You definitely gotta like each other. If you don’t, and you can say this doesn’t happen, but I feel like if you don’t like a guy you’re not going to pass him the ball,” said Butler, who had some rocky moments last season as a leader. “I think there’s a lot of liking on this team. Like I said, everybody wants everybody to be successful. Do we like each other too much? I hope so.”

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Refreshing honesty is a change at the Advocate Center, with Wade and Rondo being the adults in the room. The two have the latitude from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to stop practice to get on guys, and they did so Tuesday.

“You just want to cut down all the chatter; it’s early,” Rondo said. “Only a couple of guys should be talking in practice. As far as disrupting when they do stop practice, coach has the voice then assistant coach has the voice and then the older players.”

It’s not a surprise given Hoiberg won’t be one change his ways overnight, and having a player-run team are often the most successful, assuming everyone is on the same page.

It sort of speaks to Bulls vice president John Paxson’s statement on media day about the Bulls’ rebuilding their culture from the ground level.

“You talk about last year, but at the same time, last year doesn't matter,” Wade said. “We have a different core, and I think our culture is fairly different. We have guys now, Rondo's won a championship, I've won championships, we demand respect on the court. But we've got a lot of young guys as well, so they'll listen.”

Wade and Rondo have both said the Bulls are Butler’s team, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be wallflowers if they see things they don’t like. Wade has been a vocal leader in some form for the last decade and Rondo has rarely, if ever, held his tongue.

Rondo, along with being a primary facilitator for Butler to make scoring easier, imparted some wisdom to help Butler in his ever-evolving role as a leader.

“Not doing it with my mouth but with my actions, being consistent; I told Jimmy a leader can’t pick and choose when he wants to lead,” Rondo said. “He has to come out every day, every practice; we’re having two a days. If you are down, need something to get your head right, you have to bring it every day, every day.”

Hoiberg said there has to be a mutual respect amongst the team, which can lead to chemistry and camaraderie.

“It takes a lot of those moments when we all make mistakes and the coach is on us, that's when we come together,” Wade said. “In the locker room, when we're in there talking about anything, talking about whatever. it takes a lot of being on the road, traveling together. You're on a road trip, you go out dinner together. It's going to take a lot of moments to get the chemistry that we need.”