LAS VEGAS — While he refused to comment on Pau Gasol coming to Chicago — even after being informed of the veteran big man’s own admission — Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau did address other issues pertaining to free agency before the team’s Saturday-night summer-league opener against the Clippers at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Regarding the Bulls’ ultimately failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony — the Knicks small forward elected to remain in New York, according to various reports Saturday — Thibodeau wasn't specific but did talk about the free-agent process as a whole.
“This time of the year, John (Paxson, the Bulls’ executive vice president) and Gar (Forman, the Bulls’ general manager) have talked to a number of players. You make your presentation. We feel we have a lot to offer. We feel we have some good options, and we’re looking forward to the challenge for next year,” the coach explained. “I feel our pitch with all the players that we’re talking to have gone well. You tell them about the team. The character of the players on the team is what we’re selling. It’s a great city, great organization. We feel in the end we’re going to be fine.”
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Thibodeau didn’t directly talk about the Bulls players' individual recruitment efforts — All-Star center Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both were heavily involved in the pitch to Anthony, while former league MVP Derrick Rose had a lesser role — but acknowledged the strategy as a whole.
“They did a great job, and that’s the way it is today in the NBA. The players all know each other. They’re all going to be talking to each other. And then everybody has to do what’s best for themselves. This time of the year, some players change teams. Some players don’t. But we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “This is what the NBA has become. Once the playoffs are over, then there’s the buildup for the draft. The next phase is free agency. I think it’s exciting for everyone. Everyone looks at the possibilities. Everyone is trying to improve their team. So it makes it interesting. The important thing is you also have to look at the guys you do have. It’s important for them to continue to work and prepare for the upcoming season, and then whoever we end up with, we’ll figure out what the strengths and weaknesses of the club are, and we’ll prepare accordingly.”
The aforementioned Rose, after initially looking rusty earlier in the week while participating in practices with the summer-league team at the Berto Center, showed flashes of his previous form as time went on, something Thibodeau confirmed in his own unique way, also indicating that the point guard will be present in Las Vegas later this month for USA Basketball mini-camp.
“Yes, he had a very productive week. That was the next step, and so he’ll continue to work and the next phase will be here with Team USA,” said Thibodeau, who doubles as a national team assistant coach. “He’s going step-by-step, doing great, and he’s looking forward to it.”
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When it came to the topic of 2011 first-round pick Nikola Mirotic, Thibodeau slipped back into his vague mode when discussing the 23-year-old Spanish forward, who is widely expected to play for the Bulls next season.
“John and Gar have been in contact with him for a long time. We have his draft rights. Hopefully something will be worked out. At some point hopefully he will come, and we’ll see where he is,” the coach said.
As far as free agency in general, Thibodeau’s answer was telling when he was asked about the Bulls’ summer thus far.
“Again, you start with the guys that you do have. Hopefully, we’ll continue to add pieces. The perimeter is something we want to address, and we’ll see what we can do,” he said. “As I said, there’s still a long way to go. Until we’re finished, we’ll see where we are.”