Thibodeau talks roster after multiple contracts expire

Thibodeau talks roster after multiple contracts expire
February 1, 2014, 7:15 pm
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NEW ORLEANS—Letting the 10-day contracts of Cartier Martin and Mike James, respectively, expire this week isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

The Bulls now have 12 players on the roster and while point-guard depth behind D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich might be a little thin, they’ll eventually sign a league-minimum 13th player. It should be understood, however, that financial considerations were a factor in letting the two veterans go.

Martin was picked up almost immediately by his former team, Atlanta, while James traveled with the Bulls to New Orleans and participated in Friday’s practice at Tulane University before leaving the squad.

“Well, Cartier we had to let go. His second 10-day [contract] was up. We thought he did a terrific job for us and again, we have to wait to see if there’s a possibility of bringing him back. We’ll see how it unfolds. A lot of it’s going to be based on need, but I really thought Cartier did a great, great job for us and not only in the one game where he played a significant role, but what he did every day in practice. His readiness to play, smart into the game, great team spirit, all the things that we value,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained.

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“We’re going to see where we are and I think you guys know how we feel about Mike. I don’t know how many times we brought him back, but Mike’s a great veteran, he’s done a great job for us, stays ready. We know he knows the system, he knows the players. Just a great pro. I like having him around.”

But according to a source, some of the motivation for not extending either player are bonus incentives in the contracts of All-Star center Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson that the two could meet this season, including making the NBA’s All-Defensive Team, an honor Noah received last year. Although the Bulls got under the luxury-tax threshold with January’s trade of Luol Deng to Cleveland, the aforementioned bonuses could push them over the edge, which also means that trading the likes of veterans Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy Jr. before this month’s trade deadline are still possibilities.

“Yeah,” Thibodeau said, when asked about the Bulls’ potential roster additions. “Everything’s fluid.”

[MORE: Bulls: Is Taj Gibson on the trading block?] 

That shouldn’t be taken to mean Gibson, the subject of recent trade speculation, is going anywhere anytime soon. A person with knowledge of the situation informed that the Bulls are “more buyers than sellers” as the deadline approaches and while Gibson—equipped with a trade-friendly contract and in the midst of a career-best campaign—has certainly attracted the attention of suitors around the NBA, simply trading him for cap space to prepare for free agency is an idea that has some trepidation behind it, based on the same maneuver not working as precisely as hoped back in the summer of 2010.

Thibodeau also broke down what he claims the process between himself and the Bulls’ front office is like.

“The way that works is this: I don’t want—when something gets close or they think there’s something there that makes sense, they’ll come to me,” the coach explained. “But every conversation they’re having, I don’t know about, nor do I want to know about. I think it’s important for me to be focused on the guys that we do have and this time of the year, that’s all normal. We’re going to get calls because we have good players. They have to take those calls. They have to weigh whether something makes sense, whether it doesn’t and then, if they think it does, they’ll get my opinion on it and that’s all I can ask for.”

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“You’re in constant communication, so I hear things, too. What I hear, I pass along. We’re always talking about our team. I think that’s important. You’re always thinking. The important thing is to understand how you feel about your team. I love the team that we have. I think that we have more than enough to win with. I love the fighting spirit of our team. I think we’re improving. I think we have a long way to go. There’s a lot of room of improvement,” he continued.

“It’s not like you’re in one box and management’s in another box. You’re always talking to each other, so you bring ideas to them, they bring ideas to you. So ultimately, you want what’s best for the team, so there’s constant communication. So I’m good with what we’re doing.”