CHICAGO (MCT) — For two, victory-filled regular seasons, the focus remained squarely on basketball.
The Bulls won games — plenty of them — and a professional locker room featured solid responses off the court as well.
That will change Monday when the Bulls stage their media day in advance of the opening of NBA training camps Tuesday.
Though talks continue and progress has been made, Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman could be answering questions about a lack of a contract extension for the 2011 Coach of the Year, whose club option for this season was picked up earlier. And Derrick Rose’s knee will be a more popular topic than his skills.
So the Bulls will be dealing with off-the-court issues for the first time in Thibodeau’s tenure. Here’s a look at those issues and two others facing the Bulls, who will go 46-36 this season — unless they don’t.
So what’s up with Thibodeau’s extension?
It would seem the biggest no-brainer in offseason history, particularly when the Thunder provided a comparable example then they signed Scott Brooks to a four-year, $18 million deal. The Chicago Tribune reported on draft night in June that the sides differed on years and money and little has changed, though the gaps have closed. Both sides continue to indicate they would like the relationship to continue.
Brooks and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle coached out their last contracts before re-signing. One guarantee is Thibodeau won’t let it distract his singular focus. And expect short answers from him on the subject come Monday.
When will Rose return?
Feb. 21 against the Heat. Or maybe Feb. 22. Or maybe the next game. The point is: Nobody knows. And despite an insatiable desire from fans to know exactly when, this isn’t a daily update type of story.
By all accounts, including Rose’s, the rehabilitation from anterior cruciate ligament surgery in his left knee is going well. After the May 12 surgery, team physician Brian Cole said Rose would be sidelined eight to 12 months. What does seem certain is Rose will play at some point, as much for mental as physical reasons.
To lessen the distraction, Rose will busy himself with rehab rather than traveling to all road games. And Thibodeau will call him day-to-day all season.
What can be expected of the Bench Mob?
For starters, there will be a new nickname because Taj Gibson is the only returnee. Arguably the team’s second most important commodity the last two seasons behind Rose, the bench was dismantled.
Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson only signed minimum deals with the Knicks and Nets, respectively, and now Brewer is out with an injury. The biggest loss likely will be Kyle Korver, whose shooting and heady play landed him with the Hawks.
Management believes it upgraded the team’s athleticism with Marco Belinelli and he and Vladimir Radmanovic can combine to fill the shooting void. The loss of Omer Asik will hurt, though Nazr Mohammed and possibly Kyrylo Fesenko — if he is signed for good in November — will fill the fourth big man role.
Gibson’s role will increase, with Thibodeau saying over the summer he could play some backup center in smaller lineups.
The Bulls will sign a 14th player in late November, and if it’s not Fesenko, figure another point guard. Marko Jaric has worked out for the team recently.
How’s the health besides Rose?
Luol Deng remains on track to fulfill his goal of either avoiding surgery on the torn ligament in his left wrist or postponing it until after this season. Joakim Noah, who worked with Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the offseason, is back from his ankle injury. Richard Hamilton has had a strong offseason following his injury-plagued first season with the Bulls. And Kirk Hinrich, who spurned the Bucks to re-sign with the team that drafted him, has been working out at the Berto Center all summer, confident the injury woes that plagued him in Atlanta are gone.
With just 13 players to start the season, the Bulls will need to stay healthy. A regular 82-game schedule could help.
Let the games begin.