Bulls Have Carmelo Anthony to Thank for Roster Ready to Make NBA Title Run

NEW YORK — NBA free agency is a wicked game of musical chairs, a wild rumpus of dollar signs and tangled destinies, each player’s decision affecting the next one down the line.   

The results, and the resulting what-ifs, never cease to fascinate.   

The Chicago Bulls wooed Carmelo Anthony in July, offering limited money but unlimited possibilities, an invitation to play with All-Stars and a chance to compete in May and June. When Anthony turned them down, electing to stay in New York for a greater payday, the Bulls settled for their second choice, Pau Gasol.

Before choosing Chicago, Gasol heard pitches from title contenders (in Oklahoma City and San Antonio), and one impassioned plea from Knicks president Phil Jackson, his mentor and friend, who badly needed a trusted hand in New York.

They all reunited Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden to open a new season, and the results were illuminating.

The Bulls, with a healthy Derrick Rose and a talent-rich roster, and bolstered by Gasol’s interior scoring punch, thoroughly humiliated the Knicks, 104-80, throwing into sharp relief the decisions made in the heat of summer.

Anthony recommitted himself to the Knicks, choosing a hefty contract ($124 million over five years) over the chance to contend in Chicago. In doing so, he tied himself to a franchise in transition and a roster in disarray. Jackson and his new coach, Derek Fisher, might eventually return the Knicks to respectability, but it will not be anytime soon. There are too many holes, too many mismatched pieces and a frightful dearth of talent beyond Anthony.

The Knicks are struggling to adapt to Jackson’s famed triangle offense, but they could master it tomorrow and it would not erase their obvious structural flaws. This team needs an overhaul that cannot happen until next July.

The Bulls’ time is clearly now, and they have never looked more ready to chase the crown. Though they coveted Anthony, they should perhaps thank him for turning them down.

An Anthony pact would almost certainly have meant jettisoning one or more key pieces. Instead, the Bulls quickly pivoted to Gasol, signing him to a three-year, $22 million deal that represented a fraction of what Anthony would have cost. They retained their core of Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, re-signed Kirk Hinrich, brought over Nikola Mirotic from Europe and signed Aaron Brooks, giving them the deepest team in the Eastern Conference.

None of that would have been possible had the Bulls signed Anthony to a deal averaging at least $20 million.

Gasol fits the Bulls as seamlessly as expected, and his debutan effortless 21 points and 11 reboundshad to send goosebumps through general manager Gar Forman and his staff.

“Huge,” said Rose. “It’s huge. It eased the game.”

And that, after all, is what the Bulls’ greatest objective was this summer, with Rose coming back from knee surgeries and a dire need for an offensive boost, someone to ease Rose’s burden. For the last two years, Chicago survived, and even thrived, on defense alone, while ranking among the worst scoring teams in the league.

Gasol represents the interior scoring threat the Bulls have never had and remains an effective option, even at age 34.

“Plays where you need a great shot and you know that anything isn’t rolling for you, you can easily dump it down and space out,” Rose said. “If you double-team, it’s going to be a wide-open shot, a wide-open three. … It makes the game easy for everyone.”

When Gasol was on the bench, Gibson kept up the assault, with a mix of layups and mid-range jumpers and a final line of 22 points and eight rebounds. Chicago now boasts the best big-man rotation in the NBA, and Gibsona sixth man who could start for most teamsis superior to any big man in the Knicks’ rotation.

“It was really their interior presence that caused us some problems,” Fisher said, sounding a bit wistful, and understandably so.

For nearly five years, Fisher and Gasol were Los Angeles Lakers teammates, advancing to three straight NBA Finals and winning two championships. Jackson coached those teams. Few people know Gasol’s talents and character better, which is why Jackson made Gasol one of his top priorities in July.

But the Knicks had neither the salary-cap room nor the competitive appeal of Gasol’s other suitors. Choosing between Chicago, San Antonio and Oklahoma City was “probably the most difficult decision that I made in my career and in my life,” Gasol said, but turning down the Knicks’ offer was purely practical.

“I considered it,” Gasol said. “But I thought the team was not at the level of others, other contenders and options that I had. I’m coming down to my last few years of my career, and I want to maximize them. And it was difficult to leave L.A. in the first place. But now I feel like I’m in a great position, and we have a great opportunity, and now let’s see if we’re lucky and we deserve to do something special.”

That depends, as ever, on Rose and his surgically repaired knees, but it may be time to stop placing that qualifier on every Bulls assessment. Rose was a tad erratic Wednesday, going 3-of-7 from the field with three turnovers, but the old explosiveness was back.

He was a blur in transition and split Knicks defenders repeatedly in the half court, tagging Iman Shumpert with two early fouls and earning eight trips to the foul line for the game.

This is what Anthony passed up in choosing the Garden’s riches once more. The Bulls offered a perfect complementary cast, an elite playmaker in Rose, dedicated defenders in Noah and Gibson, a decorated coach in Tom Thibodeau. Instead, Anthony found himself complimenting that group for bottling him up all night, holding him to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

The Knicks offense should improve with time and familiarity with the triangle, and they surely missed point guard Jose Calderon (out with a strained calf), who might just be their second-best player. But as Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal said earlier this week, in his ever-colorful way, the triangle functions best with “two bad mothers” (i.e. two superstars), and the Knicks only have one.

When the music stopped in July, this is the fate Anthony chose, and we are just beginning to see the ripples and the consequences. The Knicks won the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. But in getting their second choice, the Bulls won the summer.

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.

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Bulls vs. Knicks: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

From an individual perspective, Derrick Rose‘s regular-season return to the NBA was a mixed bag. He looked sloppy and at times self-conscious offensively and made a few mental errors defensively, relying on his teammates to pick up the slack.

Luckily, the Chicago Bulls now have the cavalry to do just that.

Pau Gasol had a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds), and Taj Gibson led the way with 22 points off the bench as the Bulls ruined the New York Knicks‘ Madison Square Garden opener with a 104-80 win.

Rose, playing a regular-season game for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus last November, had 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes. Tom Thibodeau kept his minutes to a minimum in the second half when the game got out of hand. The 2011 NBA MVP added five assists and got to the free-throw line eight times, a promising sign heading into the rest of the season.

Still, this was a night where Chicago would have been A-OK without its star player.

Using its treasure trove of bigs to its advantage, the Bulls out-rebounded New York 47-38 and had 10 offensive boards. Gasol, playing in his first game since coming over from the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, was accountable for four second chances. The Spaniard looked right at home on both ends of the floor, oscillating back and forth between the two big positions with ease.

Knicks president Phil Jackson, who coached Gasol with the Lakers and tried to recruit him to New York this summer, said his all-around game will be a boost on both ends in Chicago.

“In my coaching tenure, he made a wonderful difference with that team, liked to play, liked to pass, liked to combine with his teammates and enjoy the game and the city and was a person the fans really took to in Los Angeles. I think he’ll be the same in Chicago,” Jackson told Sam Smith of the Bulls’ official website.

The underrated byproduct of Gasol’s arrival is that it allows Gibson to stay in a sixth-man role, in which he looked overqualified Wednesday night. Active on both ends of the floor, Gibson was the leader of a brilliant bench effort, making 10 of 12 shots and grabbing eight rebounds. Chicago’s second unit was at time reminiscent of the 2011-12 “Bench Mob,” with Gibson providing the rim protection while Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks controlled the perimeter.

Brooks, the latest in a line of Thibodeau reclamation projects at point guard, had 13 points and six assists off the bench.

McDermott, one of two high-profile Chicago rookies making their debut Wednesday, finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The former National Player of the Year already appears to have the respect of NBA defenses, as the Knicks defenders largely stayed at home whenever he was in the game. Nikola Mirotic, the highly touted Spanish import, had five points and appears to be the clear fourth big in the rotation.

The Bulls bench outscored their counterparts, 55-37, as New York’s talented offense struggled to get anything going. Jason Smith had eight points, but microwave scorers J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting. Smith has had a particularly frustrating couple of weeks, shooting 33.9 percent during the preseason and struggling to grasp Derek Fisher’s triangle offense.

“Being the type of player I’ve been, it’s a struggle,” Smith told reporters last week. “I’m not going to lie.”

The Knicks as a whole seemed still in the infancy stages of the triangle, an intricate offense popularized during Jackson’s tenures in Los Angeles and Chicago. Possessions were often highlighted by a lot of listless passing, stagnating before leading to a contested mid-range jumper. One of the most prolific three-point shooting teams during the team’s 54-win campaign two years ago, New York shot made only three of its 17 shots from long range.

“We’ve had some conversations with J.R. and a number of our guys,” Fisher said, per Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. “It’s an instinctive game, and our players haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

Carmelo Anthony, who spurned the Bulls this summer to re-sign a five-year deal in New York, had 14 points in his season debut. Anthony, like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant before him, is expected to have relative autonomy to break out of the triangle. At least for one night he appeared unwilling to do so, taking a relatively low number (13) of shots.

Amar’e Stoudemire (12 points, eight rebounds) was the only other Knicks starter in double figures. New York shot 36.5 percent as a team.

The Knicks and Bulls each opened their season without a key starter. Jose Calderon was a surprising scratch with his lingering calf injury, while Jimmy Butler will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left thumb, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

The Bulls, as has become a yearly tradition, replaced one of their staples with Kirk Hinrich. Second-year guard Shane Larkin received his first NBA start in place of Calderon. Both turned in nondescript performances, with Larkin finishing with six points and Hinrich 12.

It’s unlikely either player would have made a difference before the despondent MSG crowd. For both teams, opening night seems like a statement on where the respective franchises are in their development. Rose’s return to the floor came and went with a forgettable stat line, and the Bulls’ infrastructure didn’t miss a beat. Anthony didn’t show up and his team got The Reaper.

We’ll have to see if this is a sign of things to come or a case of overreaction theatre. Given we’re a single game into both teams’ seasons, it’s probably a little bit of both.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Gasol, Bulls blow out Knicks in Rose’s return (Yahoo Sports)

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 29: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball against the New York Knicks during a game at Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 29, 2014. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds in his Chicago debut, Derrick Rose scored 13 points after missing most of the last two seasons, and the Bulls spoiled Derek Fisher’s first game as an NBA coach by beating the New York Knicks 104-80 on Wednesday night. Reserve Taj Gibson finished with 22 points to lead the Bulls, who with a wealth of frontcourt depth didn’t even need a big night from Rose. The former MVP took only seven shots and had five assists in 21 minutes in a game Chicago led by as much as 35. Carmelo Anthony had 14 points for the Knicks, who won’t have it any easier in the second half of their season-opening, back-to-back.


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Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

With the NBA season just two days old, the New York Knicks will host the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night as each team looks to kick off its 2014-15 campaign on the right note.

After failing to make the postseason in 2013-14, the Knicks will debut their new-look squad headlined by rookie head coach Derek Fisher.

Like their opponents, the Bulls spent the offseason revamping their roster, adding veteran big man Pau Gasol to a star-studded roster. Former MVP Derrick Rose will look to lead his potential powerhouse squad from the get-go after missing a significant portion of the past two regular seasons.

Though expectations are certainly higher for the Bulls, both rosters have the potential to compete as the season progresses.

For now, they’ll look to get the upper hand out of the gate.

Keep it locked here on Bleacher Report for live commentary, analysis and highlights.

 

Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

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Bulls to reduce Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah’s minutes

The Chicago Bulls firmly believe that they will compete for an NBA championship this season now that they have a healthy Derrick Rose back, and they also added Pau Gasol to the mix this past offseason. While Rose looks healthy, he is expected to be on a bit of a minute count alongside of Joakim Noah who has had a bothersome knee so far this year.
Thibodeau indicated Rose and Noah will play similar minutes to end of preseason (both approx. 32 minutes vs. Timberwolves). — Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 28, 2014
Obviously 32 minutes per game isn’t that much of a minute count, but it could come into effect in longer games and back-to-back situations. Rose has looked very healthy in preseason action, but it has been very obvious that Noah has been dealing with nagging knee issues. It’s a good idea to keep both players on minute counts to keep their risk of injuries down as much as possible. Rose was only able to play in 10 regular season games last season before another knee injury put him out for t

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Why 2014-15 Bulls Are Chicago’s Best Shot at NBA Title Since Michael Jordan Era

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls don’t like to talk about the future. Two phrases head coach Tom Thibodeau repeats practically every time he talks to reporters are “You can’t skip any steps” and “The magic is in the work.” Since he came to Chicago, Thibs has preached patience, process and persistence.

“The results will take care of themselves” is his mantra.

But as much as he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, it’s impossible to look at this reloaded Bulls team and not see a group with the chance to be special.

As the regular season gets ready to tip off, the Bulls don’t want to hear about their rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They don’t want to hear about the Eastern Conference being a two-horse race. They think they can win a title, but they don’t want to hear anybody declare them the favorites.

“It’s loaded,” said Taj Gibson. “Everyone’s talking about Chicago and Cleveland, but you’ve got to look at the Raptors. You’ve got to look at the Knicks, Brooklyn, the Hornets got better, Washington got better. The East is going to be deep this year.”

Last year, Joakim Noah called the 2013-14 Bulls the most talented team he’d ever been a part of. That was before Rose went down with his second season-ending knee injury in two years, when the sky seemed like the limit for the Bulls. Noah was right — on paper, that team was the best Bulls team of his era.

This one is better. It’s arguably the most talented team that’s taken the floor at the United Center since the end of the Michael Jordan era. And they may never have a better window to win their seventh championship, and first without Jordan, than now.

Only two Bulls teams of the post-Jordan era have seriously contended for a title: the 2010-11 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and the following year’s team, who finished with the best record in the conference before Rose went down with a torn ACL in the first round. Those teams looked a lot like this one: lots of depth, lots of defense and one of the NBA‘s deadliest scorers.

Season Record Result
2010-11 62-20 Lost to Miami in Eastern Conference Finals
2011-12 50-16 (lockout) Lost to Philadelphia in first round
2006-07 49-33 Lost to Detroit in second round
2013-14 48-34 Lost to Washington in first round
2004-05 47-35 Lost to Washington in first round
2012-13 45-37 Lost to Brooklyn in second round
2008-09 41-41 Lost to Boston in first round
2009-10 41-41 Lost to Cleveland in first round
2005-06 41-41 Lost to Miami in first round

This year’s Bulls are helped by a weaker Eastern Conference. In 2010-11, besides the fledgling Heat superteam, Chicago also had to contend with the KG/Allen/Pierce Celtics and a very good Dwight Howard-led Magic team. Now, as much as the Bulls players want to downplay it, it’s them and the Cavaliers at the top of the heap, and the Bulls have the edge in experience and cohesion.

When LeBron James made the decision to return to Cleveland this summer, he shifted the balance of power to the midwest. The Cavs’ status as heavy title favorites was only solidified with an August trade for Kevin Love. With two of the league’s top 10 players and Kyrie Irving not far behind, the Cavs are going to be a terror on offense.

But James has been careful to temper expectations for his new superteam coming out of the gate, and the Bulls are a team perfectly suited to jump on any vulnerabilities they may have.

It took James longer than expected to gel with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their first season together in Miami, and that was with two veteran stars with playoff experience and a rock-solid defensive foundation.

James’ new running mates in Cleveland, meanwhile, have never been to the postseason, are considerably younger than the 29-year-old four-time MVP (Irving is 22, Love is 25) and are coached by David Blatt, who has never coached in the NBA before.

Outside of James and 36-year-old Shawn Marion, they don’t have much in the way of defense. There’s going to be a getting-to-know-you period before the run of dominance begins.

Which is why if the Bulls are going to prevail in the Eastern Conference and contend for a title, this is the year to do it.

The Bulls have the depth. They upgraded the starting power-forward spot from Carlos Boozer to Pau Gasol. They have two rookies with long-term upside who can also help this season in Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. Last year’s offense post-Rose injury was anchored by scrap-heap pickup D.J. Augustin; this year’s backcourt sparkplug off the bench is Aaron Brooks, a proven scorer who can play both guard positions.

The defense is still there. Chicago has finished in the top five in defensive efficiency in each of Thibodeau’s four seasons as head coach, and the core that has gotten them there — Noah, Gibson and Jimmy Butler — remains in place.

And, most importantly, Rose is back. Rose was back last year, too, but this time it feels different. Last year, the 2011 league MVP was actively trying to prove wrong his doubters, forcing things on the offensive end and playing unnaturally. Now, with a second rehab and summer of FIBA play under his belt, he’s able to just focus on basketball. And on this roster, he’s not going to have to carry the entire scoring load himself.

“With the threats that we have, we try to make the game as simple as possible,” Rose said. “I’m not going to overuse myself.”

When Rose went down last year, the Bulls had nowhere to turn for scoring. By the end of the year, with Rose out and Luol Deng traded to Cleveland, Augustin was their leading scorer. They were a 48-win team on the strength of their defense, but they finished 28th in the league in offensive efficiency, scoring just 99.7 points per 100 possessions.

This year, even if the unthinkable happens and Rose gets hurt again, they have a better, more diverse offense. In Gasol and Noah, they have two of the NBA’s best playmaking big men. McDermott and Mirotic bring outside shooting that was sorely lacking last year. Brooks can score in a variety of ways. They may have fallen short on this summer’s pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, but they succeeded in adding plenty of scoring firepower and youth without sacrificing the defense and experience that has kept them competitive.

“We have a good blend,” said Thibodeau. “We have some older guys that have had some very good experiences, and of course Pau having won a couple championships, Nazr [Mohammed] has won a championship, Mike Dunleavy has been around a long time, Kirk [Hinrich] has been a part of some good teams. So I think that veteran leadership is important for any team. I want a team of leaders. I want them to share their experiences with each other and help drive this team forward. I do like our blend.

“And then we have some guys that are sort of in the middle. I look at Joakim and Derrick now, and they’re no longer young players. They’re in the middle. And of course we have the young players that have won big. When you look at a guy like Doug, his experiences have been very good, not only in college, but with USA Basketball, so that adds a lot to our team.”

A lot can happen between now and June, but these Bulls like their chances to be there playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. And with this roster, it’s hard to blame them.

 

Sean Highkin covers for the Chicago Bulls for Bleacher Report.

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Will Pau Gasol Be Odd Man Out Again in Chicago Bulls Frontcourt?

The Chicago Bulls have an embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt, and they’re starting to figure out just how uncomfortable that embarrassment can be.

The Bulls didn’t need to add four-time All-Star Pau Gasol to the fold this offseason. They already had a productive, cohesive frontcourt combo in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, plus intriguing stretch 4 Nikola Mirotic set to make his NBA debut.

Similarly, Gasol had other options to call his basketball home outside the Windy City. He was said to be on the radar of the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. A door was also opened for Gasol to return to the Los Angeles Lakers on an eight-figure salary, per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin.

That said, something brought the two sides together. Gasol told reporters he had “prioritized being on a championship-caliber team.” Bulls general manager Gar Forman lauded the fact that Gasol has “been a championship-caliber player.”

Both parties sought one another for the same reason, but that won’t make the transition a smooth one. Not with Noah, Gibson and Gasol all deserving of starting and closing minutes that only two can fill.

In a full embrace of his diplomatic duties, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been attacking this issue at every opportunity.

He told reporters at training camp he saw all three interior players “as starters.” He added that “we have three guys…that I know we can finish with.”

Thibodeau has maintained that the key is each player’s willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the team. As he explained, this is a fluid situation that will impact every player involved:

There will be times when Pau may sit, Taj may sit, Jo may sit, they have to put the team first. When they’re in there, do everything they can to help the team win, and when they’re not in there cheer your teammates on, know what’s going on in the game, be a great teammate. And we’ve always had great spirit here, and I think it goes back to the leadership of our main core guys that have been around.

For the core that is so well-versed in Thibodeau‘s way, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Despite whispers of his unhappiness, Gibson has said he is ready and willing to reprise the reserve role that nearly netted him Sixth Man of the Year honors last season:

“Sitting wouldn’t be hard at all because we’re all trying to win a championship,” Gibson said, per Johnson. “Things are going to happen and we just have to follow what the coach says. I’m cool with that. However the game is going or if Thibs feels he sees someone playing better than me, that’s fine.”

For a franchise that has survived (essentially) two lost seasons for its face, Derrick Rose, by relying largely on effort and chemistry, Gibson’s team-first attitude hardly comes as a surprise.

Gasol may well be chasing the same goal as Gibson, but the 34-year-old has a different take when it comes to sacrificing critical playing time. Unlike Gibson, Gasol has been the guy for an NBA team before, so falling from that role to that of a crunch-time spectator might be more than he can handle.

“I like to be on the floor when the game is on the line,” Gasol told reporters after a recent practice. “That’s what I’ve been getting paid for my entire career.”

If that comment sounds even vaguely familiar, it should. Gasol raised similar concerns during the 2012-13 season when the Lakers found it was easier to move him to the bench than try to fit both him and Dwight Howard into former coach Mike D’Antoni’s perimeter-oriented offense.

While some players see starting as nothing more than a status, closing a contest is different. With the clock ticking down and a limited number of possessions available, teams need to maximize the value of each trip. That leads most coaches to deploy their five best players down the stretch, though there is some wiggle room open for offensive and defensive substitutions.

A lot of late-game roster decisions wind up being based on matchups, but some players are talented enough to stay on the floor regardless of the situation. Gasol seems to think he is one of those players and recently explained that it’s never a good thing to be taken off the floor in the final minutes.

“That’s not a good sign when you’re put in that position because the coach doesn’t rely on you to deliver in those minutes,” Gasol said. “So, basically, he doesn’t trust you. He trusts someone else to do the job. So it’s not a good sign for you.”

Truth be told, this isn’t a matter of trust or bad omens. Rather, potentially pulling Gasol late in games may have far more to do with the level of talent that now surrounds him.

With Gibson and Noah, the Bulls have as good an interior defensive tandem as any team in the league. With those two on the floor, Chicago surrendered just 97.2 points per 100 possessions last season. Each player has the size and physicality to bang underneath and the quickness and athleticism to defend away from the basket, so the Bulls don’t have to form their defensive plan based around an opposing offense.

Few teams have such a luxury, and Chicago would be wise to exploit it. If the Bulls need to nurse a narrow lead through crunch time, a Gibson-Noah frontcourt could be the best way to protect it.

Thibodeau has wisely left the door open when it comes to his closing five. But as ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell wrote, the smart money rests on Thibodeau eventually passing over Gasol in favor of two far superior defenders:

It would come as a big surprise if Noah and Gibson weren’t on the floor together when the game mattered most. Thibodeau has repeatedly praised Gibson as being arguably the Bulls’ best fourth-quarter player. Noah is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. That leaves Gasol as the odd man out on most nights. 

There may be a situation here or there when the Bulls need more offense and Thibodeau decides to leave Gasol in longer down the stretch. But more often than not, Thibodeau is going to go with the guys he trusts most. As history has shown, he’ll almost always lean toward a more defensive-minded lineup late.

The defensive gap between Gibson and Noah and Gasol is staggering.

Of the 75 players who faced at least five shots at the rim per game last season, both Gibson and Noah finished among the 15 stingiest in terms of field-goal percentage allowed (44.9, eighth, and 47.2, 14th, respectively), per NBA.com’s SportVU player tracking data. Gasol tied for 65th by allowing a 54.8 percent conversion rate.

Gasol’s inability to protect the basket is particularly concerning given the way Father Time has curtailed his effectiveness in other defensive areas. He was never the fleetest of foot and has lost a lot of lateral quickness he couldn’t afford to give up.

In other words, Gasol won’t do a lot other than guard the rimand even that has been an issue.

While some may think Gasol’s offensive skill set might justify his defensive deficiencies, this team may not need as much scoring help as it would seem.

Between Rose’s return, the development of the incumbents and the offseason arrivals of Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks, the Bulls should pack a mighty offensive punch. Gasol can add something to that attack, but his talents aren’t exactly a seamless fit alongside Noah’s.

Gasol has lost some of his low-post power, and his real estate under the rim could be crowded given Noah’s lack of a mid-range shot. Both are great at finding off-ball cutters, but even that gift could be hard to unleash with limited spacing.

Gibson, on the other hand, can play well off anyone. He doesn‘t need touches to be effective, whether he’s finishing lobs above the rim or doing damage on the offensive glass.

With Rose back to dominating the ball and Noah having proved himself as a creator, the Bulls could have a hard time getting Gasol’s best without limiting their other players. Given the sacrifices they would already be making at the opposite end, they might run short on reasons to give Gasol heavy minutes down the stretch.

He can still play a valuable role as an offensive safety valve or a second-team focal point throughout the game, but the Bulls could get a greater two-way impact from Gibson at closing time.

If Gasol sees that as a demotion or an overall loss, that’s really unfortunate. If it’s the best option for the Bulls, it should be the best option for him.

And if decides to buy in, this is an incredibly good “problem” to have. With three solid options—four if Mirotic is ready—to fill two spots, the Bulls should have ready, rested players for any situation.

But Gasol has to realize what he should have noticed when he signed on the dotted line: These Bulls might really enjoy having him around, but they were championship contenders before he put pen to paper.

It’s his responsibility to find his place within the franchise. The Bulls will not and should not alter their winning formula just for him.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Bulls exercise option on Snell (Yahoo Sports)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls have exercised their third-year option on guard Tony Snell for the 2015-16 season.

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Chicago Bulls Need To Send A Message In NBA Opener

The playacting is done.  Preseason is over.  The Chicago Bulls see their NBA quest unfolding in New York, and they have to send a message.
Remind Carmelo Anthony What He Could Have Joined
First of all, and perhaps a bit selfishly, the Bulls need to head into Madison Square Garden with a chip on their shoulder.  After all, they pulled out all the stops in order to convince All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony he would’ve been a perfect fit with them in Chicago.  Instead he chose to stay with the New York Knicks for more money.  It was an honest choice, but that should not stop the Bulls from giving him a nice, stark reminder of what he could’ve joined.
Win On The Road Brings Good Confidence
More importantly though is the game itself.  No team likes to start off an NBA season with a loss.  The Chicago Bulls are no different.  Nothing is a guarantee for them in this matchup, but it’s in the Big Apple with the national media watching.  A win on the road to start the year would do wonders for their conf

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Top 10 Michael Jordan Moments With Chicago Bulls

It was 30 years ago that the Chicago Bulls placed their future in the hands of a young guard from North Carolina named Michael Jordan.  Nobody at the time understood the magnitude of what had occurred but over the course of the next 14 years the man would paint one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of professional sports, not just NBA basketball.  He did everything from score to defend to lead to trash talk and did it all better than anybody on the planet.
A lot of people these days still can’t comprehend how much Jordan means to the sport of basketball, never mind the Chicago Bulls fans.  He borders on god-like status, or perhaps an olden day boogeyman if you live in Cleveland or Salt Lake City.  The point is every challenge that was thrown his way, he met and overcame.  Rookie of the Year.  Defensive Player of the Year.  Top 5 scorer of all-time.  Five-time league MVP.  Six-time world champion.  Six-time Finals MVP.  There really isn’t that much to say about what he did that his hig

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