CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls have a new coach and the same old questions as the season draws closer.
Most of the group is back from a team that won 50 games but was ousted in six games by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bulls will conduct their first training-camp practices Tuesday under new coach Fred Hoiberg, who replaces Tom Thibodeau.
On Monday, general manager Gar Forman praised Hoiberg for building relationships with the players.
“You can see the players responding to it,” Forman said. “And I think the players are as excited as we are about everything Fred’s going to bring to the table. He’s had a great summer. Our guys have responded and that’s been a real positive.”
Under the defensive-minded Thibodeau, the Bulls were one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams but never reached the NBA Finals. With Derrick Rose struggling to stay healthy, Chicago couldn’t match its strong regular seasons with similar playoff results and some thought Thibodeau’s emphasis on regular-season wins took a toll as the postseason wore on.
Hoiberg will be asked to reverse the playoff disappointment with a stable roster, despite being in the same conference as LeBron James and the Cavaliers. He inherits a roster with Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and a veteran group that’s done everything except go all the way.
“It’s a great opportunity, obviously, with the group we have here, with the veterans, with the young group that I think has a tremendous upside and try to mesh all that talent,” Hoiberg said. “You don’t walk into many of these situations to have a team that can compete at the highest level.”
Though Rose is entering camp after a summer of training instead of rehab, Chicago has its share of health-related questions. Mike Dunleavy underwent back surgery Friday and was expected to miss 8-10 weeks but said Monday he hasn’t put a timetable on his recovery. Taj Gibson underwent left ankle surgery in June and said he’s hoping to play in the Oct. 27 regular-season opener against Cleveland.
“I’ve been feeling good the last couple weeks. It’s about getting back into game shape,” Gibson said. “I haven’t really been able to run for three months, so these last couple weeks have been really tough. But it’s been a learning process, and I’m taking it slow.”
Rose has said similar things in the past. After undergoing surgery last season on a torn right meniscus in February, Rose returned in time for the playoffs and said it felt good to be working out in Los Angeles instead of rehabbing over the summer.
He also scoffs at people who doubt how good he is, that he won’t be able to match what he did when he won the 2010-2011 MVP.
“I can’t get caught up into that. I know I’m great,” Rose said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t know I’m great, that’s the thing. But it’s cool. I know I can hoop.”
Rose might have raised some eyebrows with a comment about preparing for being a free agent, which he won’t be until the summer of 2017. He clarified that he’s focusing on staying in Chicago and that he’s doing it all for his son.
“Even though we’re all right, we’re comfortable, when you talk about that x-amount of dollars, I think it raises everyone’s eyebrows,” Rose said. “So there’s nothing wrong with being over-prepared.”