Kurt Helin

Jimmy Butler, Fred Hoiberg, Joakim Noah

Bulls with new coach, old questions as training camp opens


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.”

Kobe reiterates he doesn’t know if it’s his last year


If you hear anyone saying “Kobe Bryant is going to retire after this season” or “Kobe is coming back next season” you should know they are talking out their… well, the side of their mouth. They don’t know.

How could anyone know — Kobe himself doesn’t know.

He reiterated that at Lakers media day Monday, as reported by Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

“If it is, it is,” Bryant said. “If it isn’t, I’ll be ready for next season. I don’t spend too much time thinking about it. I’ve got enough to think about.”

Kobe also said he doesn’t know what will ultimately sway his decision.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bryant said. “I’ve thought about it a little bit in terms of, what is the deciding factor? How do players actually know when it’s time to hang them up, truly? Everybody kind of gives [the media] the standard cookie-cutter answers — relaxing, golfing, spending time with the family, things like that. But, really, how do you truly know? And I don’t know. I’ll have a much better answer when that time comes for me.”

He’s going to play out his 20th NBA season and see how it goes. And he’ll answer variations of the retirement question 3,674 times this season.

I disagree with Phil Jackson on one thing — if Kobe comes back for season 21, I don’t think he will play for a team other than the Lakers. While Kobe’s competitiveness and desire to add to his ring collection is unquestioned, he also is concerned about his brand and his legacy. Part of that is having played 20 years with one franchise and going down as arguably the greatest Laker ever. Kobe watched the Jordan years in Washington and said “not me.” He watched Karl Malone and Gary Payton come to the Lakers to chase rings and still fall short (Payton did get a ring in 2006 with Miami). I can’t see Kobe leaping to Cleveland/Golden State/Oklahoma City/wherever to be the fourth wheel on a contender. He’s going to ride into the sunset a Laker.

The only question is when?

Another report Denver likely to sign Mike Miller

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Not long after it was announced the Trail Blazers were going to buy out Mike Miller as expected, Denver came up as a potential landing spot, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Now comes more confirmation that once Miller clears waivers on Wednesday he is likely headed to the Mile High City, this time via Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that Miller, who was formally waived Monday by the Portland Trail Blazers, is poised to sign a one-year contract with the Nuggets barring any late snags.

Miller has two rings from his years in Miami, he’s a former Rookie of the Year, and he’s a well-respected veteran in the locker room. The Nuggets have 14 guaranteed contracts, so they have the roster spot, and like him enough to have gone after him in the summer of 2014 (Miller chose to chase a ring with LeBron James).

Still, it’s a bit of an odd fit. Denver is a team in transition with Emmanuel Mudiay coming in to run the point, some quality players such as Danilo Gallinari, and some guys who could be moved such as Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler. Miller, if he can stay healthy again, gives the Nuggets a little wing depth, but he’s not likely to see a ton of run.

Will Drummond wait on extension to help Pistons?

Andre Drummond
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Way back in the middle of July, just after the initial flurry of free agent activity had subsided, Pistons’ Big Kahuna Stan Van Gundy said they would start to talk contract extension with Andre Drummond. Because the Pistons are fully committed to Drummond, and he is a clear max contract guy, this should have come together quickly.

But as we reach the end of September, there is no deal.

What gives? Drummond wasn’t talking at Pistons’ media day, but Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press explains the situation well.

“Everybody comes to a point in time in their career when they are going to deal with contract situations, and it’s better that I keep it as a personal thing and just focus on what I can control right now, which is making my team better,” Drummond said on the eve of training camp…

The Pistons would like to wait and put off the extension until next off-season. If Drummond agreed, his hold of only $8.2 million would count against the 2016-17 salary cap, not the $20-million hold if he were to sign before Oct. 31.

The Pistons could use that roughly $12 million during the league’s free agency period – and then use their Bird Rights on Drummond to go over the salary cap and retain their own free agent.

The Pistons are asking Drummond to do what the Spurs asked Kawhi Leonard did for the Spurs to help them sign LaMarcus Aldridge. He held off on his extension for a year, which gave the Spurs some financial flexibility, and then they came back at the end with the expected max contract.

However, that comes with risk for Drummond — if he were to suffer a severe injury this season he might never see that money. Notice that this summer a number of top players, including Kevin Love and Anthony Davis, took security over a potentially larger payday.

If Davis pushes for the security, the Pistons will give him the extension now. It’s just something to watch going forward.

Kings’ Karl, Cousins call their relationship “solid”

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings

Nothing to see here, move along.

After a summer where things were frosty in the desert of Las Vegas between Kings coach George Karl and their star player DeMarcus Cousins (Karl was talking to other teams about potential trades, something the front office was not down with), but the two men sat down and everything is good. At Kings’ media day Monday, everyone stuck to that script, as noted by Blake Ellington of Sactown Royalty.

I think Rajon Rondo summed it up well at Summer League when saying he had a good relationship with Karl so far.

“We haven’t played any games, coach Karl hasn’t kicked me out of any practices yet, so we will see how it goes,” Rondo said with a smile.

And that’s where we are with the Kings — it’s the first day of training camp and everything is good. Everyone is saying the right things, everyone is on the same page. If the Kings can continue to do that when they go on a losing streak, or when Rondo/Cousins disagree with Karl, then maybe this team can pull together a surprising season. But they’re going to have to prove it.

For now, things are just solid.