There was a new practice facility, new faces and the return…… of championship expectations during the annual Bulls’ media day on Monday.
Those expectations still orbit around Derrick Rose.
With Rose having missed much of the past two and a half years, any championship aspirations have been just that. With the point guard healthy again, added depth, shooting, experience, still completed in an improved – but still weak – Eastern Conference; the mantra is back to win now.
Of course, Rose still will have to regain his form, something he struggled to do this summer with Team USA.
“I can sit here and say a million times, ‘I’ll be fine,’ ” Rose said. “But the only way to answer all the critics and everyone asking about me is to actually be on the court and playing.
“With the threats that we have, I’m going to try and make the game as simple as possible. I’m not going to try and overuse myself. I think that just learning the game, being a student of the game, I think it’s actually going to help me become a better player with learning the offensive sets, learning the defensive sets and just time management, knowing when to score, when to get people involved.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Rose’s offensive rhythm will come back when he has a normal minute-rotation, and with added depth, Rose expressed that the offensive burden that has been cast upon him for most of his career should be a lot lighter with the new pieces. He also has the experience of last season in which he seemed hellbent on quieting doubters and playing his way back into form.
“With the threats that we have, I’m going to try and make the game as simple as possible,’’ Rose said.
“It’s no disrespect to my old teammates, but I think the team we have right now talent-wise is a much stronger team than we had last year.”
No matter the added depth and talent, the Bulls enter training camp with some issues.
Coming off of offseason knee surgery to remove cartilage, Joakim Noah spent his summer rehabilitating and it’s not known how limited he will be during training camp. However, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been playing 3-on-3 for weeks, and Thibodeau said Noah feels fine.
Jimmy Butler is also eligible for a contract extension. General Manager Gar Forman said that negotiations between the Bulls and Butler’s representatives are ongoing. The two have until Oct. 31 to come to an agreement, or Butler can become a restricted free agent next summer.
It will be a critical season for Butler, who struggled offensively last season in his first full season of getting regular playing time. Affecting Butler’s chances to make amends on that side of the floor this season will be greatly reduced with Rose back, the addition of Pau Gasol and shooters Doug McDermott and Mike Dunleavy. Forman said the organization values Butler, but if Butler’s camp is asking anything in the range of what Chandler Parsons (3-years, $46.23 million), Gordon Hayward (4-year, $63 million) or Lance Stephenson (3-year, $27 million) received on the market this summer, Butler will most likely enter restricted free agency next summer.
With the experience on the roster, it’s nice to talk winning a title again, but all emphasized that the work put in from now until June will be what’s key in realizing their ultimate goal.
Confidence to do so is the highest it has been since the 2011-12 season, after the team had reached the Eastern Conference Finals the year before.
“We have an opportunity here where it may not be this year, it may not be next year,” Rose said, “but I know I’m going to win a championship soon.”