Bulls ready to play ball in Las Vegas
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NBA summer league is something like baseball’s low minor leagues, except with much better night life — and day life as well — given the NBA is in Las Vegas this week. Baseball hires a bunch of guys to make up a team so one or two guys being prepared for the major leagues will have someone to play with.
And so it is for the Bulls, as they open summer league play Tuesday at 9 p.m. central time against the Boston Celtics. Second-year forward Jimmy Butler and rookie point guard Marquis Teague will be the stars, or at least the most watched, as the Bulls hope to begin the process of bringing both into the playing rotation for this season.
“Our first priority is our own guys, Butler and Teague, giving them some experience and starting to get their feet wet in getting then ready for the NBA veteran camp,” said Bulls assistant, Adrian Griffin, who is coaching the summer league team along with venerable assistant Ron Adams. “Jimmy is the more experienced, but he didn’t have summer league last year (because of the labor lockout). Training camp was cut and we didn’t practice as much. So this really is his first go around as far as getting an opportunity to show what he can do. He’s been working really hard, has been in superb shape and we’re looking for him to have a great camp.
“Marquis Teague, this is everyone’s first real look at him,” said Griffin. “I’ve always believed the toughest spot in the NBA to play is point guard. There are so many responsibilities. But that’s also why a guy like Jason Kidd has been able to play as long as he has. There’s not a lot who really master a system like that. So Teague does have a journey ahead of him, but he has all the tools to be a polished NBA player—quickness, explosiveness and his outside shot is better than people think. And he will get better. He probably will have to be more consistent at the NBA three point line, but he has two of the best coaches in the league to work with in Tom Thibodeau and Ron Adams, and that’s going to help him.”
As for coaching, Griffin is getting some notice as well. Griffin met with Portland Trail Blazers’ officials in Las Vegas Monday to interview for the head coaching job. Although Portland is conducting several more interviews, his session was said to have gone well.
Although Griffin said he and Adams haven’t settled on starters for the opener Tuesday, it’s certain Teague will be at point guard and most likely Butler at small forward.
“Jimmy’s natural position is at three,” said Griffin. “We want to keep him comfortable at that position, but he can play two as well. For next season, we want to make sure he feels comfortable at that position.”
Although Luol Deng has been telling team officials he doesn’t expect to have surgery on his torn wrist ligament until after next season, there’s always the possibility that could change with Deng playing for Great Britain in the Olympics. If Deng has to have surgery, there’s a chance Butler would be the starting small forward, at least to open the season.
Teague has a chance with Derrick Rose out at least half of next season to grab some backup point guard minutes even with the Bulls expected to add Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls reportedly have committed to Hinrich and there are several ways they could pay him through various exceptions.
Now, the Bulls are believed to be waiting until an expected offer sheet from Houston on Omer Asik. But Hinrich’s addition seems a certainty. It remains unclear whether the Bulls would match on Asik with a big balloon payment of about $15 million in the third season. So the Bulls also are considering various free agents at center and shooting guard, though indications are not including any of the bigger names.
Teague could find himself pushed into duty, even as Thibodeau likes to bring along rookie slowly. So Teague is getting a bit of a crash course in NBA point guard 101.
“With young guys, you want to see how fast they comprehend and transfer onto the floor what you are teaching,” said Griffin. “During the season, there’s not as much time to teach and re-teach. The game is coming so fast. You need to understand how teams are playing you. Are they going under screens, getting the angles, are you OK on the reads, the pocket passes? Where’s your pull up jumper coming from, your floater? Running the team, getting the ball there on time and on target and where your shooter wants it. Those are things we’ll be looking for.”
The Bulls will probably start veteran Leon Powe at center or power forward, along with 6-9 Malcolm Thomas from San Diego State. Thomas plays similarly to Taj Gibson, and Thomas stood out in the mini-camp the team had last week. Both he and Powe could make the team or at least be invited to training camp in October. They’ll likely start up front and are two players worth watching.
The Bulls also have liked Ramone Moore of Temple at shooting guard and he could fill out the starting five for the first game. Jermaine Taylor, who was with Houston, also should get a look at shooting guard. He has not been known to have great range, but he supposedly shot the ball well back at the Berto Center last week.
Former Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey will get a look, but the Bulls added another point guard late, Darion “Jake” Anderson from Iowa State. Anderson is from Chicago and played at North Illinois before transferring and has looked good in workouts.
“We have a lot of young guys with potential,” said Griffin. “It should be a good week.”
2012 CHICAGO BULLS NBA SUMMER LEAGUE SCHEDULE
|July 17||9:00 p.m.||Boston||COX Pavilion|
|July 18||5:00 p.m.||Houston||COX Pavilion|
|July 20||7:30 p.m.||Golden State*||Thomas & Mack Center|
|July 21||7:30 p.m.||L.A. Clippers*||Thomas & Mack Center|
|July 22||3:00 p.m.||Milwaukee||COX Pavilion|
ALL TIMES CENTRAL
*Indicates broadcast LIVE on NBA TV