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Back from London, Forman stresses team as the theme

With the Bulls back from London now sporting a record of 2-0 in the preseason, hear from GM Gar Forman on the positives from the trip, bringing Luol Deng along for the regular season, and how the rookies, James Johnson and Taj Gibson, have progressed thus far.

Bulls GM Forman stresses team as the theme

Bulls in London "“I thought it was a great bonding experience for our guys to be together," Forman said of the team's recent trip to London.

Gar Forman Forman

Bulls GM Gar Forman will be checking in at Bulls.com twice a month to share his thoughts on the team now until the end of the 2009-10 season.

Last week: Top priority for Bulls from day one is defense

Bulls.com: Wins don’t mean all that much in the preseason, but nonetheless, 2-0 isn’t a bad start. What are your thoughts on the team’s play in the first two games?

Gar Forman: “You’re right in that wins and losses aren’t all that important this time of year. At the same time, they are keeping score, and when you’re out there playing, you want to win the game. But it’s more about guys starting to get their feet under them, and we get a look at the younger guys. We’ll see different rotations that Vinny [Del Negro] may want to use during the year. With the veterans, we bring them along at a little slower pace. There are a lot of things you focus on, but it’s still nice to win some games.”

Derrick Rose Rose won't play Saturday in Green Bay, but his right ankle injury isn't expected to keep him out of action too much longer.

Bulls.com: The team just returned from a four-day, 8,000 mile round trip to London. What positives came from that experience?

Forman: “I thought it was a great bonding experience for our guys to be together. It wasn’t a normal road trip, and we had a lot of activities as a group. First of all, flying together for that many hours gave us a chance to spend a lot of time with each other. We had a dinner with our sponsors, and a number of the guys went to a soccer game with Luol. It’s a good thing this early in the year to spend time together like that. Also, we allowed the players to bring their wives or girlfriends, and it was nice to create that kind of atmosphere. Then with the sponsors on the trip, I think they enjoyed it, but I also think our players enjoyed being around them and having the chance to interact. All of those things were positives from making the trip.”

Bulls.com: The visit to the UK was a homecoming for Luol Deng, has played well thus far and experienced minimal pain in his return from a stress fracture. What’s the approach to bring him along as the exhibition season progresses?

Forman: “As we get closer to the regular season, I think his minutes will increase. There is no set timetable; we just want to bring him along slowly. But we’re doing that with most of our main guys. We don’t anticipate anyone playing 35-40 minutes in these first four or five preseason games. As it is with some of the other guys, we just want to make sure his feet are under him, especially with Luol because he hasn’t played in quite awhile. But he looks good. He’s moving fine, and it just takes some time to get back into a rhythm. He’s played well the first two exhibition games and he has done well in practice. He spent a lot of time this summer working on his body, and he has put on some good weight. His body fat is down, and it appears to us that he is healthy and ready to go.”

Bulls.com: The Bulls have missed a few of their regulars, as Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas have sat out most of this week with nagging injuries and John Salmons didn’t make the trip to London so he could stay at home with his expecting wife. Is that of any concern to you, or is there adequate time for them to get into their rhythm in time for their regular season?

Bulls in London at the O2 arena "The flow and the energy in practice have been very good and also very consistent," said Forman of the team's first two weeks.

Forman: “I think there is enough time. Being so early into the preseason, we aren’t going to rush anyone back. We want them to get 100 percent healthy before playing. With Derrick and Tyrus, neither of their injuries is anything serious. Tyrus returned to practice [on Friday], and we’re anticipating Derrick will be back sometime next week. As for John, his wife still hasn’t had their baby, so he’s still waiting. But he’ll make the trip to Green Bay for Saturday’s game.”

Bulls.com: Both of the team’s first round draft picks, James Johnson and Taj Gibson, have shown signs early on that they’ll be able to contribute this season. Gibson finished with 19 points and nine rebounds at Indiana, and Johnson had 18 and eight, plus the game-winning shot to beat Utah in London. Are you pleased with their development and what you’ve seen from them on the practice court?

Forman: “We’ve seen a lot of encouraging things from both James and Taj since summer league. We gave them a week off after it ended, and they’ve been at the Berto Center ever since. Both of them are serious about getting better and business-like in their approach. We’re optimistic because of those things. When you come in at this level, you really don’t know what to expect. But they are going about things in the right way. They have both been good in practice. Obviously, some of the guys who have been here are more familiar with what we’re doing on the floor, so there has been a learning curve where they have been getting used to how we do the things we do. The effort out of James and Taj has been consistent. We know there will be peaks and valleys in regards to their play, but they’ve both shown the potential to help us this season.”

Bulls.com: As training camp opened, you said that the team’s top priority is defense. How is that being addressed, and are you happy with the progress that has been made so far?

Taj Gibson "The effort out of James and Taj has been consistent," Forman said of the team's rookies. "We know there will be peaks and valleys in regards to their play, but they’ve both shown the potential to help us this season."

Forman: “The thought process initially was to simplify what we’ve been doing and emphasize some basic, fundamental things as far as what we want to do defensively. We’ve spent a lot of time on that end of the floor and there’s been accountability to what is being taught. The flow and the energy in practice have been very good and also very consistent. It normally is the first week of camp, but we’ve maintained it into our second week. Now the key is to maintain that energy and consistency two weeks from now, a month from now, and two months from now. We’re setting a tone as far as having that defensive mentality and wanting to get better, and so far, it’s been good.”

Bulls.com: Besides the commitment to defense, what else do the Bulls need to do in order to take another step forward this season?

Forman: “We’ve got to play as a unit. I don’t think it will be just one or two guys that will carry us. Different guys will have to step up on different nights. It’s going to have to be a collective effort, and that doesn’t just apply offensively, with ball movement and finding the open man. We need to come together defensively as well. Individual defenders are important to have, but a lot of what we’re doing employs a team defensive philosophy with help built in. Hopefully guys will be on the same page and play as a unit.”

Bulls.com: How would you describe your working relationship with EVP of Basketball Operations John Paxson now on a day in, day out basis?

Forman: “It’s very similar to how it has always been. John and I have great communication between us and we’re very open. There is a trust level that has been established from working together over the years. We talk a number of times on a daily basis on a number of subjects. We’re working towards the same goals, and that is doing what is best for our team from both the short-term and long-term perspective.”