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Bulls team captains lead by example

As the Bulls prepared to tip-off the regular season, General Manager Gar Forman sat down with Bulls.com to discuss Derrick Rose’s return to the starting five, the team’s three captains, and the rise of the Eastern Conference.

John Salmons

"John plays with a real nice pace to him, meaning he can play through contact and he can create for not only himself, but others, and he always seems to be in control on the floor," Forman said of Salmons. "He’s an ultimate professional and we were thrilled to get him." (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Gar Forman Forman

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

Bulls.com: The big question on a lot of people’s minds with the regular season here is Derrick Rose’s right ankle. Does he appear to be getting close to 100 percent healthy? Are you worried this injury could linger throughout the season, or once it is done, will he be able to move forward for good?

Gar Forman: “We think he’s ready to go. He’s had almost a full week of solid practice now. He looks good, he’s moving well, and he’s not having as much soreness or pain. We’ll monitor his minutes and keep close tabs on how he feels, but he will be the starter on Thursday. Our medical staff has been very cautions with him because we want to handle this properly. We wanted him to be in a position to come back at or close to full strength and not have it as a lingering problem. We know he has wanted to play very badly, but we had to keep the big picture in mind.”

Bulls.com: Are you concerned about the team’s chemistry and rhythm given Rose’s injury, along with the others throughout the preseason, with a difficult first month of the regular season?

Forman: “It does factor in. We would have loved to have everybody healthy throughout camp and preseason. But at the same time, most of our guys have played together already. They had the chance to develop a rhythm and a feel for each other’s game after we traded for John [Salmons] and Brad [Miller] last February. Those experiences will help make up for not having a fully healthy group in October.”

Derrick Rose

Forman on Rose: "He looks good, he’s moving well, and he’s not having as much soreness or pain. We’ll monitor his minutes and keep close tabs on how he feels, but he will be the starter on Thursday."
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Bulls.com: Earlier this week, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Lindsey Hunter were named team captains. What can you say about how you expect each player to bring to that role?

Forman: “First of all, I like how Vinny does it in letting the players select the captains. All three players bring something different to the table and lead in their own unique way. They all have different roles, but they are all team first guys who will lead by example and vocally. I really do like the mix of our captains. Luol, Kirk and Lindsey are all extremely hard workers who put in the time during the season, and over the offseason. They are here early and stay late, and that’s a real positive. They also interact well with the other players on the roster. Lindsey is probably the most vocal. He’s obviously got a lot more experience, having been in the league 17 years now. Even though he may not play a major role in some people’s eyes, he is of great benefit on the bench getting points across to our players during games, and off the floor he takes great pride in being a mentor. Kirk, as a point guard, is a little more vocal on the floor. He’s been here a long time and he understands what is expected and what it takes for us to be successful. Luol leads by example with his work ethic. He’s also becoming a little more vocal on the floor and is becoming more comfortable in a leadership role.”

Bulls.com: Taj Gibson really impressed during the exhibition season, bringing a consistent and remarkable effort every time he’s on the floor. What kind of role do you envision for him moving forward? Will his presence push Tyrus Thomas that much harder?

Forman: “On any team, you want competition between your players at every position. It makes your team better when guys on the second team can push guys on the first team. But Taj has been terrific. The thing I love about Taj is that he dances every dance. He plays every play, and not just in games. It’s every day in practice, whether it is a scrimmage or a drill. He gets in a defensive stance, he talks, he moves his feet, he’s active, and he changes ends of the floor really well. That gives him a chance. Defensively he’s got very good instincts, and he seems to always be around the ball challenging shots. He’s also got the ability to consistently knock down 15-foot shots and he’s good in the pick-and-roll, which we run a lot. Taj will have an opportunity to help us this year.”

Bulls.com: John Salmons is a guy who doesn’t get a lot of publicity and quite often flies under the radar. What can you say about John, the type of person and player that he is, and what you expect from him this season?

Taj Gibson

"Defensively he’s got very good instincts, and he seems to always be around the ball challenging shots," said Forman of Gibson. "He’s also got the ability to consistently knock down 15-foot shots and he’s good in the pick-and-roll, which we run a lot. Taj will have an opportunity to help us this year."
(Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

Forman: “As far as the person and the player, John has a really strong base to him. He is as solid and professional as they come, on and off the floor. Obviously, he came in and gave us a big lift offensively last season. He can score, whether it is shooting or putting the ball on the floor and creating his own shot. John plays with a real nice pace to him, meaning he can play through contact and he can create for not only himself, but others, and he always seems to be in control on the floor. He’s an ultimate professional and we were thrilled to get him. Even with him playing more shooting guard now, he’ll continue to produce for us night in and night out. The biggest adjustment there will be defensively and chasing some of those smaller guys around, but he’s an intelligent defender and he’ll be able to use some of his length to lock into guys and keep up. When we did our work on him while he was with Sacramento, he played a lot of time at two guard, and when we acquired him, our thought was that he could be that big two guard that we had lacked for several years.”

Bulls.com: With players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard leading the way, the Eastern Conference has become much more formidable in recent years. What can you say about some of the teams likely to be at the top?

Forman: “In no particular order, Boston, Cleveland and Orlando are all very, very good teams. As you said, the Eastern Conference in general has gotten better over the last few years. From top to bottom, it’s probably the stronger conference now. The offseason saw significant improvements from a lot of teams, and it’s going to be a very competitive year. Not only will teams be fighting to win the conference, but it’s going to be competitive to get into the playoffs. But we feel we’re improving as well and it’s a challenge to us to continue to grow and improve. Ultimately, we strive to become Eastern Conference champions with a spot in the NBA Finals. We know there won’t be any easy nights in the East this season.”

Bulls.com: With the regular season getting underway, is it necessary for you to manage expectations after Rose missing a significant amount of time in the preseason and a very challenging first month of the regular season?

Forman: “There’s no question it will be a very difficult first month of the season. That being said, you have to play everybody at some point. Our concern in the front office is that this team continues to work and grow. We had a very good camp with good energy throughout—not only in games but during practice as well. One of our main points of emphasis was to get better defensively and we’re making strides in that area. We also want to maintain a certain level of accountability for players, coaches and management in everything we do on any given day. If we can be consistent in those areas day in and day out, we’ll have success moving forward.”

Bulls.com: Where is the team at from a defensive standpoint right now?

Forman: “There is still room for improvement, but it’s been an area in which Vinny and his staff have spent a lot of time on and stressed. We have seen progress, and now we need to translate what we did in camp and preseason to the regular season. It’s an area that we’ve focused on and we’ve made some strides. We led the league in defensive field goal percentage in the preseason. Now, obviously the regular season is much different than the preseason, but it is a good sign for where we are at this point. We will continue to emphasize and build on that.”

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