COACH: Vinny Del Negro | 2007-08: 33-49
Chicago Bulls

With John Paxson watching, Derrick Rose and Vinny Del Negro will get on-the-job training.
Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty Images
Heading into this season, the Bulls will have two significant rookies on the roster. Like most NBA newbies, both will be required to carry bags this season.

Despite becoming instant NBA royalty by being picked No. 1 overall in the 2008 Draft, Derrick Rose will be called upon to bring the doughnuts to the morning sessions (here's one close to the Berto Center, Derrick) and more than likely, will be asked to tote some veterans' bags to-and-from the bus.

Then, there's newly minted Bulls coach, Vinny Del Negro. He'll be carrying two sets of baggage: one, the baggage of a franchise which hasn't advanced past the Eastern Conference Semis in the 10 seasons since you-know-who hung 'em up for the second time in 1998; and two, the baggage of being inexperienced.

Del Negro, who played 12 NBA seasons, has never coached on any level. He has hoops pedigree, his dad played at Kentucky and Vinny was born in the birthplace of basketball, Springfield, Mass. But then again, that's kind of like saying you have foreign policy experience because you live in a state that borders another country. SI.com's Marty Burns notes that Del Negro has plenty of experienced assistant coaches next to him, including one of the best ever, Del Harris.

As a player, Del Negro earned a reputation as a coach on the floor and now he'll be able to put ability to the test on the sideline. He inherits a roster thrown into flux last season with a massive three-team trade between the Bulls, Cavs and Sonics at the deadline last season where the Bulls sent the disappointing Ben Wallace and Joe Smith to Cleveland while the Bulls took Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown in exchange. Combine that with the Bulls axing Scott Skiles in December and getting Rose at No. 1 and this Chicago squad needs to find the answers to many questions heading into this season, such as:

Where does Rose play? (In Chicago, we know, but where on the floor? And does he start?)
Can they bring Rose along slowly or will they feel pressure to get him a lot of playing time?
What about Ben Gordon? The Jerry Reinsdorf 8-Ball says all signs point to "Yes" for a Gordon return
What will the rotation in the frontcourt be? How long will Tyrus Thomas be a backup?

With all these questions, the biggest may be: what is the Bulls identity? Under former coach Scott Skiles, the Bulls played rugged, in-your-face D and had an offense that revolved around guards and the wing play of Luol Deng. But with Skiles gone two months into the season, and Wallace gone at the deadline, the Bulls defense slid precipitously. NBA.com's John Schuhmann noted that the Bulls, once the best defensive team in the league, "no other team [fell] off more defensively (7.1 more points allowed per 100 possessions)," than the Bulls.

As for the offense, the Bulls were thought to be a consistent offensive inside presence away from reaching the Finals two years ago. Guess what? They still lack a consistent offensive presence inside. Again, the offense will revolve around Hinrich, Hughes, Deng, Rose and Gordon, if and when he's re-signed To a contract extension.

So, even with the numerous changes, the Bulls enter the 2008-09 season full of uncertainty.

-- Rob Peterson

Tickets for every Chicago Bulls 2008-09 home game will go on sale on Friday, October 3 at 10 a.m.

Deng
Although Luol Deng suffered through a desultory, injury-plagued and rumor-infested (Deng, plus Michael Jordan's statue for Kobe Bryant? You heard it here first!) fourth season, the Bulls and Deng agreed to a long-term contract extension in July.

According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Bulls GM John Paxson was thrilled:

"'Signing Luol has always been a priority for this organization and we have always felt that he was a big part of our future. We are very happy that Luol will now be with us long term as we continue to grow as an organization,' Paxson said in a statement."

Now, it's up to the versatile Deng to live up the expectations, not only of the contract, but also to the reality he is now the Bulls go-to guy. After three seasons of improvement, Deng's numbers slipped from 18.8 points per game to 17.0 and his rebounds went from 7.1 per game to 6.3.

With a new coach and a new deal, Deng has a clean slate on which to work.

"'Luol is not only a terrific player, but he's a great person,' Del Negro said. 'I think he has room for improvement and is going to be a big cornerstone of what we do and what this franchise is going to do for a long time.'"

--Rob Peterson

THE STAT
89 Consecutive sellouts for the Bulls at the United Center dating back to the 2006 Playoffs.
They are the wild card of this division. They have some very good talent but contract squabbles and a mutiny of Skiles last year did them in.
If new head coach Vinny Del Negro allows himself to be mentored by Del Harris and the rest of his veteran staff, the Bulls could be a major player come playoff time.
The key will be getting guys like Deng, Gooden, Hinrich, Nocioni and Thomas back to playing together and with the toughness they did two years ago.
A second key to this will be the type of offense they go with. A more wide-open style would benefit them most. Their guards all can handle and are above average passers which would work well in an up tempo style of play.
Although radical, they may want to consider going to the “dribble drive” offense as part of their regular offensive scheme. -- NBA Scout
Many consider Rose to be a 6-3 version of LeBron James physically, with a chiseled physique and excellent quickness and jumping ability that should ease his transition to the NBA. But point guard is one of the most difficult positions for young players, and Rose's suspect jump shot won't help matters.

Need more? Order Rotowire's Draft Kit on NBA.com
NBA.com Fantasy Index

Record: 41-41, 4th in Eastern Conf.
Playoffs: Lost in First Round to Cle., 4-3
Scoring Leader: K. Hinrich, 18.7 PPG
Rebounding Leader: D. Gooden, 9.6 RPG
Assist Leader: D. Rose, 7.8 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Kirk Hinrich 11.5 3.3 6.0
SG Larry Hughes 12.2 3.1 3.1
SF Luol Deng 17.0 6.3 2.5
PF Drew Gooden 14.0 9.3 1.7
C Joakim Noah 6.6 5.6 1.1

G Ben Gordon 18.6 3.1 3.0
G Thabo Sefolosha 6.7 3.7 1.9
F Tyrus Thomas 6.8 4.6 1.2
F Andres Nocioni 13.2 4.2 1.2
-- -- --
G Derrick Rose Draft
F-C Elton Brown Free agent
F Roger Powell Free agent
G Shannon Brown Free agent
G Chris Duhon Free agent
G JamesOn Curry Waived
PPG Ben Gordon 18.6
RPG Drew Gooden 9.3
APG Kirk Hinrich 6.0
SPG Larry Hughes 1.46
BPG Drew Gooden 1.28
Points Scored 97.3 (18th)
Points Allowed 100.4 (16th)
Field-Goal Percentage .435 (30th)
Opponents' FG% .453 (22nd)
Rebounding Diff. +0.39 (15th)
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM)
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: Chicago Tribune | Chicago Sun-Times