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Chicago's Mohammed back for a 17th NBA season
By Adam Fluck | 09.22.2014
In the summer of 1998, Nazr Mohammed had just finished up three illustrious seasons at the University of Kentucky. The next stop for the Chicago native was the NBA.
Sixteen years later, he’s still going strong.
“I can’t lie, I never could have envisioned this,” said Mohammed after re-signing with the Bulls on Monday. “I was hoping I’d get to double figures. If you get to ten years, that’s a hell of an accomplishment. I was hoping to get there and be at a point where I still loved playing. Now, I still do, along with the preparation and the camaraderie. It helps having played for some great coaches and great organizations.”
The Bulls roster now stands at 14 players. Whether General Manager Gar Forman adds to it in the coming weeks remains to be seen; but clearly, Mohammed’s professionalism was a factor in bringing the 6-10, 250-pounder back.
“Nazr has been a great veteran presence for us the last couple years. He’s a pro’s pro,” said Forman. “He’s been a terrific fit with our team, whether it’s in the locker room or on the practice floor. When he’s called upon, he’s proven to be a player who stays ready.”
In addition to the Bulls, Mohammed’s career has included stops with seven other teams. The significance of making it back home to play in Chicago is something that’s not lost on him.
“It means a lot,” acknowledged Mohammed. “I grew up in the city as a Bulls fan. So to get a chance to come back with a great team and try to compete for a championship with family and friends around is something that means a lot to me.”
Part of why it means so much is that Mohammed is in a position where he can give back to his hometown. After signing with the Bulls as a free agent in 2012, he created The Nazr Mohammed Foundation, a charitable entity that supports a number of worthy causes through personal donations, fundraisers, camps, grants and scholarships.
“It goes to show you how important it was for me to do something in Chicago after all these years in the league,” Mohammed said. “The support I’ve gotten from the Bulls has been tremendous. My teammates have been great too, coming to events and being a part of them when they can.”
Mohammed’s work in the community has been done with an eye on the future. He knows that eventually his time will come to retire. And while life after basketball is full of unknowns, one thing for certain is that he’ll continue to give back.
“It’s something I’ve thought about the last couple years,” Mohammed acknowledged. “I’m at the stage where what I want to do next and my exit plan is on my mind. The Foundation, that’s something I’m going to do regardless.”
For those of you who assume this season will be Mohammed’s last, think again. He never considered retirement this summer and says that as long as he still loves the game and feels he’s able to prepare for it accordingly, he’s going to keep playing.
“Right now, I’m year-to-year,” Mohammed laughed. “My whole mindset has been that I’m going to keep playing as long as I don’t mind the preparation. It’s hard preparing for the season. As you get older, you’ve got to stay in even better shape and get lighter. I don’t ever want to just be a roster spot; I want the coach to feel like if he needs me, he can put me in and I’ll help a team win games.”
With the 2014-15 season about to get started, Mohammed knows the Bulls roster is one loaded with frontcourt talent, thus minutes could be hard to come by. So he’ll simply stay ready and continue to be a leader in the locker room, as well as doing his part to keep everyone on the same page.
As for the additions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic to complement big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, Mohammed is as excited as anyone.
“With Pau, the championship experience and his skillset—which is similar to Jo’s as far as he’s a good passer, good in the low block, able to knock down the open shot, a good rebounder—those are things that every team needs,” said Mohammed. “And I hear he’s a great teammate, a great guy. Those are intangibles that sometimes get overlooked.
“With Nikola, having been with him these last two weeks [in the gym], he’s great, man,” Mohammed continued. “He’s a happy guy and I like him a lot already. But his skills on the court, his shooting ability is something that we haven’t had at that level as far as a 6-10 guy who can stroke the three like he can. He’s definitely going to spread the defense and help us out a lot.
“I’m extremely excited about this team,” added Mohammed. “The way the East is right now, I feel like a healthy Bulls team will come with some very high hopes.”
As someone who has won championships at the collegiate and professional level—not to mention those 16 seasons and counting—Mohammed knows a contending team when he sees one. He feels the Bulls will be in that mix if things fall into place.
“Definitely,” said Mohammed. “That was one of the major factors with me even wanting to come back. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team. We’re very deep and we’ve got some young guys, who if called upon will be ready to play and contribute. I think that if we’re healthy in the playoffs, with a coach like [Tom Thibodeau] and the preparation our coaching staff puts in, we’re going to be a hard team to beat in a seven-game series.
“Even though we haven’t played a game yet and you never know how a team is going to mesh, with the type of guys and the character that we have on this team, it’s going to mesh,” Mohammed added. “I’m confident it’s going to mesh and it’s going to mesh well. Who knows when, but it’s going to mesh before the playoffs and if we’re healthy, you’re not going to want to see us in a seven-game series.”
— Nazr Mohammed (@NazrMohammed) September 22, 2014
He's back for NBA season no. 17: Bulls re-sign center @NazrMohammed.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) September 22, 2014