First practice in the books for the Bulls
By Adam Fluck | 09.30.2014
And they’re off! The Bulls on Tuesday morning held their first practice of the season, a three-hour session at the Advocate Center as a week of two-a-days gets underway.
“I think it was really good, really positive,” said Bulls forward/center Pau Gasol. “We worked on a lot of things, a lot of the fundamentals and details, and everybody was great. Locked in. We got a good practice in.”
One day after the team held what coach Tom Thibodeau called “a critical meeting for us, the most important meeting of the year”, the Bulls were on the floor to work towards accomplishing the goals which were discussed.
Here are five takeaways from Day 1 of the 2014-15 season:
1) Who are the five starters?
As of Tuesday, it was a group that included Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Gasol and Joakim Noah. But Thibodeau explained that nothing is set in stone.
“I want to experiment with some things in the preseason just to see how everything fits,” Thibodeau stated. “I do like the versatility of our bigs because I think they can all play with each other. That’s a big plus. What may work best for our team, I’m not sure yet. Same thing with our perimeter guys.
“The one thing we know is Kirk (Hinrich) gives us great flexibility,” added Thibodeau. “That’s one of the reasons why I think he’s so important for our team. You can play him at the point or two. You can start him or bring him off the bench. That’s critical. Aaron Brooks had a great practice. He’s a guy that has been around. Taj (Gibson) played very well. I like that. It gives us quality depth.”
Gasol, a two-time NBA champion and four-time NBA All-Star, didn’t shy away when asked about starting.
“I think it’s an important role for me to play,” said Gasol. “I like to start off games and do my job and utilize my skillset for the best of the team. But obviously the coach is the one who has to decide that and that’s it.”
2) All systems go for D Rose
After a summer of competing with USA Basketball which ended with winning gold at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Thibodeau hopes that Rose has passed the point of being asked on a regular basis how he is doing physically.
Now, it’s about shaking off the remaining rust and the only way he can do that is by playing and doing so consistently.
As for Rose, there were no emotions to keep in check as he returned to the court for practice. Rather, he’s eager as ever for the games to come.
“I just wanted to get the first one over with,” said Rose. “I really want the season to come around. Of course you have to go through this part; it's part of the process of building a team. But when you miss two years you kind of want games right away and that's the position I'm in right now where I wish we had a game tomorrow but we’ve got to wait a couple of more days so that we can play.”
3) How will the rooks fit in?
The Bulls boast three rookies—Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow were acquired on draft night, while Nikola Mirotic makes his way to Chicago from Europe.
As Thibodeau noted, championship teams with two rookies in their regular rotation are a rarity. The last time it happened was the 1974-75 season when the Golden State Warriors took the title with first year players Phil Smith and Jamaal Wilkes receiving regular minutes. But…
“That’s not to say it can’t be done,” said Thibodeau.
Thibodeau discussed that the challenge for the rookies is to realize what it takes for the opportunity to play. He called it a “steep learning curve” but also praised McDermott and Mirotic for their approach and attitude thus far. He’s confident both have what it takes to make an impact, but the question is, when?
“How much time it takes, I don’t know,” Thibodeau said of Mirotic. “But he’ll get there. That I do know. He’s skilled, he’s a great kid, he’s smart and he has a great drive. Those characteristics usually lend themselves to success.”
Rose in particular has been impressed with what he’s seen from Mirotic.
“He’s going to surprise people by the way that he puts the ball down,” said Rose of Mirotic. “If you fly out at him, he’s really able to attack the rim and avoid charges.”
Gasol, as well, who has talked about helping Mirotic along as he lives in a new country and gets acclimated to a new league, is optimistic it will be a smooth transition.
“I think he’ll blend in fine,” said Gasol of Mirotic. “He’s a guy that knows how to play the game. He’s got a lot of skill, great basketball IQ and great shooting. He gives us a weapon to put outside, stretch the floor, and really have a big threat from the three-point line.”
As for McDermott, he admitted to having butterflies about the first day of practice. He set three alarms and woke up virtually every hour last night.
“I had Thibs’ voice in my head,” cracked McDermott. “The nerves are gone and it’s just basketball now.”
McDermott said he appreciates the encouragement he is getting from the veterans. And while some believe McDermott is talented enough to become a starter sooner than later, that’s the last thing on his mind right now.
“I have no idea when that could happen,” said McDermott. “Right now, it’s hard to say. I’m going to prepare every day to try and get to that level. That’s why I want to play in the NBA. That’s why I want to play in the NBA for a long time and I want to be successful player. But right now, I’ve got to earn the coach’s trust. I’ve got to pick up on his terminology and know his plays. Once he’s comfortable with me, you never know what could happen.”
4) A new home for Bulls basketball
Players, coaches and basketball staff have all raved about the team’s new practice facility, the Advocate Center.
“It motivates you,” said Rose.
Rose was so excited to check out the state of the art facility that he drove past it the day he returned from Spain a couple weeks ago. The next day, Rose returned and went inside. The staff hadn’t planned on him working out that day, but Rose couldn’t resist.
“It’s a new gym, like a new playground or a new car, you want to test drive it a little bit,” explained Rose. “I’m just trying to break the rims in some. But we’re fortunate and blessed to have it.”
“It’s great, everything is terrific and we’re really excited about it,” said Thibodeau. “We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
5) So what’s next?
The Bulls will conduct three more sets of two-a-days with single session practices scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
On Monday, the first of eight preseason games will be played when Chicago welcomes the Washington Wizards to the United Center.
The regular season starts on Oct. 29 in New York when the Bulls visit the Knicks. Two nights later, the team comes home to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Halloween night.
In the meantime, there is work to be done.
“It’s a long grind and the mental part of it is critical. The physical part is critical,” said Thibodeau. “But we have to have the ability to do it day after day.”
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 1, 2014