When he first discussed the surgery which repaired Derrick Rose’s torn ACL in mid-May, General Manager Gar Forman admitted that the team would take a hit in the short term.
But Forman insisted the team’s long term philosophy would not change, and in comments made this week during an interview at the Berto Center with BullsTV as part of a monthly feature to answer fan inquiries, he reiterated that and expanded on why the Bulls remain extremely optimistic.
“We’ve hit a bump in the road,” acknowledged Forman, noting the injury to Rose and also referencing Joakim Noah’s ankle injury suffered in the playoffs. “We’re going to take a step back short term. But long term, we’re in as good of position as we feel we’ve ever been in. We’ve got some quality young players and we’ve got some assets on the horizon. We don’t have a lot of financial flexibility right now, but we will in the future.”
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With Rose expected to miss eight months to a year, life without their star point guard is a reality the Bulls will have to face when the 2012-13 NBA season gets underway. But based on what he’s seen so far, Forman remains upbeat about Rose’s recovery.
���He’s been diligent in his rehab, he’s made tremendous progress, and the surgery, obviously, was a huge success,” said Forman of Rose. “The biggest thing that’s been encouraging about Derrick has been his mentality towards the rehab. He’s working each and every day, putting a lot of effort into it, and we’re optimistic that if he continues to make the type of progress that he has, that we’ll see Derrick back on the floor at some point next season.”
While Rose continues to work, Forman and his staff are busy preparing for the NBA Draft on June 28. The Bulls have just one pick this summer, 29th overall.
“We feel pretty good about where we’re at with No. 29,” said Forman. “It’s a deep draft and we’ll be able to address a need with our pick and get a player that’s going to fit into our team, both from a culture standpoint and from a strategic standpoint.”
Forman, who will oversee his fourth draft as general manager, is hopeful the Bulls can obtain another contributing player along the lines of Taj Gibson (selected 26th overall in 2009) or Jimmy Butler (30th in 2011), both late first round picks who have had an impact as pros.
Forman also dispelled the notion that the team is looking to draft any particular position.
“As always, we’re not looking at specific needs,” said Forman. “We’ll draft who we feel is the best player available.”
Just a few days after the draft, free agency gets underway with teams allowed to talk with free agents beginning July 1.
Earlier this summer, a report surfaced that the Bulls could try and sign Steve Nash or Jason Kidd as a stand-in for Rose. But the team lacks the financial flexibility to make either player a realistic possibility.
What route the Bulls take to fill time at the guard positions remains unknown. But one certainty is that the team intends to do what it can to keep Omer Asik on the roster.
“Omer is very, very important to us,” said Forman of Asik. “We’re looking forward to getting a chance to sit down with him on July 1. But it’s certainly our intention to have Omer Asik in a Chicago Bulls uniform long term.”
Asik, a 7-0, 255-pound reserve center from Turkey, is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Bulls can discuss a new contract with him beginning July 1, while other teams will have the same opportunity to have dialogue and tender an offer. Should Asik accept another team’s offer, the Bulls would have the ability to match it and retain him.
“Omer is very, very important to us,” said Forman. “We see him as a key piece of our team moving forward. We think he’s shown the potential to continue to improve. We’re looking forward to getting a chance to sit down with him on July 1. But it’s certainly our intention to have Omer Asik in a Chicago Bulls uniform long term.”
Another big man who is in Chicago’s long term plans is Nikola Mirotic. Acquired in a draft night deal last summer, the 21-year old forward is currently a member of the Euroleague’s Real Madrid.
In April, Mirotic became the first two-time Euroleague Rising Star Trophy winner, an award which recognizes the best Euroleague player who was under the age of 22 on July 1 of the summer before the season started.
“We’re excited about Nikola,” said Forman. “He had another terrific year this past year for Real Madrid in Spain, the second year in a row.”
As for when Mirotic might be added to the Bulls roster, it likely will not be before the 2014-15 NBA season.
“He’ll remain under contract with Real Madrid for the next couple years,” stated Forman. “But it’s certainly our goal and our expectation that Nikola will be in a Chicago Bulls uniform somewhere down the line. We’ll continue to monitor his progress and feel really good about the development that’s taking place.
“He’s seeing major minutes for Real Madrid,” Forman added. “When he does come over, we think he’s really got a chance to be a key piece to what we’re trying to put together.”
“Nikola is a very skilled player,” said Forman of Mirotic. “He can play inside and he can play outside. He can knock down the three-point shot. He’s a hardnosed player who we think will really fit in to our system.” (Getty Images)
Mirotic, listed at 6-10, 225 pounds, is projected to be a power forward in the NBA. But he possesses a deft shooting touch, which will inevitably draw comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. This past season, Mirotic was the Euroleague's best free throw shooter, connecting on 56 of 61 attempts, good for 91.8 percent.
“Nikola is a very skilled player,” said Forman. “He can play inside and he can play outside. He can knock down the three-point shot. He’s a hardnosed player who we think will really fit in to our system.”
Another reason Forman and the Bulls are optimistic about what lies ahead goes back to a deal made on February 18, 2010. Chicago traded Tyrus Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats for Flip Murray, Acie Law and a future first round draft pick.
Given the Bobcats’ struggles, the draft pick could pay big dividends if Charlotte is unable to turn things around. While it’s protected for the next three drafts—protected for top 12 in 2013, top 10 in 2014 and top 8 in 2015—the Bulls will receive the pick unprotected by 2016 should they have not received it prior to that time.
“We see that pick as a real chip for us moving forward,” said Forman. “With the addition of Nikola at some point and the Charlotte pick, it will give us another couple quality players to continue to build this team.”
Between Rose’s injury and the limited financial flexibility possessed by the Bulls this offseason, patience is more than ever a virtue. But Forman believes the team’s future remains extremely bright. And perhaps most importantly, the success the Bulls expect to achieve will be built so that it is sustained over several seasons.
“We talk about a five to seven year window where we’ve got an opportunity to have a lot of success and ultimately reach our goal of being a championship team,” said Forman. “Our job in making decisions is that certainly we want to address some needs short term. But our thinking will be that we won’t do anything that damages what we feel is that long term window of opportunity.”