GM Forman: Bulls heading in the right direction
Though the Bulls’ playoff run came to an end earlier this week, Gar Forman won’t be able to relax anytime soon.
The team plane landed back in Chicago around 2:30 a.m. following the Game 5 loss in Miami, and less than six hours later, Forman and his staff were downtown at the NBA Draft Combine taking a look at this summer’s prospects. Such is life as an NBA general manager.
Forman, however, did take a few minutes on Friday afternoon to share with Bulls.com and BullsTV his thoughts on the 2012-13 season, which saw the Bulls persevere through endless adversity and injuries to win 45 regular season games and advance to the second round of the postseason.
“I’m just really proud that our guys brought it each and every night,” said Forman. “They never let anything get them down, continued to fight, and ended up having quite a bit of success under the circumstances.”
Forman added that he’s encouraged by the lessons learned and hopeful they will carry over with respect to the work ethic, culture and postseason experience in general. In his mind, all of those factors contribute towards a positive step in the direction of where the Bulls want to get.
Among the season’s highlights, Forman noted several of the individual accolades: Joakim Noah made his first All-Star team and later being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team, while Luol Deng landed on his second consecutive All-Star team. There was Jimmy Butler’s remarkable emergence which culminated in him playing three straight 48 minute games in the playoffs, including the Game 7 win in Brooklyn and the Game 1 victory in Miami. The revamped bench certainly enjoyed its moments as well, most notably Nate Robinson’s heroic performances, Marco Belinelli's contributions, and even veteran Nazr Mohammed stepping up late in the year.
Along with Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer, the aforementioned Deng, Noah, Butler and Taj Gibson represent Chicago’s core which provides promise for another successful season in 2013-14.
(Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)
“[Our] core continues to grow,” explained Forman. “These experiences served us well this year, but I think these experiences will serve us well in the future as far as the team is concerned and as far as individuals are concerned.”
Forman also credited the job done by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who signed a four-year contract extension prior to this past season. Under Thibodeau, both returning players and new players have bought into a proven system and it has paid dividends.
“A culture is being created here and it’s a culture of work, playing together, defending and rebounding,” said Forman. “The leadership for that comes from several different areas. First of all, it comes from the players that we’ve had. We’ve now had a core of players that have been together for several years. When new guys come in, there’s an expectation of what you need to do on both ends of the floor and how we need to play together. And of course, Tom does a terrific job. He’s created a culture on the floor that is reflective of our players and our team.”
Forman believes that culture was crucial in the Bulls’ ability to overcome adversity this season, but just as importantly, he hopes they will also be fundamental as the team continues to build for the future.
Regardless of what transpires this offseason, Chicago will get a major boost when Derrick Rose returns to action next season.
Forman on Friday reiterated his support for the former NBA MVP, who missed the entire season as he continues to rehabilitate from a torn ACL in his left knee, saying: “I’m really proud of Derrick Rose.”
Forman stressed that the Bulls took a conservative approach from the beginning, vowing not to rush Rose back until the time was right.
“We wanted to make sure that he was 100 percent ready to play if he did step on the floor,” said Forman of Rose. “We left the window open – I think Derrick did and we did – for the possibility he may come back. But we were never going to rush him back.
“The encouraging thing is that he has made progress every step of the way,” Forman added of Rose. “There have been no setbacks, physically he’s getting stronger and he’s added 15 pounds of muscle. I think from a skill standpoint, his shooting has improved and he continues to make progress.”
Forman is as excited as anyone to see Rose in a Bulls uniform again. But given Rose’s age – just 24 years old – and what was at stake, the proper and only route to take was one filled with patience.
“Derrick wants to get back on the floor and we want Derrick back on the floor,” said Forman. “But we were always going to look at this as we look at our future, a big window of opportunity. We weren’t looking at the next 12 months; we’re looking at the next 12 years.”
Forman acknowledged he was bothered by the negative press about Rose not coming back as quickly as some people would like.
“That’s upsetting to me because anybody that’s been around Derrick Rose knows that nobody wants to compete at a higher level and be out there on the floor more than he does,” said Forman, who called Rose as competitive and hard working as anyone in the game. “We had to be smart about it and he had to be smart about it.”
As Rose and the Bulls continue to work towards next season, Forman begins what promises to be another busy offseason with the June 27 NBA Draft right around the corner.
Chicago owns a pair of selections this summer, 20th and 49th overall. Whoever the Bulls end up acquiring, they’ll join a team with its best basketball yet to come.
“We feel that our future is extremely bright and we have a long window of opportunity to have success,” said Forman. “In the short-term, what’s our biggest goal? As far as our team is concerned, we’ve got to get healthy. That’ll be a key point this summer. The core of this team returns and the emergence of Jimmy is going to be a real plus. We’ll have some decisions to make again in July when free agency starts, but when Carlos, Joakim, Luol and Derrick have all been healthy, we’ve won 86 percent of our games. We like this team. Now it’s our goal, not only short-term but long-term, to look at the opportunities and try and get it better.”