Prideful Bulls moving forward

With six straight postseason appearances and nine out of the last ten years, the Chicago Bulls have enjoyed sustained success. GM Gar Forman said the focus now shifts with one question at the forefront: How do the Bulls get to the next level?

By Adam Fluck | 05.01.2014

Though you couldn’t help but escape the disappointment of losing in the first round of the playoffs, it was hardly the only emotion present as the Bulls held exit meetings at the Berto Center on Wednesday.

Pride in what the team accomplished in the face of adversity was equally, if not more prominent. There was a sense of optimism as well as the team enters into the offseason poised to improve itself.

“What we told our team was first of all that we’re really, really proud of everything that they put into this season, a trying season in a lot of ways,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman. “The second thing is that we’re very, very proud that these guys have created a culture here and it’s a culture of winning, it’s a culture of professionalism, and it’s a culture where these guys all play together. We’ve got unselfish guys that have done a great job as teammates and playing for each other.”

With six straight postseason appearances and nine out of the last ten years, the Bulls have enjoyed sustained success. Now, Forman said the focus shifts with one question at the forefront: How do the Bulls get to the next level?

It’s Forman’s aim to take advantage of what he calls a “big summer” ahead to move another step in that direction.

“Obviously we’re going to try to strengthen our team and I think we’re going to be in a position where we can do that,” said Forman.

“We believe that the core of this group really has the chance to do something special moving forward,” Forman added. “It’s up to each and every one of us, from the players to the front office to the coaching staff and everybody involved in our organization, to try to improve and make the next step.”

Whereas Derrick Rose participated in some non-contact portions of practice at the end of the regular season, Forman indicated that he continues to progress

“The core is good,” agreed Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “The core is in place. At this point, you’re going to evaluate everything. You have the draft, you have free agency, and you have trade possibilities. So we have good flexibility and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Chicago also has Derrick Rose, who is working his way back into form. Whereas Rose participated in some non-contact portions of practice at the end of the regular season, Forman indicated that he continues to progress.

“He’s really in a good place right now and he continues to train. He's starting to play one-on-one, two-on-two,” said Forman of Rose, who was at the Berto Center the morning after the Game 5 loss to work out. “So he'll continue to ramp it up. And if everything goes according to plan — which up to this point it has — we're optimistic that he'll play with Team USA this summer and have another good summer of work and be ready to go in October.”

Thibodeau stated that Rose would be in the area more this summer, working with the team leading up summer league (Rose is not expected to participate) and USA Basketball in July.

“You can't lose sight of Derrick being back,” said Thibodeau. “That changes a lot of things. … He's right on schedule. So this is the next phase now. The rehab part went well. The non-contact stuff went well. So now this is the next step, which is good.”

Thibodeau said he has no doubts about Rose returning to a high level of play.

“The thing is, he's had two unfortunate injuries,” Thibodeau said. “I think he's put a lot of work into his body. So we're optimistic that he's going to make a complete and full recovery.”

Beyond Rose, the Bulls also own a pair of first round draft picks this summer, Nos. 16 and 19. With the late round selections of Jimmy Butler (No. 30) and Taj Gibson (No. 26), Forman has demonstrated the ability to find talent in his five seasons as general manager.

While this year’s draft is regarded as a talented and deep, Forman is optimistic every year for what it represents.

“We like to approach it like every draft is a good draft and there's opportunities in every draft,” said Forman. “We've done an enormous amount of work, not only this year but the last several years, on guys that will be in this draft. We're optimistic we'll get two guys that will fit our team and fit our culture."

While the plan is for Rose to once again be Chicago’s starting point guard in the fall, it remains to be seen who will back him up. Both D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

“It’s still the same kind of feeling,” said Hinrich as he left the Berto Center on Wednesday. “We’re disappointed to go out the way we did. I guess reflecting back on it, you think about the season and all we went through. I enjoy playing with that group of guys.

“The goal when you enter a season, we had high expectations. You want to win a championship and do as well as you can,” Hinrich continued. “We valued the right things and played hard; we just didn’t get it done.”

Hinrich is now a veteran of 11 professional seasons, including nine with the Bulls.

D.J. Augustin is an unrestricted free agents this summer

“Take some time off and decompress,” Hinrich said of what’s next. “Reflect on the season and go from there.”

As for Augustin, who lives in Houston, Texas and will spend his offseason there, he looks forward to taking a few weeks off and spending time with his newborn son.

“The meetings were good. We had a chance to talk and look back on the season,” said Augustin. “They told me that they wanted me back. And I really want to be back so we'll see how everything works out.

“They gave me an opportunity, and I definitely owe them a lot,” Augustin added of the Bulls. “It's not always about the money. It's where you feel comfortable or where you fit in. I definitely want to be here, and hopefully everything works out.”

Forman expressed interest in having both players return, but noted it will take some time for the offseason to run its course. NBA free agency begins in July.

“D.J.'s a fit,” said Forman. “He's been a fit as far as his makeup and character, how he fit with our other guys, and I think his game is a fit because of his ability to create and to score. We're hopeful we'll be in a position that D.J. will consider coming back and that we're in a position to have him back.

“We value Kirk and Kirk's been a big part of what we've done over the last nine or 10 years,” added Forman. “So it would be our goal that we have Kirk back, also.”

Audio—Gar Forman talks with reporters about the offseason (04.30.2014):

Audio—Tom Thibodeau on decompressing and Derrick Rose’s summer (04.30.2014):

Audio—Kirk Hinrich on what’s next after 11 seasons in the NBA (04.30.2014):

Audio—D.J. Augustin on his status as an unrestricted free agent (04.30.2014):

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