Bulls in holding pattern heading into draft

Bulls in holding pattern heading into draft
2012-06-27T15:50:00Z 2012-06-28T00:38:06Z Bulls in holding pattern heading into draftANDREW SELIGMAN AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
June 27, 2012 3:50 pm  • 

CHICAGO | There's no magic potion, no way the Chicago Bulls can speed up Derrick Rose's recovery. They can't hit fast forward and skip to the 2013-14 season, either.

They have to play this year, and they'll make their first move Thursday in the NBA draft.

The Bulls own the 29th pick, and whoever they take will join a team that appears to be in a holding pattern at the moment, waiting for its superstar to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It's an awkward spot, particularly considering the Bulls captured the No. 1 overall playoff seed the past two years.

They were widely viewed as the top threat in the Eastern Conference to LeBron James and the Miami Heat until Rose crumbled to the court, clutching his knee late in the Bulls' playoff-opening win over Philadelphia. They lost Joakim Noah to a sprained left ankle in Game 3.

Without its franchise player and top rebounder, Chicago couldn't get past the 76ers after losing to Miami in the conference finals the previous year.

Rose could return some time around mid-January or February if he doesn't miss the entire season, but how soon he regains his explosiveness is another issue. That likely won't happen until 2013-14, assuming he returns to form.

Then there's Luol Deng. He played a significant portion of the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist and plans to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. If he has surgery afterward, that could put him on the shelf for the start of the season.

"We've hit a bump in the road," general manager Gar Forman said recently, according to the team website, basically echoing what he told reporters in May at a news conference following Rose's surgery. "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."

Otherwise, he has had little to say publicly in recent weeks. The team did not hold its usual pre-draft news conference with the GM, and Forman declined comment for this story.

With no salary-cap room, the Bulls are in a difficult spot.

They've made it clear that they plan to match any offers for restricted free agent Omer Asik and maintain the depth they have up front with Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. But the bench figures to take a hit. Retaining Asik could take Chicago into luxury-tax territory, which would make picking up contract options on Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson unlikely.

The Bulls also need a point guard to hold down the position while Rose recovers, and free agency appears to be their best bet. If they keep the 29th pick, they figure to go for a combo guard who can shoot and relieve Rose of some of the ball-handling duties.

"They said they need a shooter, a guy that can really open up the things for D-Rose and open up the offense," Vanderbilt's John Jenkins said at the NBA draft combine.

Jenkins is more of a pure shooter, although he insisted, "I definitely can handle the ball a little bit, and I'm definitely a willing defender." He said he would "love to play for the Bulls."

Memphis' Will Barton and Kentucky's Doron Lamb could also be possibilities for Chicago, which doesn't have a second-rounder.

The Bulls have done well in recent years drafting late in the first round. They drafted Gibson at No. 26 in 2009, and Jimmy Butler showed promise as a rookie last season after being taken with the 30th pick.

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