Johnson and Gibson look better than Bad Boozer Rumor


Jul 10

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The Bulls Thursday night kicked off their rookie and free
agent mini camp with first round picks James Johnson and Taj Gibson getting
their first action with the team.

But before I get to that, I guess I have to deal with this
trade story that was making the rounds in Chicago and the NBA Thursday of a
three-way deal involving the Bulls, Trailblazers and Jazz with Carlos Boozer
going to the Bulls, Kirk Hinrich to the Trailblazers and Tyrus Thomas to the

Not true.

Made up.



Am I being too subtle here?

The report on ESPN said the teams “discussed” a deal and
“two sources with knowledge of the three-team proposal confirmed there have
been substantive talks…”

I’m not quite sure how you get that much wrong, but I think
the editors may have left out the word, “not.”

As in the teams have “not” discussed a deal, and there have
“not” been substantive talks.

I have checked this out thoroughly and am convinced there
never have been discussions about any such deal. There’s a theory going around
that the Trailblazers have been putting out the false leaks (you’ll notice they
make out well in all the scenarios without much detail of what they give up)
because of pressure they’ve been getting in Portland over losing out on Hedo
Turkoglu after they said they would sign him.

There’s also a little modern day journalism issue in things
like this. Which is not to say newspapers always got this stuff right and
didn’t print false information. But with the internet and even more instant
communication with Twitter, which many reporters use now to advance their
scoops, stories often are measured in seconds or minutes of who got something
out first. So the tendency, along with the evil of the update button that
demands changes every few hours, is for a greater rush now for something new
more often and more quickly, which doesn’t allow time to check things out as

And just think it out: The Bulls are going to give up two of
their top six players for a one-year rental player they could get—if they
wanted—in free agency next summer without giving up anything. And they’d have
given up Hinrich and Ben Gordon and now need Jannero Pargo to play perhaps 30
minutes per game as a third guard. And this is with not having seen Boozer play
after Boozer played in just 37 games last season, the second time in the last
four seasons he played in fewer than 40 games because of injuries. And nowhere
in the report is there any mention of any players leaving the Trailblazers.
C’mon, who could really believe this?

Though it seems Tyrus Thomas believed it.

A reader notified me Tyrus wrote “Gone” on his Twitter update Thursday afternoon. Tyrus later posted in a Tweet, “The media is a mess.”

We figured he always felt that way.

As for forwards who actually are with the Bulls, the Bulls
seemed to have a nice opening night for Taj Gibson and James Johnson.

Johnson is the intriguing one for the Bulls, the No. 16
overall pick whom many in the NBA regarded as a high lottery talent. Coach
Vinny Del Negro suggested Johnson wasn’t in great condition, which would be no
great surprise with both rookies signing deals Thursday.

In the scrimmages which went on for about two hours, Johnson
tended to play more on the outside at small forward. Though Johnson didn’t
shoot much, he demonstrated a deft passing ability and ease with the ball. He worked
well with Gibson with several lookaway and inside passes on the move for Gibson

“(Johnson) looked for me,” said Gibson. “We work out
together in the mornings now. 
We’ve been here non stop working on our games. He threw me some great
passes and it worked well. We hooked up well with one another.”

Added Johnson: “(I) was moving the ball around, getting a
feel for the guys. His (Gibson’s) game is above the rim and he’s explosive.
He’s easy to pass to. He gets himself open a lot.”

Between the two rookies, Gibson was more the grinder,
fighting inside for position, going for the boards and finishing well.

“James has a nice feel,” said Del Negro, who sat courtside
as assistants Bob Ociepka and Pete Myers ran most of the practice and
scrimmage. “For his size he handles the ball better than you think. I thought
he made some good passes, a couple of real nice passes underneath. He can move
his feet when he wants defensively. Now he’s got to get in better condition and
learn every day. Same with Taj. Taj is long, runs the court pretty well,
blocked some shots, got some nice putbacks around the basket. They’re still
young and make mistakes, but they’re good guys and are going to improve.”

Gibson also was impressive off the court. You look for
little things in people, and Gibson immediately presented himself as confident
yet self effacing, open and friendly. He’d only been with Chicago reporters
once at a press conference in a large room in the United Center after the
draft. Yet, Gibson was calling several reporters by their first names already
and offering greetings and strong eye contact. Maybe no big dal. But I didn’t
detect insincerity. Yes, this kid looks like a keeper. Maybe he won’t be Karl
Malone, but Gibson looks like a worker and the kind of guy you want on your

Johnson said he’s been hanging out mostly with Derrick Rose
since getting to Chicago as the two are represented by former Bull B.J.

“His best friend came to a junior college were I lived,”
said Johnson. “So I knew him and we’ve been hanging out.”

DeMarcus Nelson, who opened last season playing regularly
for the Warriors before being benched in Don Nelson’s quixotic rotations and
was picked up by the Bulls, looked good as a combo guard who defends and could
be a nice insurance policy in the backcourt.

The Bulls signed Jannero Pargo for that, and Joakim Noah’s
college teammate, Taurean Green, who played in Spain, also was working hard to
gain a spot. Former Illini star, James Augustine, who also played in Spain,
looked solid in trying to get back to the NBA while UCLA’s 6-9 Lorenzo
Mata-Real is said to be a project to watch.

The Bulls haven’t said much about the departure of Gordon,
but Del Negro said after the session he’ll miss him but was happy with the team
going forward.

“It’s part of the business,” Del Negro said. “I enjoyed
coaching Ben. He’s very professional. He was a big time player for us,
especially at the end of games. We’re going to miss some of that, no question,
the way he can score the basketball. He worked hard and worked on his game. But
I love the direction our team is going. We have to get some guys healthy and
playing at the level we need them to. Guys have had productive summers so far.
Hopefully we’ll keep our flexibility going forward and we’ll make sound, smart
decisions and improve our team in other ways.”

The Bulls don’t want to say too much because they haven’t
seen him play in NBA games. But Luol Deng has been working extremely hard at
the Berto Center. Team personnel say Deng has regularly come in for three
sessions per day and often takes meals in the building so he can continue the
workouts into the evening. Deng, clearly, will be a key to the season with
Gordon gone and John Salmons penciled in as the starting shooting guard. If
Deng can return to his form of 2006-07 when he was voted among the league GM’s
the most likely for a breakout season and possible All Star status, the Bulls
will be able to make up for any scoring loss of Gordon’s.

The Bulls will continue workouts through the weekend and
leave Sunday for Las Vegas and Summer League with their first game Tuesday
against Golden State.

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