FanPost

"The Chicago Bulls are in the best shape of their lives" a.k.a. "I know what you did this summer"

[From the FanPosts -yfbb]

Training camp is here, and I was eager to hear about how the players are in prime condition to compete for an NBA championship. I expected to be drowning in platitudes about the players' condition, but barely got wet. For those of you like me, who crave the comfort of an optimistic chronicle, I've collected some information about the Bulls players and given them each a score on the "best shape of your life" scale. The score takes into account past and likely future performances.

Kirk Hinrich: Finally, the Captain has come back to Chicago!! I'm putting Captain Kirk first because he's the new offensive engine, and this summer's prime free agent pickup (Not a joke). He was recruited by Derrick Rose to temporarily take his spot. Maybe even longer, since we know Thibs doesn't like to change his lineups. He can even get introduced last to preserve continuity. "And from Chicago, by way of Washington and Atlanta, Kirk Hinrich!"

Kirk missed the Bulls-Atlanta playoffs in May 2011 due to a torn hamstring, then missed the start of the 2011 season due to a torn labrum (shoulder). He says he came back too early, and it showed when he shot terribly for the early part of the 48 games he managed to play. He shot about 24% from the 3 point line and 57% from the free throw line in Jan-Feb, then 39% and 94% respectively in March-April. According to Thibs, "He's put a lot of work into rehabbing. He looks great. He's moving extremely well."

At age 31, Kirk is moving extremely well. Best shape score: 6/10

Luol Deng: After missing 12 games and experiencing severe pain last year due to a wrist injury, Luol spent the offseason proving he can lead a team using that injured wrist against NBA level talent in the Olympics. This NBA season, he will attempt to prove that he can do it again, and maybe even win more than one game while doing so. Luol informed reporters that the wrist does feel much stronger and he's now confident that surgery is off the table won't happen until the summer of 2013, if at all. In addition to playing at the Olympics, Luol spent his free time holding clinics in Africa. Said age 27 Luol about his wrist's improvement, "I can do a lot more things than I was able to do."

Well, I'm convinced. Best shape score: 4/10

Joakim Noah: Joakim spent a couple of weeks working on his offense with Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, though he talks more about learning game preparation than the sky hook. PF Taj Gibson asked Noah to show off the unstoppable shot on the first day of training camp, and promptly blocked it. We can build on this.

Joakim missed the final 3 playoff games in April with an ankle injury which also kept him out of the Olympics. In fact, it did not feel 100% until "3 weeks ago," which means sometime in September. No information available about Joakim possibly getting a medical marijuana prescription to ease his pain. Said 27 year old Joakim, "Ankle rehab is something I'm going to have to do the rest of my career."

Best shape score: 7/10

Rip Hamilton: Rest assured that Rip has no injury concerns as we've been told that he keeps himself in better shape than anybody. I've just been informed that Rip has played 46, 55, and 28 games in each of the last 3 years. In fairness, he only missed 58% of last year's shortened season, and some of those missed games from the previous years are because his coach benched him when he didn't react well to losing his starting spot.. Last year was a roller coaster as he missed stretches of 8, 13, and 14 games.

From an ESPN article on Rip: "Hamilton expects his second year in Chicago to play out differently. Aside from having a standard regular season, Hamilton is hopeful he can stay healthy because he realizes he has to prepare his body differently than in past years.With that in mind, he added to his offseason routine a physical therapist for stretching and massages.

'It was one of them things you know when you play so hard people tell you have to do certain stuff because you're getting older,' the 13-year veteran Hamilton said after Wednesday's practice. 'I tell myself I think I'm still 27 sometimes, but you know they say everybody thinks that when they go past their 30s'".

Rip is 34. Can you massage away 7 years of wear and tear? Best shape score: 3/10

Carlos Boozer: And finally, we're at the member of the starting lineup with the longest track record of health (This is not a joke). Boozer arrived last year with less weight, more hair-like substance, and a plan for staying healthy. After extensive research, he learned that banging in the paint takes a tough toll on the body. He then proceeded to convert 12 percent of his inside shot attempts from 2010/11 to jumpshots in 2011/12. He did hit them at a much higher percent, .from .38 efg% to .45 efg%, and went from getting 11% of his jumpshots blocked to only 3%, presumably from fading away. Unfortunately, avoiding contact led to him drawing a foul on 8 percent of his shots, down from the previous 13%, erasing much of the efficiency gains.

A guy who knows a guy told me that he heard that when the 30 year old Boozer learned he wouldn't be getting so many wide-open jumpshots with Hinrich as his point guard, he immediately began eating heavily. When asked if he was eating so much so he could go back to work in the low post, he gave the source a quizzical look and replied that he, "just tends to eat a lot when he gets depressed."

Boozer about this summer: "I've been in the gym all summer," he said. "I lost about 10 solid pounds, added a little quickness, energy. I think it will be a big year." Boozer is feeling confident that they can hold things down while Rose is out, get to the playoffs, and "hopefully everyone else will remain healthy and we'll take our chances."

No word if Boozer is planning to play guard or forward. Best shape score: 7/10

Taj Gibson: 6th/5th man Taj Gibson hasn't been sitting on his laurels, as he spent the early part of the summer battling the U.S Olympic team in practice. Last year Taj showed up to camp telling us he was working on his outside shot, including 3 pointers. He didn't actually take any 3s last year, and his efg% on jumpshots slightly improved from .355 to .374. He improved slightly from everywhere on the floor which cumulatively took his fg% from .466 to .495. This year, .500 is achievable for the 27 year old, 6'9" PF.

Taj's calling card has always been defensive excellence, and with the departure of Omer Asik, Taj has been working out and getting stronger in preparation for playing more center. I guess there's a small chance that he's sometimes a better backup C than 6'10" 35 year old Nazr Mohammed. I can't be the only one looking forward to Taj battling Bynum when the Bulls meet Philly in the playoffs. If he really worked hard, the weight difference might be down to 50 lbs. Taj will be a better matchup against Miami's new center Chris Bosh, with the two teams totally headed to a meeting in the Eastern Conference finals.

Best shape score: 10/10

Jimmy Butler: After playing sparingly in 42 games as a rookie, Jimmy played in Summer League and was the only Chicago player with any semblance of an offensive game. He shot a few 3s and got to the free throw line 39 times in 4 games, a skill which looks less like a fluke the more we see of him. He was named to the all summer league team. Jimmy appears ready to contribute on the rare occasions that Deng is given rest by his coach. Reports are that he's been at the Berto Center more than any other player.

Said age 23 Jimmy on his shot's improvement: "I feel like I can shoot it, it's just my confidence. I've gotta be able to take those shots in the game and not only take it, but know that I can make it in a game," he said. "Anybody can take a shot, but who can make it? And whenever you make it, now what? Now the defense has to respect your drive. Now they have to respect your shot. Now they don't know how to guard you. And that's what all the great players in this league can do. So hopefully one day, I can be a great player."

Hopefully one day. Best shape score: 7/10

Nate Robinson: Nate is the new backup point guard, and is a definite improvement on John Lucas III. When Coach Thibs gave him a call, Nate's only question was, "where do I sign up?" My sources were unable to find out how he broke the news to all of the other teams who were trying to get through during this lengthy conversation. Nate also gave Rose an Iphone 5 for his birthday.

Speaking of passing, Nate put up career high assist percentages while getting a significant amount of minutes on Golden State at the end of last season. An unfortunate detail is that this is a team that was trying to lose in order to secure a top 7 pick and avoid having to give any other pick to Utah. Did they believe that playing Nate would make them more likely to lose? What do we make of the fact that they were successful in losing, keeping that pick, and drafting Harrison Barnes?

Nate the Great is 5'8" and 28. Best shape score: 8/10

Marco Bellinelli: If something was to happen to Hinrich, 6'5" SG Marco would probably be the new backup PG. Said Rose: "I did not know he was that big of a guard and how well he shoots the ball and puts the ball on the floor and comes off the pick and roll."

Said Hollinger: "It wasn't a great shooting year by his standards, making 37.7 percent both on 3s and long 2s after hitting in the 40s in both distances a season earlier, and that contributed to his slight scoring dip. Otherwise, it was the same low-turnover, spot-up shooting game we've come to know. Defensively, Belinelli still is below average, with the Hornets giving up 5.3 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court, and between that and his ho-hum PER of the past four seasons, it's getting increasingly difficult to justify the major role he's had. His shooting has value and he can do a few other things reasonably well, but realistically this is the performance we expect from the fourth wing in the rotation, not a starter.

Said Marco: "This (can be) a championship team. Everyone talks about (my) three point shot, but I can bring energy, a lot of other stuff. I can dribble, pass the ball to my teammates. I want to be a better defender, a complete guy. These are amazing teammates, amazing coaches, coaches always ready to help. I can be a funny guy. I'll play hard, expect to win."

I bumped the 26 year old up a point for enthusiasm. Best shape score: 8/10

Nazr Mohammed: Is 35 and played 11 minutes per game for OKC last year. He shot 47%, only the second time in a decade that he was healthy enough to play half the season and finished with a fg% under 50.

At least he wasn't injured. Best shape score: 3/10

Vladimir Radmanovich: Originally thought to be a bench warmer, playing time looks more likely with talk of Taj at Center (clearing PF minutes), and big lineups featuring Vlad at SF. Maybe Nikola Mirotic will see him play, and come over sooner, thinking "I can do a better job than that guy."

From Hollinger on last year's performance: "Nearly two-thirds of his shots were 3-pointers and he made 37.0 percent of them, so he had a decent TS% despite his wayward shooting inside the arc. And he was less turnover-prone than in other seasons, moving the ball quickly rather than getting adventuresome with his shaky handle.

The best thing in his favor, though, is that at 31 Radmanovic still moves well. He often played small forward and defended the position adequately, and his rebound rate nearly set a career high. He again had a surprisingly strong rate of blocked shots, too. Synergy rated him well above the curve, and according to 82games.com he did particularly well at the 3 -- allowing just an 8.9 opponent PER."

Best shape score: 7/10

Marquis Teague: Quote from Jeff Van Gundy about the possibility of him being a back up point guard this year: "No, no, he's not ... did you watch him in summer league? "Struggled" is being kind," he said. "That's not a knock. The 29th pick in the draft is such a hit-and-miss selection anyway. You have to give him time to grow and mature. But to think he's going to come in and play behind (Kirk) Hinrich next year ..."

Hmm, the 19 year old is not close to good enough to be Kirk Hinrich's backup. Best shape score: 3/10

Coach Thibs: Now one of the highest paid coaches in the league when his 4 year extension was announced on media day, which was a total coincidence not intended to distract from questions about a universally disparaged offseason. At least this summer, Thibs wasn't prohibited from working with his players due to a lockout.

If money made Thibs as happy as the departed Asik's defense, this score would be higher. Best shape score: 8/10

Derrick Rose: N/A , literally.

FanPosts are user-created posts from the BlogABull community, and are to be treated as the opinions and views of that particular user, not that of the blogger or blog community as a whole.

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