LAS VEGAS — The Bulls are bringing the band back together for at least one more shot.
"I've said all along that I like our group and we wanted to give it a chance to grow together," general manager Gar Forman said in an interview with beat reporters at the Las Vegas Summer League. "One of the biggest things that set us back has been injuries. The goal is to get them all healthy. If we do, we have a chance to be a real good team."
Derrick Rose, of course, is the bandleader again after missing all last season following knee surgery.
"I'm confident he's going to make a 100 percent recovery and be the player he was," said Forman, who emphasized Rose has suffered no setbacks. "There will be an adjustment period. How long that takes, I don't know. But when you haven't played for an entire (season), whether it's preseason or into the (regular) season, I would assume there will be some ups and downs."
Does Forman think Rose will be playing 35 to 40 minutes a night starting with the regular-season opener?
"We hope," he said. "But we're going to obviously monitor it very closely and make sure he's comfortable."
The band also features two-time All-Star Luol Deng, whom Forman and John Paxson face a major decision on considering his $14.3 million expiring contract. Forman said the Bulls have held preliminary discussions regarding an extension, but sources said the Bulls expect the situation to remain open-ended at least to the February 2014 trade deadline and maybe into next summer.
"We love Luol and Luol has obviously been a very, very valuable member of this team for the last nine years," Forman said. "We see Luol as a valuable member of this team moving forward. Whether something gets done, I don't know."
Indeed, if Deng isn't traded or extended, the Bulls will have salary-cap space next summer. It won't be enough for a maximum free agent, particularly if the Bulls buy out 2011 draft-day acquisition Nikola Mirotic from his Real Madrid contract. But with Carlos Boozer a candidate for the amnesty provision next summer — which hasn't been decided definitively — the Bulls could have flexibility.
"We put this team together and then the new (collective bargaining agreement) came out," Forman said. "The new CBA is very restrictive in your ability to improve because it has taken away a lot of avenues to build your team. I've talked about it as almost a stock market correction.
"We like our team. We have a good group. But we haven't had flexibility. Next summer will be the first chance to have some level of flexibility to add to the team."
Forman wouldn't speculate on the chances of signing Mirotic.
"We knew he wouldn't be able to come under the rookie scale slot that he was drafted in for at least three years," Forman said. "It could be longer, but we're hopeful to bring him over (in 2014)."
The biggest addition to the band is Mike Dunleavy.
"We were thrilled to get him," Forman said. "He was our priority from Day One of free agency. He has the ability to play multiple positions and shoot. He can handle it. He can pass it. We just think he was a perfect fit."
But LeBron James is still LeBron James. The Pacers are tough and deep. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has laughed at the luxury tax and stockpiled his team with big, if aging, names.
Can the Bulls break through to advance to their first Finals since 1998?
"I don't want to put a ceiling on what they could become," Forman said. "They've shown when healthy, we can have a certain level of success. And we did with the best record in the league for (two) years.
"We're still a fairly young team, but we have young veterans. Joakim (Noah), Derrick, Taj (Gibson) … these guys have been in the league now four, five, six years. Right now, everyone is doing well health-wise. We're looking forward to get going."