From the moment the Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the NBA playoffs last Thursday — actually before that moment, as the Bulls’ blowout loss in Game 6 to the Cleveland Cavaliers provided plenty of time to declare their season over before the final horn — the team has been the subject of many rumors of the who’s-going, who’s-coming variety.
Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ spectacular franchise centerpiece who comes with a frightening history of recent knee injuries, confirmed that he feels good and is “at peace” with Chicago’s second-round postseason exit. Joakim Noah, the team’s mercurial All-Star center, admitted he feels disappointed in himself — which means he’s not just as likely to hit the gym like a madman this summer and respond with a dominant 2015-16 season as he is likely to disappear to some Caribbean island and report to training camp 50 pounds heavier. Rising All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler can be a restricted free agent and will have plenty of suitors. Sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy‘s contract is up, backup point guard Aaron Brooks‘ contract is up, and everybody with any affiliation to the league is certain that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will be fired ASAP. (If he hasn’t already been fired by the time you read this.)
There is so much going on with the Bulls right now that it understandably coasted under the radar when backup center Nazr Mohammed told the Chicago Tribune that he is not retiring and plans to return for his 18th NBA season.
Mohammed’s contract is also up, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 37-year-old has played for eight teams in his pro career, helping the majority of them make the playoffs each year during his tenure, and winning an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005. A practicing Muslim who was raised in Chicago, Mohammed has been with his hometown squad for the last three seasons. He doesn’t play much anymore, averaging just 5.6 minutes per game in 23 appearances this past regular season, but Mohammed has been one of the Bulls’ locker-room leaders and veteran influences.
After winning two national championships at the University of Kentucky, Mohammed was chosen 29th in the 1998 NBA Draft. His has been a class with surprising longevity, as fellow ’98 draftees Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter are still active in the league.