MILWAUKEE – Kyle Korver still misses elements of his two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, the team camaraderie, the cohesive goal toward winning, and even the relentless Tom Thibodeau. He’s adjusted smoothly so far in his first season with the Atlanta Hawks, playing the most minutes since his third season while shooting and passing freely.
There’s less control over every little detail that Korver enjoys now. He learned immensely from Thibodeau – gaining sharp techniques defensively and fitting into a systematic offense – but has enjoyed more minutes and assuming more of a leadership role.
The Bulls traded Korver last offseason to save money toward the salary cap, a move that sent away their best three-point shooter who easily clicked with Derrick Rose. Ranking sixth-worst in three-point shooting percentage, Chicago has badly missed Korver.
All along, Korver felt a trade out of Chicago could come, and when he left last year, it was on good terms. Korver will be a free agent this offseason, and there’s little doubt that the Bulls will at least make a pitch to sign him – just like many other NBA teams. And should he receive that call from the Bulls, Korver made clear he would consider returning.
“Totally, I would,” Korver told RealGM on Saturday night. “That’s a great organization, that’s an awesome jersey to put on. Great fans, good team. You only get to be a free agent so many times in a career, so I’ll definitely see what’s all there. But I would absolutely listen to what they’ve got to say.”
Just one game in the win column separates the Bulls and Hawks, and Korver knows the threat his former team poses. For his part, Rose was an advocate of Korver over the past two seasons, both guards benefiting from the facets of their repertories that capitalizes each other best – dribble penetration and outside shooting. As much as anyone, Rose would have loved for Korver to stay with the Bulls.
Before the two teams played each other earlier this month, Korver and Rose caught up on their recently born children – Rose’s son, Korver’s daughter – and the 2011 MVP’s torn ACL rehabilitation. Korver is confident that Rose will return at some point this season but understands the tempering of expectations needed for it to be a seamless comeback.
“Especially where the Bulls are at right now, there’s no need for him to rush back,” Korver said. “To catch an extra five games? It’s just about him being mentally confident and then having some court time and going into the playoffs to see what happens.”
Rose recently said he won’t return until he is 110 percent, hinting toward the prospect of missing the entire season. In Korver’s mind, progress toward return from Rose had been expected too much, too soon, and there’s a solidified plan in place to ensure that 110 percent mark.
“He’s got some good voices around him and the organization has supported him with whatever he needs,” Korver said. “He’s going to make sure he’s 110 percent before he comes back.
“There’s a lot of buildup for when he’s coming back and it creates a lot of pressure. I think all he was saying was, ‘I’m going to make sure that I’m 110 percent.’ He’s not trying to make a big deal about anything … just wants to wait until he’s 110 percent. And he should.”
Through new teammates and a new environment, Korver has shown versatility in playing two different systems. More minutes have led to increased production, and he’s tried to lead in the Hawks’ locker room this season, being the oldest player on the roster at 31. “I’m the oldest guy on our team, so I try to share when I can, things that you’ve picked up over the years,” he said.
When the Eastern Conference standings comes up, Korver knows the Hawks have the opportunity not only to make the playoffs, but also further elevate their seeding.
With the Bulls, Korver had always seen his team as on the Miami Heat’s level. Now, he’s just in the mix of teams – including those Bulls – jockeying for stature behind the Heat.
“There’s a nice little cluster after Miami,” Korver said. “You want to be playing your best basketball by the end of the season and I think over the course of the last couple months, we’re seeing who we have to be to be successful. So I think it’ll be good for us these last 28 games to find a rhythm and establish a brand of basketball.”