DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Nazr Mohammed has learned throughout his career not to get too settled with any one team.
His first lesson with that uncertainty came during the NBA draft in 1998. Mohammed, a Chicago native, was taken by the Utah Jazz out of the University of Kentucky in the first round and was later traded that evening to the Philadelphia 76ers.
And now he’s spending his 14th year in the league with his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls. While Mohammed hopes Chicago is the final stop in his career, he also knows never to assume anything.
“If you have a long career, I’m pretty sure you’re going to play for 4-5 teams at a minimum,” said Mohammed, who said he also considered signing with the Bulls in 2006. “That’s my goal (to retire here.) When I decided to sign this summer, my goal was to finish up here. That’s always the goal. Also when I was in OKC, I was hoping to finish up in OKC.
“You never know what the future holds when you’re playing in this league. You can have your goals, but hopefully your goals and management’s goals are on the same page.”
Mohammed has averaged 6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks playing various roles throughout his career. He’s started 341 of 834 regular-season games, played in 66 playoff games and won a NBA title with the Spurs.
This season, Mohammed has averaged nine points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 21.3 minutes and shot .434 percent from the field in the three preseason games. He had 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, and he produced 13 points and 13 rebounds in the preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies.
So far, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been pleased with Mohammed’s play with the team’s second group.
“I think he’s played very well,” Thibodeau said. “Just his ability to execute. Offensively, he’s a very good screener, tough on the offensive boards, catches the ball deep in the paint. He’s done a very good job offensively. And defensively, his size at the rim is a big factor for us. So I’m very pleased with how he’s played, and I think he can play better, but he’s been everything we thought he’d be.”
Joakim Noah isn’t management, but he also praised Mohammed’s play.
“Naz is great, man,” Noah said. “A very positive guy and somebody who's been playing, has a lot of experience in this league. And he's playing at a very high level right now, so he's definitely going to help us."
Mohammed wasn’t as positive about himself. He gave himself a B-minus grade.
“There’s still a lot that I need to learn as far as some of the defensive principles and some of the things coach wants done,” Mohammed said. “I’m comfortable in this thing. I feel I can catch on pretty quickly.
“I think I’ve been active as far as hitting the offensive boards. I’d like to get a couple more defensive boards. I’m a guy who has always shot pretty close to 50 percent over my career, especially the last couple years. I definitely want to get above 50 percent. I think that’s important for myself. And then block an extra shot here and there and continue what I’m doing.”
There has been an additional element for Mohammed this season with Chicago being his home. He has close friends, such as Antoine Walker, and family still in Chicago.
Recently, he went to his old high school, Kenwood Academy, to assist in a fundraiser and still hits up the same restaurants he grew up on.
“I’m a Harold’s Chicken (Shack) guy,” said Mohammed, who played with the Chicago-based Mac Irvin Fire on the club scene. “Chicago guys, you got to like Harold’s. Giordano’s Pizza is always one of my favorites. I haven’t been back yet, but I’m trying to get back to a little restaurant in Hyde Park called Valois, a kind of breakfast/lunch spot I used to go to when I was in high school.
“I’m happy to be home. It’s great to be in a city where there are so many familiar things around. It puts you at ease and gives you a comfort level.”