July 16, 2009
I love the NBA Summer League. It provides the perfect opportunity for rookies (and a handful of non-rookies) to pad their stats so the media and fans can get way too excited about contests that are slightly less meaningful than preseason games. Golden State’s Anthony Randolph “ravaged” the Bulls for 42 points while Chicago rookies James Johnson (21 points) and Taj Gibson (12 points, 14 rebounds) looked mighty impressive.
Reality check: Adam Morrison led the Summer League in scoring before his rookie campaign…after which he went on to average 11.8 PPG on 37 percent shooting and lose his starting job midway through the season. (And he was playing for a 33-win team that wasn’t exactly loaded with talent.) Heck, Adam’s averaging 20+ points in Summer League action right now. What does that tell you?
I’m not saying some of these kids might not turn out to be good. They might even be great someday. But let’s try to keep things in perspective. I will say this, though: I was pretty hyped up about Gibson’s seven offensive rebounds. Hitting the offensive glass is a pretty sure sign that somebody is working their butt off. Let’s hope that’s a continuing trend.
In other news, Scottie Pippen has a message for Bulls management: get better players before Derrick Rose burns out. Said the Pipmeister: “As good as he is, you can beat a dead horse only so much. If he’s not motivated here by winning as his career continues, then he’s going to start looking at guys like Ben Gordon who made a move [to Detroit]. Playing this game is a lot of fun. But the meat-and-potatoes of this league is winning. If you’re not on a team that’s winning, it takes a lot out of you as a player.”
This is only going to be Derrick’s second season, right?
July 15, 2009
Adorable puppy sold separately.
Carlos Boozer had a nice little chat with ESPN Radio 1000′s Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman today, during which he confirmed that the Jazz have agreed to trade him. When asked whether he might be shipped to Chi-town, Boozer said: “I definitely heard a little rumbling about it, whether it will go down or not. It’s kind of between the Jazz and Chicago but obviously if I did get traded to Chicago, I’d love to be a part of the Bulls.”
Furthermore, he described the Bulls thusly: “Great organization, top notch from top to bottom. They do things very professionally there. At the same time they have a good group of talent there. Obviously with Derrick Rose at the helm and being Rookie of the Year last year and having some very good talent around him. Very good team. If I was able to come there, I’d bring a lot, especially in the low post and being a leader as well. We’ll see what happens.”
Can you feel the love? I can.
Boozer also discussed his admiration for Derrick Rose, the notion that he might lure Dwyane Wade to Chicago next summer, and whether he could stay healthy before reiterating that he’d “love to be part of the Chicago Bulls.” Go here for the full transcript.
So…could a Boozer trade happen? Possibly. According to John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: “The Jazz, which already has more than $73 million in salary commitments for the upcoming season, is desperate to unload Boozer’s $12.7 million salary and there aren’t many teams willing to take on a big contract right now. The Bulls might be able to swing a deal with an offer of Tyrus Thomas ($4.7 million) and the expiring contract of Jerome James ($6.6 million). That exchange would save the Jazz roughly $1.3 million and get them closer to the luxury-tax threshold of $69.92 million.”
The bad news: That deal would push the Bulls over the dreaded luxury tax threshold, and you know how hard management has been working to avoid that. So acquiring Boozer would probably require some additional wheeling and dealing before it comes what you would call “financially viable.” Unless of course Ebenezer Scrooge, er, that is, Jerry Reinsdorf decided to overpay a little bit to field what could be a pretty sweet team.
First the Bulls signed a backup combo guard. Then they re-signed their backup-backup point guard. And now they’ve reached a contract settlement with Tim “The Human Coffee Break” Thomas. Exciting times in the Windy City folks…banner number seven here we come!
Okay. Sarcasm over. For now.
Thomas had one year remaining on his contract at $6,466,600, which was about $6,466,000 more than he was worth. Don’t get your hopes up or anything. This wasn’t the precursor to a major move. The Bulls bought out Timmy’s contract so they wouldn’t go over the luxury tax threshold after the Pargo and Hunter signings. With a front court that includes Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Brad Miller as well as rookies James Johnson and Taj Gibson, the best Thomas could have hoped for was garbage minutes here or there. Ergo, he had become even less than useless.
I’m not sorry he’s gone. Tim Thomas isn’t exactly synonymous with winning. He is, however, synonymous with selfishness, laziness and horrific shot selection. Hopefully, this is the last we’ll see of him. Two stints in Chicago is about three stints too many.
July 14, 2009
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Bulls have reached terms with Lindsey Hunter: One-year for the vet’s minimum of $1.3 million.
This is one of those Geico Insurance moves. You know, where a team pays for a player in the hopes they’ll never have to actually play them. Last season, Hunter appeared in 28 games and averaged about nine and a half minutes per. He might play a tad bit more this season due to the departure of Ben Gordon, but I can’t see him logging more than 35-40 games at most…barring a significant injury to somebody else.
Note the length of the deal. One year. The Bulls are avoiding multi-year deals like the black death. Unless a major trade takes place, it looks like they’re putting all their eggs in the Summer of 2010 basket.
July 12, 2009
And I mean cooling way down. As in, it ain’t happening.
Oh sure, technically speaking, anything could happen. The Bulls could trade for Boozer next week. MJ could come out of retirement. I could discover a chemical formula that transforms pure evil into delicious candy.
A lot of things couldhappen. This one specific thing, barring circumstances unforeseen, will not.
It’s probably just as well. The Utah Jazz, by all indications, don’t want Carlos Boozer anymore. Typically speaking, NBA teams do not lightly dismiss players who can average 20+ points and 10+ rebounds per game. But in Boozer’s case, there are questions regarding his durability (he’s missed 134 games during his five seasons with the Jazz) as well as his desire.
Is that the kind of player the Bulls want to bring in? Particularly in a potential two-for-one swap? Why give up Kirk Hinrich (which could cripple the team’s back court depth) and Tyrus Thomas (who might explode in 2009-10 given that it’s a contract year for him) in return for a potential locker room cancer who might miss half a season and not even re-sign with the team after his contract expires next summer?
It seems kind of silly when you look at it that way, but that’s what happens when a team spends year after year longing for somebody, anybody who can score in the low post. It’s a bad sign when fans start longing for the halcyon days of the Michael Sweetney Era. And it’s especially frustrating for Bulls fans, who had to deal with the loss of Ben Gordon while the league’s rich got even richer: Boston got Rasheed Wallace, Cleveland got Shaq, L.A. got Ron Artest and San Antonio got Richard Jefferson (not to mention Antonio McDyess).
It makes sense that the fans wanted to see a move. Something big, something juicy.
But sometimes, staying the course might be the best plan of action. Or inaction, as the case may be.
As things stand right now, the Bulls have a solid core of players — a budding All-Star-in-the-making, a few savvy vets, some developing youngsters — and enough expiring contracts to make a major move next summer or at the trade deadline. And Chicago will certainly be a much more attractive free agent destination if the Bulls can match last season’s success than if they fell apart because Boozer took his usual 30-40 game vacation and our back court players broke down from playing too many minutes.
Now, if the Jazz wanted to trade Boozer for some loose parts off the Bulls’ scrap pile — Tim Thomas, Jerome James, Anthony Roberson — then let’s get it done. And while we’re dreaming, maybe they’ll trade us Deron Williams for Brad Miller’s expiring contract.
But barring some mass hysteria and insanity in Utah, I guess Bulls fans will have to be satisfied with some incremental progress and hope for the future.
July 10, 2009
Now that the Bulls have backup guard insurance in the form of Jannero Pargo, Kirk Hinrich might have become more expendable than ever. And when I say “Kirk Hinrich,” I really mean “the bloated contract that Bulls management desperately wants to get rid of.” Let the trade rumors begin!
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports: “Another major multi-team trade might be looming in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls having discussed a deal that would be headlined by Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich, according to NBA front-office sources. Sources stressed to ESPN.com that no deal was imminent Thursday and that both Portland and Utah are still evaluating additional trade scenarios. But two sources with knowledge of the three-team proposal confirmed that there have been substantive talks aimed at landing Boozer in Chicago, Hinrich in Portland and Tyrus Thomas in Utah. A deal featuring those main components would deliver the elite low-post scorer that the Bulls have been chasing for years in Boozer while also positioning them to have significant salary-cap space for the summer of 2010 to court Chicago native Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh in free agency, since Boozer is entering the final year of his contract.”
Wait, let me get this straight: The Bulls could bring in an actual, honest-to-goodness inside scoring threat and still end up with plenty of cap space for next summer’s free agent bonanza? Either there isn’t a downside to the proposed deal or I can’t see it.
(Okay, it would leave us a little thin in the “backcourt depth” department, but still…)
July 9, 2009
It’s official: The Bulls and Jannero Pargo have agreed to a one-year deal worth $2 million.
This is a nice pickup for the Bulls. Pargo is a solid backup guard who proved in New Orleans that he can come in off the bench and be a valuable contributor. He’s also a Chicago native who played for the Bulls from 2003-2006. Go here for the scouting report on Pargo.
Pargo’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said: “I think he’ll pick up where he left off in New Orleans when he was one of the top sixth men in the league. I think he could have done better (financially) if he waited a little bit longer, but he didn’t want to lose the opportunity with the Bulls. We just thought it was a good fit.”
Don’t you just love NBA player agents? It’s like they all went to school at Used Car Salesman University. I’m not sure Pargo could have earned much more than that, particularly considering the upcoming Salary Cap Apocalypse.
As I pointed out yesterday, the Bulls had only about $2.4 million to play with before reaching the luxury tax threshold. So unless Gar Forman works out a trade for Carlos Boozer– which, frankly, seems pretty unlikely — this will probably be the last significant move the team makes during the offseason.
But by limiting Pargo to a one-year deal, the Bulls will still have financial flexibility next summer even if the salary cap drops again. As of now, the Bulls should have only seven players under contract for 2010-11: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, John Salmons, Joakim Noah, James Johnson and Taj Gibson. The combined total of those deals will be about $38.6 million. If the cap is in the $50-ish million range, the team will have $12 million or so to sign someone from the Summer of 2010 Free Agent Class.
I know the team hasn’t made The Leap this summer. We lost Ben Gordon and we didn’t acquire a big-name player. But, assuming Luol Deng is healthy next season, the Bulls should be at least solid (if not spectacular) at every position with a handful of capable backups to spell the starters. And, thanks to intelligent cap management, we will be in the running for a major upgrade one year from now. All in all, not bad. Not great…but not bad.
July 8, 2009
Some Bulls fans are wondering why the team hasn’t been aggressively pursuing free agents, particularly Ben Gordon, whom they lost to the Pistons. As always, the answer is all about money.
As reported by Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald, the NBA finally released the new salary cap and luxury-tax threshold: “For the second time since the cap was instituted in 1984, the number dropped. The new cap is $57.7 million, about a million less than last year. The luxury-tax threshold is $69.92 million. The mid-level exception, which is supposed to represent the average salary, is $5.85 million.”
What does that mean for the Bulls? A lot.
McGraw crunched the numbers for the 11 players the team already has under contract and the qualifying offer they made to Aaron Gray. Read ‘em and weep:
Brad Miller $12.25 million
Luol Deng $10.37 million
Kirk Hinrich $9.5 million
Jerome James $6.6 million
Tim Thomas $6.47 million
John Salmons $6.35 million
Derrick Rose $5.18 million
Tyrus Thomas $4.74 million
Joakim Noah $2.46 million
Aaron Gray $1.0 million
James Johnson $1.59 million
Taj Gibson $1.04 million
Total (including Gray): $67.544 million
Luxury tax threshold: $69.92 million
As you can see, the Bulls are already about $10 million over the new salary cap. Even worse, they’re within a couple million of the luxury tax threshold. Remember, for every dollar the Bulls go over that threshold, they have to pay a dollar in taxes. With the economy swirling down the toilet, that’s a penalty almost every NBA team has been bending over backward to avoid. The Bulls are no exception.
Even assuming the Bulls retain Gray, they’re still required to have a 13th player on their roster. Some teams even sign 14 players as an injury contingency. So, if Gray ends up wearing red this season, that means the Bulls have just under $2.4 million left to sign one or two more players. Realistically, the team could end up spending most or all of that money Jannero Pargo. And there’s no guarantee the Bulls can or will do that.
It’s also possible the Bulls will try to fill out the last couple roster spots with players from their summer league team. Pippin Ain’t Easy posted the Bulls’ summer league roster, and there are some potentials there: “Actual Bulls on the roster consist of new draft picks James Johnson and Taj Gibson as well as Anthony Roberson, Linton Johnson III and DeMarcus Nelson. The Bulls will play five games from July 14-19 at Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV. Others included are some players with memorable NCAA Tourney experience/performances: Lorenzo Mata-Real from UCLA was a fun player to watch during the tourneys. James Augustine from the Illini and their 2005 tourney run. Taurean Green filled it up and won with the Gators.”
I said “potentials,” not “great potentials.” The bottom line is this: Bulls management wants to avoid the luxury tax while maintaining financial flexibility for next summer. They’re willing to bide their time and field an average to slightly-above average team this season, in the hopes that they’ll be able to make a move at the trade deadline or next summer. All I’m saying is, don’t expect John Paxson and Gar Forman to bring in any major help for the 2009-10 campaign.
July 7, 2009
Yes they are…according to Rumor Press: “Look for the Chicago Bulls to make a strong push for Carlos Boozer. Reports have indicated the Bulls are interested in trading for the Utah Jazz power forward and there is a lot of truth to it. General Manager Gar Forman has already had discussions with the Jazz about sending Boozer to Chicago and talks could heat up even more in the coming weeks. The Bulls are looking to send Tyrus Thomas and most likely Jerome James to the Jazz for Boozer, the problem is the Jazz are talking to several other teams and may wait to find a better deal. Either way, the Bulls will at least make a strong effort at trying to get Boozer in Chicago.”
I would fully support the proposed Thomas/James-for-Boozer trade. It would be a low-risk, potentially high-reward gamble. Boozer doesn’t have Ty’s defensive chops, but he’s a proven inside scorer, which would address the Bulls’ most glaring need. He’s also a more consistent rebounder than Thomas. And, in a worst-case scenario, Boozer’s contract expires next summer. If he doesn’t work out, the Bulls can simply let his contract come off the books (clearing cap space for a major free agent signing) or use him in a sign-and-trade. I’d hate for the Bulls to lose T-Time’s defense, but I still believe the deal would be a net gain for Chicago.
That said, I don’t see it happening. As Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune points out, the Jazz have plenty of options (and no lack of interest) should they decide to send Boozer elsewhere. And, with more than $30 million worth of contracts set to expire next summer (including Boozer’s), they might also decide to take a luxury tax hit this season to ensure maximum financial flexibility next season. In other words, the Jazz are likely to either hold on to Boozer for one more season, or they’ll find a better deal than the Thomas/James combo.
July 6, 2009
Now that Ben Gordon is a former Bull, it looks like former Bull Jannero Pargo might be coming back to Chicago.
Pargo spent the last year playing overseas, first for the Moscow Dynamo (who had to buy out his contract due to financial difficulties) and then Olympiakos in Greece (otherwise known as the team that stole Josh Childress from the Atlanta Hawks). Now he’s coming back to the NBA, and both the Bulls and New Orleans Hornets (whom he played for prior to bolting for Moscow) are interested in re-acquiring his services.
Pargo isn’t going to replace Ben Gordon. Not by a longshot. Pargo’s career averages — 6.9 PPG, 39.5 percent shooting, 36.5 percent from downtown — barely match what Gordon would do on a really bad might. Fortunately, the Bulls wouldn’t ask him to be Ben Gordon Part II. They would simply need him to be a solid, steady, veteran contributer off the bench. And Pargo excelled in that role when he was with the Hornets in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
If the Bulls sign him, he’d make a great (and cost-effective) backup.
Update! The scouting report on Jannero Pargo: Here’s the skinny from Pargo’s DraftExpress player profile:
Overview: “A tremendous scoring combo guard. … Possesses only average size and physical strength for the point guard spot. Shows good quickness and lateral speed. Won’t play above the rim, but can get there occasionally. Plays with a scorer’s mentality, and isn’t known for his playmaking skills. Incredible shot-maker from the perimeter, but is a bit streaky. Never gets rattled, and never loses sight of what he brings to the table. Will play tough defense. Tough player in general with outstanding intangibles. Has become a useful role player. … His playoff performances with the Bulls and then the Hornets were huge for his career.”
On offense: “A good offensive point guard who will run the pick and roll and hit spot up shots from the perimeter. Displays a very fundamentally sound shooting stroke and can stretch the floor after he initiates the offense. Good catch and shoot guy. Just as capable off the dribble. Would much rather pull up than attack the rim due to his lack of size and leaping ability. Has the quickness to create separation off the dribble. Can absolutely take over a game at times with his stroke, and change the complexion of the contest — making him a tremendous option to bring off the bench as a change of pace guard. If his shooting stroke isn’t on, though, he can become a liability. Never been known as a terribly efficient player throughout his career, partially due to his struggles converting shots around the rim. Not quite as good as a pure point guard as he is as a scorer. Has improved significantly throughout his career in that respect, though. Used to be very turnover prone. Handles the ball well, and while he may not be a great creator, he is a very solid passer. Very rarely gets to the free throw line. Handles pressure well, and can hit his free throws at a very high rate. Plays within himself, which is a trait that took him time to develop. Extremely confident.”
On defense: “A very good defender who uses his quickness to hawk the ball, but does not have great length at 6-2. Can be a real nuisance for less athletic point guards. Moves his feet extremely well and maintains a low stance. Will get too aggressive sometimes and get beaten off the dribble, but not often. Commits some fouls by nature of his assertiveness. Does his best to keep the ball out of the lane. Not a risk taker, but plays with a physicality that allows him to be a very good defensive point guard. Struggles when forced to defend shooting guards, though, which happens fairly often. Not strong enough at times to fight through screens on the pick and roll. Lacks the height to contest shots and make an impact on the glass, but will run down long rebounds and do his best to get a hand up when he can.”