July 10, 2012
Even as Bulls fans welcome Kirk Hinrich back to Chicago, they must also bid a fond farewell to the Bench Mob.
One of the Bulls’ great strengths the past two seasons — during which they won a league-best 112 games — was a prolific second unit consisting of C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik.
Gibson isn’t going anywhere. The Rockets are trying to steal away Asik — a restricted free agent — using a $25.1 million contract offer the Bulls may or may not match.
As for the remaining three…
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Brewer and Watson are gone.
Management has officially informed Brewer they will not pick up his $4.37 million option for the 2012-13 season. Watson had already been told his $3.2 million option for next season wouldn’t be picked up.
Brewer was already slated to be replaced by Jimmy Butler, whom the Bulls selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. And when Hinrich agreed to return to the team, Watson’s fate was sealed (and he was hanging on by the slimmest of threads already).
As for Korver, Johnson writes: “According to sources, the Bulls have agreed to inform Kyle Korver of their official decision on his $5 million option by Sunday so that if he is cut loose, he can pursue other jobs in free agency.”
Basically, circumstances forced management to start retooling the team.
Here are the cold hard facts.
Derrick Rose is going to miss some or all of next season.
The NBA champion Heat got stronger with the addition of Ray Allen.
The Brooklyn Nets traded for Joe Johnson, re-signed Deron Williams, and may land white whale Dwight Howard.
Out west, the Thunder are still stacked, the Spurs aren’t going anywhere, and the Lakers traded for Steve Nash.
And — I repeat — Derrick Rose is going to miss some or all of next season.
It all comes down to Rose.
Everything the Bulls can do and will do centers around that man. Without him, or even with him back but not 100 percent, the Bulls aren’t going to beat any of the teams I mentioned above.
They just aren’t.
So management has chosen the prudent course of action. (Or, some would say, inaction.) Rather than spend recklessly now, they are trying to massage salary, develop young talent like Butler and this year’s first round pick Marquis Teague, and keep a weather eye to the future.
After all, in a couple years, Deng’s contract is going to expire. And the team will likely amnesty Boozer as well. Cap space will open up and the team can pursue another star-level player to pair with Rose.
So the bottom line is: The Bulls may be good or even pretty good the next season or two. But they won’t be winning a title. And management isn’t going to overspend on a non-title team.
The Bulls will still be solid with Boozer, Luol Deng (even if he misses part of next season due to wrist surgery), Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton, etc.
It’s all about adjusting and revising expectations. The Bulls will still be a talented, hard-working, well-coached team.
The championship dreams will just be delayed for a while.
July 9, 2012
Allow me to present the Kirk Hinrich Timeline:
June 26, 2003:
The Bulls select Kirk Hinrich with the seventh overall pick in the NBA Draft.
July 16, 2003:
Hinrich signs a four-year rookie deal with the Bulls that includes a team option for the 2006-07 season.
October 24, 2005:
The Bulls exercise their option on Hinrich for 2006-07.
October 31, 2006:
The Bulls sign Hinrich to a five-year contract extension worth $47.5 million.
November 2006 through May 2007:
Hinrich goes on to have his best season as a pro: 16.6 PPG, 6.3 APG, 44.8 percent shooting from the field, 41.5 percent on three-pointers, and a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 17.0. The Bulls finish 49-33 and, despite being eliminated by the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, become widely acclaimed as The Team of the Future.
November 2007 through April 2008:
Hinrich regresses as a player — 11.5 PPG, 6.0 APG, 41 percent shooting, 35 percent on threes, PER of 13.1. The Bulls also regress as a team, winning only 33 games and missing the playoffs during a season in which 51.9 percent of the league’s GMs predicted they would win the Central Division (and 22.2 percent had them winning the Eastern Conference). Hinrich’s extension suddenly looks ridiculous.
May 20, 2008:
Despite a mere 1.7 percent chance of success, the Bulls win the 2008 NBA Draft Lottery.
June 26, 2008:
The Bulls select Derrick Rose with the first overall pick of the NBA Draft.
November 2008 through May 2009:
Hinrich spends the 2008-09 season coming off the bench behind Derrick Rose and submits his worst statistical season (9.9 PPG, 3.9 APG, 4 starts) while making $10 million. Hinrich officially goes from being “The Next John Stocton” to “The First Guy To Be Traded If The Bulls Can Convince Another Team To Take On His Contract.”
July 8, 2010:
Almost four years dozens of trade rumors after signing that $47.5 million extension, Hinrich is shipped to Washington in an effort to clear cap room for the LeBron/D-Wade/Bosh sweepstakes…which the Bulls lose.
February 23, 2011:
The Wizards trade Hinrich (along with Hilton Armstrong) to the Atlanta Hawks for Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first rounder draft pick (which is used to select Chris Singleton).
April 28, 2011:
Hinrich injures his hamstring in Game 6 of Atlanta’s first round playoff series against the Orlando Magic. Hinrich would miss the rest of the Hawks’ postseason…which was comprised of a second round playoff elimination by the Bulls.
December 2011 through May 2012:
Hinrich misses the first 18 games of the lockout-shortened season due to his recovery from left shoulder surgery. Hinrich has by far his worst season as a pro — 6.6 PPG, 2.8 APG, 34 percent three-point shooting, 9.2 PER — and the Hawks are eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
April 28, 2012:
Derrick Rose tears the ACL in his left knee during Game 1 of the Bulls’ first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
May 12, 2012:
Rose has surgery on his ACL. Estimated recovery time is 8-12 months. The Bulls suddenly have a need for a solid, veteran PG to run the team until Rose is able to return from injury.
May through July 2012:
There is much speculation about what the Bulls will do to address the PG situation. It is widely agreed that drafting Marquis Teague with the 28th pick of the NBA Draft won’t solve the problem. Further, the Bulls seem hesitant to pick up the team option on backup PG C.J. Watson. Fan sentiment for the return of Hinrich begins to grow. The Bulls reportedly show interest in bringing Hinrich back.
July 8, 2012:
Reports surface that Hinrich has agreed to a two-year deal with the Bulls.
July 6, 2012
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweeted this today:
Add two names to Bulls’ free-agent possibles: Michael Redd and Jerryd Bayless, who just became a UFA after Toronto pulled qualifying offer.
So…Bayless (player bio) and Redd (player bio). Okay then.
I’ve never been a Bayless fan. He’s a shoot-first point guard who’s shot 41.2 percent from the field and 35 percent from the downtown for his career (although he knocked down 42.3 percent of his treys last season). He is neither an accomplished passer (3.8 APG versus 1.7 TOs) nor a capable defender.
He was decent last season — 18.0 PPG and 6.0 APG per 36 minutes — but played only 31 games due to injuries (hip pointer and then a partially torn left oblique). But he’s reasonable well-regarded around the league and will likely draw interest significant interest.
As for Redd, he was an almost-great player a few years ago. Then he tore his ACL and was never the same. He got some traction going with the Suns last season (19.5 PPG per 36 minutes on 40 percent shooting). But he’s a scorer (period) with with a history of knee injuries and iffy conditioning. I would categorize Redd as a “last resort” possibility.
The Bulls reached out to Brandon Roy…
…and Roy has reached a verbal agreement with the Minnesota Timberwolves to sign a two-year contract worth $10.4 million.
It’s not too surprising. The Bulls didn’t have that kind of money to offer Roy.
So another free agent is off the board.
The options are dwindling. While C.J. Watson and his $3.2 million team option hang in limbo — the Bulls have until July 10 to decide whether or not to retain him — the team will probably continue to look at the likes of Kirk Hinrich, Jonny Flynn, Courtney Lee and Derek Fisher.
With all the cash committed to the contracts of Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng, the Bulls are going to dangerously close to the luxury tax no matter what they do. With the Rockets making a big push for Omer Asik, management is pretty handcuffed at the moment. All Chicago can offer is minimal salaries at this point. Would Hinrich — who has several teams interested in his services — take a low ball offer just to return to the Windy City?
If the Bulls are going to continue standing pat — and there’s every reason so far to believe that’s the case — it seems more and more that they should keep C.J. around.
Joakim Noah sprained his left ankle during Game 3 of the Bulls’ first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. That injury was devastating for the Bulls.
Apparently, it will be devastating for Team France as well.
Jo won’t be able to play for his home country in this summer’s Olympic games because the ankle is not fully healed.
As Noah told the French sports daily L’Equipe: ”I’m absolutely not ready, not ready to run, not ready to jump. And even less to play. I need more time and work. I’m not in form for someone who wants to compete in the Olympics. And given the problems that I have with my ankles, not going to the Games seemed to be the most reasonable decision.”
I’m sure the decision was painful for Noah, but it was the right one. Some people think Luol Deng — who is still suffering the effects of a torn ligament in his left wrist — should also opt out of playing in the Olympics for Great Britain. But Deng would probably have to lose the use of both legs for that to happen.
For my part, I just want Noah to be healthy and whole for next season. I wouldn’t want him playing hurt for France, the U.S., or anybody else. As Jo said, not playing, in this case, is the most reasonable decision.
July 2, 2012
So…let’s get this straight.
A contract worth $25.1 million over three years for a guy who averaged 3.1 PPG and 5.3 RPG with a Player Efficiency Rating of 13.4 while playing only 14.7 MPG last season?
That’s what the Houston Rockets have reportedly offered Omer Asik.
For those of you who enjoy simple math, that deal would have Asik making around $8 million per year.
If you’re wondering how Houston was able to offer Asik that much cash, ESPN’s John Hollinger breaks it down detail-by-detail. Here are the main points:
Under the “Gilbert Arenas” provision of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, a player such as Asik — a second-round draft pick coming off his second season — can be offered only a maximum of the midlevel exception in free agency for the first two seasons but can be offered any amount up to the maximum in years after that.
Houston took advantage of this provision by limiting his offer to three years, rather than the maximum of four, and offering the maximum eligible salary in Year 3.
It’s so damaging because of how the league assigns the salary cap and luxury tax hits for the respective sides. In Houston’s case, the amounts are averaged over the three seasons, requiring the Rockets to have a little more than $8 million in cap room to consummate the deal.
As it turns out, the Rockets can absorb that cap hit without much trouble. The Bulls? Not so much. Hollinger continues:
The league calculates the cap charge differently for a team matching the offer sheet, using actual salaries instead of the average. So the Bulls get off easy in the short term; a $5 million cap charge for Asik this year and next should have been in their budget to start.
But then in 2014-15, it jumps up to about $14.9 million. And it’s not clear how the Bulls are supposed to handle that, especially given their aversion to the luxury tax and the fact they may be subject to the repeater penalty by then. Between Asik, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, they have $61.6 million committed and that’s without paying Taj Gibson, retaining Luol Deng, or adding any free agent or draft picks.
They’re almost certainly a tax team, in other words, and in fact they’re likely to be deep into the tax, even if the league’s tax level rises a few ducats by then. Which makes the effective cost of keeping Asik that season closer to $30 million than $15 million. And as much as I may admire his defense and rebounding, it’s inconceivable that Asik is worth anywhere near $30 million.
I have to agree with Hollinger. Omer isn’t worth that kind of money. Not when the team has several other holes that need to be filled.
And for the people who may be screaming for the Bulls to simply use the amnesty provision to dump Boozer’s contract, it’s not quite that simple, as Hollinger also explains:
Are there ways around this? Yes, but the medicine is worse than the disease. If in 2014 the Bulls were to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, who would be on the final year of his deal, that would cut $15 million from their cap number (and likely from their luxury tax bill) that season, but they would still have to pay Boozer, which would still make Asik’s effective cost $30 million — except in that case, it’s $30 million and a starting power forward.
So that doesn’t make much sense either. Meaning the Bulls are kind of behind the eight ball.
As ESPN’s Marc Stein pointed out, Bulls GM Gar Forman said after the draft on Thursday that management will be making decisions based on basketball and not finances. It makes for a great quote…but at some point finances always come into play. And it almost certainly will here. At this cost, if the Bulls match Houston’s offer on Asik, it will require major changes to personnel. Ditto if they lose Asik.
As usual, there are no easy answers.