July 8, 2010
Yesterday, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade talked to ESPN’s Michael Wilbon about trying to create a team of Super Friends in Miami. What interested me most was what Wade had to say about the Bulls.
From the transcript on TrueHoop: “I get teared up a little bit thinking about the opportunity I had. … Chicago, that’s my home. That’s where my heart will always be … unfortunately it didn’t work out that I’m in Chicago, but Chicago is my heart. And it will always be. … It was, it was a time where things kind of swinged, and it played on my emotions a lot, because I am a family oriented person and everyone heard the stuff about my kids. That was going to be my final decision. Of course, I want to be just like every man in the world, you want to be the best dad possible. You want to have every moment with your kids.”
If what Wade said is true — and I’d like to think he wasn’t talking about his kids just to heighten the personal drama — then the Bulls had a very real chance to lure him to Chicago…probably with Chris Bosh in tow. And based on what Wade had to say about salary, I don’t think taking a little less cash would have been an issue.
Said Wade: “This decision right here is about winning, and it’s about winning multiple championships. So as we came on, this is not a money situation. I’m not opposed to taking less money than what’s that max number. This is not about the money. … “I’m going to make a lot of money, no matter what happens. I’ve been blessed. I’m not counting every dollar and every cent. Let’s sit down, let’s see what the best thing is for us, for the long haul.”
In other words, the Bulls not having enough cap room to offer two max contracts apparently wasn’t the deciding issue. So Wade’s heart (and possibly his children) is in Chicago and a couple million here or there wasn’t a problem.
What happened? No, really. What happened?
To the outside observer, it sure looks like the Bulls had a legitimate shot at landing Wade, who’s no worse than the third or fourth best player in the league (depending on your standards of greatness). Once they realized that was the case, why didn’t management go all out to sign him? I mean, just imagine a lineup of Derrick Rose, Wade, Luol Deng, Bosh and Joakim Noah. That’s a team that could dominate the Eastern Conference.
Like, for the next decade.
And even if they didn’t nab Bosh, they probably still would have signed Boozer and the same prediction applies.
I ask again: What happened?
I can only see two possibilities. Either 1) Wade is posturing to add drama to the moment, or 2) the Bulls chose to wait for LeBron instead of immediately snapping Wade up. Can’t you just see Gar Forman saying, “It’s great that you want to come here, Dwyane. And we’d love you to…we just need to see how this LeBron situation pans out first.”
If that’s the case, no wonder Wade decided to stay in Miami. And what were the Bulls thinking? Unless LeBron told management during their meeting that he was absolutely, positively coming to Chicago, then there’s no excuse for not jumping on the Wade opportunity with some serious gusto.
Of course, this is all conjecture. Maybe Wade is suffering from selective memory. Maybe the Bulls really did make hot pursuit behind the scenes. We may never know. But still…it’s a pretty big “What If” for the Bulls and their fans to live with if — as expected — LeBron ends up somewhere else.
Oh well. It’s all in the past now. The Bulls have their inside scorer. It’s time to fill in the rest of the roster and start thinking about the team’s future.
Okay, maybe we’ll wait until LeBron makes his announcement tonight…
July 7, 2010
Here’s the skinny: “Carlos Boozer is the latest domino to fall in NBA free agency, agreeing to a five-year deal with the Chicago Bulls, a source close to the negotiations told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher on Wednesday. Various sources told ESPN.com that the contract will be for between $75 million and $80 million.”
It’s a good move for the Bulls. A very good move. The team has needed an inside scoring threat for years – last season they just needed a scoring threat period — and Boozer fills that need. In my opinion, Boozer was the second-best big man available after Chris Bosh. He’s a proven 20-10 guy with a career FGP of 54 percent and a career PER of 20.8.
So yeah, Boozer is a pretty good basketball player.
What’s more, Boozer’s deal should leave the Bulls with enough cap space to take on a max contract…if, you know, LeBron James decides he’d like to win a few titles in Chicago.
I’m not holding my breath though.
The Bulls certainly could have done a lot worse than landing Boozer. Heck, they could have ended up with none of the big name free agents. But I can’t shake the feeling that the Bulls are coming up a little short. They definitely got better today, and they’re probably going to be a pretty good team next season…assuming they can figure out what to do about their glaring lack of a SG and and three-point shooters.
Yes, they’ll be good. But I can’t shake the feeling they could have been great.
You can feel it coming can’t you? Hear it clawing and scratching under your bed. Hiding in your closet. Looming around the corner. Stalking in the shadows.
It’s not going to happen. That’s the fear.
ESPN.com has published an article called: Q&A: Where will top free agents land? In this article, various experts — J.A. Adande, Kevin Arnovitz, Chad Ford, John Hollinger, Chris Sheridan and Marc Stein — rated the percentage chance various teams have of landing one of the Three Great White Whales of NBA Free Agency.
According to the experts, things aren’t looking very good for the Bulls. Unless you were hoping for an all-out swing followed by a near apocalyptic whiff.
The very general (and admittedly fluid) consensus is that LeBron James will remain in Cleveland while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will sign with the Miami Heat. Anything could still happen, but as ESPNChicago.com’s Jon Greenberg put it: “These aren’t guaranteed scenarios culled from sources, just educated guesses contingent on real-world scenarios.”
Sentiment and a team of pro-Cleveland advisors are tugging on LeBron’s heart strings. Miami has plenty of money, awesome weather, and — most importantly — Wade’s loyalty. Bosh and Wade have the same agent.
Does Chicago offer these men a better chance at winning? Probably. But no matter what players like to say during dramatic playoff runs, winning really isn’t everything.
And LeBron, for instance, has a lot on his mind.
According to Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “He really likes Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. But there’s lack of shooters on roster. Also it doesn’t sound like he’s exactly being welcomed by Rose. Didn’t say Rose was anti-LeBron. But the word is preference was Joe Johnson. They have same agent. That is what multiple people tell me.”
Windhorst further reports a rift in LeBron’s team of advisors, with William Wesley (who was pushing Chicago) now standing on the outside looking in at James’ friends and agent Maverick Carter (who want him to stay in Cleveland). That rift bodes very poorly for the Bulls’ chances of landing The Greatest White Whale of them all.
At any rate, at least the wait should be over soon: “LeBron James is planning to announce the team with which he will sign during a one-hour special on ESPN Thursday night, ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard has learned through independent sources. ESPN would only confirm that active discussions for the special are ongoing. But sources tell Broussard that representatives for James contacted the network, proposing that James makes his announcement during a 9 p.m. ET special.”
So, by 8 p.m. Chicago time tomorrow night, we’ll know for sure whether Michael Jordan’s legacy in Chicago will be forever secure. Okay, it probably was already, but a team with LeBron, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and possibly Chris Bosh could have introduced a little doubt into the situation.
Instead, the Bulls are looking at a “Now what?” scenario.
With Joe Johnson staying in Atlanta and Amar’e Stoudemire heading to New York, that leaves the Bulls with a few “okay” options and a lot of holes. If LeBron, Wade and Bosh reject the Windy City, management will probably pursue the undersized Carlos Boozer and the defenseless David Lee. Maybe target shooters like Kyle Korver and Mike Miller. Guys like J.J. Redick, Ronnie Brewer and Shannon Brown are available as well…
…it’s like a punch to the gut isn’t it?
If this doesn’t work out, if the Bulls can’t sign at least one of the Great White Whales, there won’t be any championship hope in the near future. Maybe not even the distant future. Gar Forman is going to have to fill out a half-empty roster with warm bodies. Rose and Noah are going to have to be extended or re-signed in the next year or so, which means the team isn’t going to have vast millions to throw around at superduperstar free agents.
Look, I am a huge fan of Rose and Noah. Watching them help carry an overachieving team to the playoffs the last two seasons has been a blast. But who wants the team to keep sneaking into the postseason only to suffer a first round elimination year after year? The Bulls have been doing that for most of the last decade.
They could be doing it for most of the next decade too. It’s a depressing thought.
July 5, 2010
Well…I sure thought we’d know something by now. Didn’t you?
Okay, okay. We do know a few things. Like the fact that Joe Johnson signed a ridiculos six-year, $119 million deal with the Atlanta suckers Hawks. That — like Johnson — Paul Pierce (four years, $61 million)m Dirk Nowitzki (four years, $80 million), and Rudy Gay (five years, $80 million) re-signed with their respective teams.
We also know the Lakers locked up Steve Blake (four years, $16 million). Former Bulls John Salmons (five years, $39 million) and Drew Gooden (five years, $32 million) were snapped up by the Milwaukee Bucks, and former Bull/expiring contract Hakim Warrick (four years, $18 million) was nabbed by the Phoenix Suns. The Suns also secured the services of Channing Frye ($30 million) for the next five years.
Last, and most certainly least, the Toronto Raptors signed Amir Johnson (five years, $34 million) while the Minnesota Timberwolves bid against nobody but themselves for the rights to Darko “The Human Victory Cigar” Milicic (four years, $20 million).
But the Bulls weren’t waiting on any of those guys…were they?
The Great White Whale — or, in this case, The Three Great White Whales — are still swimming the murky ocean of NBA free agency: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. You’d figure that James at least would have made a decision after the way the Bulls triple dog dared him to live up to Michael Jordan’s legacy.
Unfortunately, reports indicate that LeBron won’t make his decision by today. In fact, nobody knows exactly when he’ll choose a team, although Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer tweeted on Sunday: “Sources say LeBron plans to wait until after 3-day Nike camp in Akron is over to announce decision. Ends Wed. nite.”
So we may know by Thursday? Maybe?
But…what if Chris Bosh makes a decision before that? Or D-Wade? After all, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, Wade has strong family ties that could bind him to the Windy City.
Ford writes: “Wade also has multiple ties to Chicago — a home and family, including his mother, a pastor whose church in the city was purchased for her by her son. But far and way the most important consideration is his two children Zaire and Zion. Wade is recently divorced and the custody of his children is still up in the air. There are concerns that, given the frequent travel tied to being a NBA player, he won’t be able to spend quality time with his children during the season if he doesn’t stay in Chicago.”
And this is what Wade said in an interview with Channel 5 in Chicago on Saturday: “At the end of the day, your decision goes on what’s best for you and your family. The organizations I’ve been brought in to meet with are all good organizations and all can add something to my life, and not just basketball-wise. To me it’s about what makes 40 years of my life and not just about the next 10.”
That seemed to be an extension of what Wade told the Associated Press two weeks ago: “You go through a whole season, even the last two seasons, and feel incomplete in a way, no matter what kind of success you have, because you don’t have the most important thing to you with you. My boys. To be able to have this relationship with them as I have since this summer, it’s been probably the best feeling I’ve had since winning the championship. I don’t think people really understand that.”
So what if Wade decides today or tomorrow he wants to join the Bulls? Does management wait to see what LeBron decides or do they jump to sign Wade? And would Chris Bosh be willing to accept a few million dollars less per year to follow Wade to Chicago? Or could he force the Raptors into a sign-and-trade for Luol Deng?
Or will Bosh have to agree to terms with one of the teams with big cap space — the Bulls, Clippers, Knicks or Nets — before LeBron or Wade make a decision? That’s what Ford thinks: “All indications I’m receiving are that LeBron and Wade, respectively, each want to be paired with Bosh on whichever team they join, seeing the big man as an ideal complement on a contending team.”
Hey, remember, after Shaq left the Lakers, Kobe didn’t get a whiff at a title again until L.A. stole received Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. It could be that LeBron and Wade would both like Bosh to be their Gasol.
Of course, these are all assumptions and guess work. For the moment, all we can do is put our lives on hold and wait for The Powers That Be to make up their minds. Whenever that will be.
July 2, 2010
If you were hoping the Bulls would have secured at least one big name free agent during the first day of this year’s free agent bonanza, you must be pretty disappointed.
One bit of very good news is that the Bulls won’t be tempted to overpay for Joe Johnson in a “Plan B, C, or D” scenario. The Hawks have made sure of that: ”The Atlanta Hawks have offered free agent Joe Johnson a maximum six-year contract worth $119 million, and sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that Johnson is all but sure to accept.”
I give it, oh, about a year before the Hawks start bitterly regretting that move. Maybe less. Okay, probably less.
Meanwhile, a five-year, $80 million deal will apparently keep Rudy Gay in Memphis. Another terrible deal in which an overrated player will be criminally overpaid…as perfectly explained by Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie.
But better Gay is overpaid by the Grizzlies than the Bulls, right?
In other “making it rain” news, Amir Johnson is getting $34 million from the Toronto Raptors, Channing Frye is getting $30 million from the Phoenix Suns, and Darko Milicic is getting $20 million from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That wasn’t a typo: $20 million for Darko Milicic. It’s like a free agent feeding frenzy out there.
As for the Bulls…
Meeting with Dwyane Wade? Check.
Meeting with Carlos Boozer? Also check.
Meeting with Chris Bosh? It’s happening today. (In addition to a meeting with David Lee, for what it’s worth.)
Meeting with LeBron James? It’s supposed to happen on Saturday…and LeBron expects to make his decision by Monday.
Meeting with Amar’e Stoudemire? It’s going to happen on Tuesday — if necessary — according to a tweet from Phoenix radio host John Gambadoro.
The big namers are doing what they have to do: They aren’t showing their hands. There’s no indication whatsoever what LeBron, D-Wade or Bosh are going to do. Ditto for Boozer and Stoudemire (although their names aren’t quite as big as the first three). They say no news is good news. But no news is making a lot of Chicago fans nervous.
Why the nerves? Maybe that’s best explained by a rant from By The Horns reader AK Dave (although he made this comment on Basketbawful):
But jeez, I mean, the Bulls have had some excuse or another every year ever since MJ left.
“The team is rebuilding in the wake of Jordan leaving- give them a few years!”
“The team is young but Kirk/Deng/Nocioni are going to be All-Stars – give them a little time!”
“The team is injured – wait till next year!”
“The team is adjusting to its newly acquired free agents and hasn’t fully integrated them yet – but wait until next year!”
“The coach sucks and players aren’t living up to expectations and the injury bug has bitten and the GM has punched the coach in the face and everyone is playing out-of-position and the Cavs have LeBron… but JUST WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!!”
I’m just saying. I am a Bulls fan, but the excuses are getting old. And these are issues that EVERY team in the NBA deals with on some level. But its been 12 years since MJ left, and its really time for the Bulls to put up or shut up.
It’s true. Bulls fans have been “waiting until next year” ever since Jordan entered his second retirement. That mantra may be chicken soup for the Cubs fan’s soul, but the souls of Bulls fans everywhere is starting to starve out.
Which is making this wait really difficult.
June 30, 2010
Based on the comments left on yesterday’s post, there’s a reasonably large contingent of Bulls fans who think management should make signing Chris Bosh their first priority.
If you’re in that group, you may get your wish.
John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times writes: “According to sources, the Bulls may try to lock up center/power forward Chris Bosh first and use that as a part of their sales pitch to James, the main domino in the NBA’s high-stakes free-agent game. With Bosh on board to go along with point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, the Bulls could say they’re the only team James is considering that already has two former All-Stars (Bosh and Rose) and a potential one (Noah). The key to building a championship team, the Bulls would argue, is having multiple All-Stars, and James would be hard-pressed to find such an impressive supporting cast already in place.”
Of course, there are a million things that could go right or wrong with that plan — for starters, the Bulls couldn’t sign Bosh to a max deal and still afford LeBron — and GM Gar Forman knows it.
Said Forman: “There’s no way to know; there really isn’t. When [the free-agent period] hits, we’ll be on the phone, we’ll be aggressive. We’ve obviously looked at a lot of scenarios, how different things could play out, not only in free agency but possible trades or whatever it might be. Our job is to prepare for different scenarios, and that’s what we’ve spent a lot of time doing up to this point, and we’ll spend a lot of time on that [until tonight].”
Meanwhile, the latest in the LeBron Rumor Bonanza has Cleveland — not Chicago, Miami or New York — as the current frontrunner for His Royal Majesty’s basketball services.
According to Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: “James still considers the Cavs to have the edge in re-signing the two-time Most Valuable Player, a source close to James told The Plain Dealer on Tuesday. This is based not only on the fact that the Cavs can pay him $30 million more than another team over the next six years, but also that the team is near James’ home.”
If that’s true, then it provides even more reason for the Bulls to target Bosh as their top priority.
June 29, 2010
Remember that “free agent summit” that everybody was wigging out about but then supposedly wasn’t going to happen after all?
Well, it happened. Sort of.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Marc Stein: “A modified version of the ballyhooed free-agent summit that was initially suggested and then downplayed by Dwyane Wade has indeed taken place, ESPN.com has learned. Sources close to the situation said Monday night that three of the biggest names in basketball — Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James — met over the weekend in Miami to seriously discuss their futures, with a focus on the increasingly plausible possibility of those three teaming up with Wade’s Heat.”
But wait. It gets worse.
The report continues: “Earlier Monday, Fox Sports Radio’s Stephen A. Smith reported on his morning radio show and via his Twitter feed that James and Bosh have committed to joining Wade in Miami.”
But wait. Again. There’s more.
According to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: “A source close to Wade said the Heat guard believes his team is poised to pull off a free-agency coup of landing himself, James and Bosh.”
Of course, Winderman also wrote: “However that same source, as well as a party inside the league, told the Sun Sentinel that Wade also plans to cover himself during the initial days of the free-agency negotiating period by scheduling interviews with the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and, in somewhat of a surprise, the Dallas Mavericks.”
Really, Dwyane? I thought the Bulls weren’t loyal enough for you.
According to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: ”This might be news to the Bulls. A source familiar with the situation does not think the Bulls have plans to meet with Wade. When the plan was hatched to create cap space for the summer of 2010, the Bulls thought they had a reasonable chance to sign Wade. Now they might see the pursuit as a waste of time, though things could always change if Wade waves the olive branch.”
Meanwhile, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting tension in LeBron’s camp of advisors and insiders: “To team executives in the chase and those familiar with the dynamics of James’ inner circle, World Wide Wes’ agenda is clear: Get LeBron out of Cleveland and push himself into a prominent place of power. To be considered the architect of the sports grandest transaction, World Wide Wes needs James out of the clutches of the Cavaliers. … This is the push and pull on the inside of Team LeBron, sources say — agendas colliding in self-interest as the start of free agency creeps closer on Thursday. In the end, James is too strong to let someone else make a decision for him, but there remains strong influences deeply immersed in this process with him.
“If LeBron leaves, Wes is going to get carte blanche wherever he signs,” one source said. “He’s going to have the run of the place, and he doesn’t have that in Cleveland. He has access there, but Maverick Carter is the guy with the keys there. … [Carter's] much more influential, and would always be in Cleveland.”
Ugh. What does it all mean?
I have no idea. Nobody — other than the players – has any idea. Heck, the players may not have any idea at this point. The rumors have reached Chaos Dunk levels. Seriously, I think the next rumor might rip a hole in reality or cause the sun to collapse. That’s the point we’re getting to. Or maybe we’re there already.
The bummer for Bulls fans is that expectations have reached crazy proportions. Before, many people were merely hoping to add an All-Star…a Wade or a Bosh. Then LeBron seemed attainable. Then the Bulls made a deal to trade Kirk Hinrich to the Wizards and suddenly it was LeBron and Bosh.
What if after all these wild hopes and dreams the Bulls ended up with, say, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson? Or only Boozer or Johnson? Or…nobody. That would be a pretty big downer.
Sword of Damocles anyone?
Of course, all these rumors miss the point that the Heat don’t have the money necessary to give Wade, LeBron and Bosh max deals. In fact, unless they move Luol Deng or James Johnson, the Bulls couldn’t sign LeBron and Bosh to the max either. All of which means — whether they decided to go to Miami or come to Chicago — these megastars would have to take less than they (and many other people) think they’re worth.
All we can do is wait and keep watching.
June 28, 2010
It’s getting crazy, people. July 1 is a few short days away and teams are jockeying for poll position in the upcoming free agent bonanza. Here’s a roundup of news and rumors about the free agents that may or may not be a part of the Bulls’ near future.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard: “[The Knicks' GM Donnie ] Walsh and [coach Mike] D’Antoni also hope to meet with Amare Stoudemire while in Los Angeles. [Joe] Johnson and Stoudemire emerged as star players while playing for D’Antoni in Phoenix, which is a large part of the reason both players are considering New York so strongly. Johnson averaged double figures (16.7 ppg) for the first time in his career while playing for D’Antoni in the 2003-04 season. That same year, Stoudemire went from being a 13-point scorer to a 20-point scorer in D’Antoni’s wide-open system. While the Knicks’ main target is James, the duo of Johnson and Stoudemire would be a nice consolation prize if James goes elsewhere.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “The Boston Celtics have targeted center Brad Miller to sign in free agency, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Miller and guard Ray Allen are expected to be the Celtics’ two top priorities in free agency following the retirement of Rasheed Wallace and a knee injury to Kendrick Perkins. … Several contenders are expected to pursue Miller, but sources say the chance to play for the defending Eastern Conference champions has significant appeal to him.”
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Bosh had some positive things to say about joining the Miami Heat.
Said Bosh: “Miami is in top contention. With the money they have, the cap space they have, the rights on Dwyane [Wade], him possibly staying. And just having a good organization; they are known as a first-class organization. Dwyane is going to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game when it’s said and done.”
But…he won’t be playing center if the Heat keep Michael Beasley and/or re-sign Udonis Haslem
Added Bosh: “The thing I said when I came into free agency is I’m going to be a forward. I’m going to play my natural position.”
Bosh also dismissed the rumor that he would sign with the Bulls if LeBron does. And he’s not the only one to dismiss that rumor.
According to Art Garcia of NBA.com: “Completely untrue,” Bosh’s agent Henry Thomas told NBA.com via email. “He hasn’t decided anything.”
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: “Amid indications Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh will seek to join another top free agent on a team with cap space, a person with knowledge of the Rockets’ thinking said Houston is confident it will be in the running and is considering seeking another enticement. The individual familiar with the Rockets’ thinking said Houston could attempt to give Bosh a chance to sign with an All-Star guard by making a run at Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson.”
According to Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald: “Before jetting away Sunday night for a vacation to set his professional agenda, Heat guard Dwyane Wade cleared the air on his free agency itinerary. Wade denied reports that he has agreed to visit the New York Knicks on a recruiting tour, but would not rule out meeting with other teams to gauge their interest in his services.”
Said Wade: “I haven’t set anything in stone. It’s funny when you hear these things come out, especially when they come out about you. You only heard this stuff after LeBron said he wasn’t going to some places. But none of us know what’s going to happen. Not LeBron. Not me. Not Chris. Not any of us, right now. … I love Miami and everyone knows that. We worked hard to put ourselves in this position. But as a free agent, you explore everything and see what happens.”
According to Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ”A person familiar with the Hawks’ plans said they still hope to re-sign Johnson and are prepared to spend the money necessary to do so. The person said the Hawks fear Johnson might decide to leave for reasons other than money, including the criticism he received from fans and media after a poor showing in the playoffs last month. The person asked not be identified because the team has stipulated it would not publicly discuss the Johnson negotiations.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard: “When the clock strikes midnight ET in New York on July 1, Knicks team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni will be in Los Angeles meeting with Johnson, who will hold all of his meetings with clubs on the West Coast. The Knicks’ brass will fly to northeast Ohio to woo James at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. While the Hawks hope to keep Johnson in Atlanta, several sources said the Knicks have emerged as his first choice. If they must lose him, the Hawks’ preference is to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks.”
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports: ”Don’t be surprised if his strong connection to Clippers GM Neil Olshey explains why Johnson is conveniently ensconced in L.A. for the purposes of signing a max deal with the Clips. As a trainer for Tellem when Johnson was entering the draft, Olshey worked with Johnson and has maintained a strong relationship with him. The Clippers situation is ideal because Johnson wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden as the franchise cornerstone, a title and responsibility that will fall on Blake Griffin. The Clippers, with enough cap space for one max player, will make their run at LeBron, but the answer is expected to be a swift and polite, ‘No, thanks.’ At which point you can expected them to move on to Johnson as their Plan B.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will pursue a sign-and-trade to lure Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson, league sources told Yahoo! Sports … Johnson, is more likely to embrace a sign-and-trade to the contending Mavs than sign a free-agent contract with New York or Chicago, sources said.”
According to Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times: “The LeBron James sweepstakes will kick off in Ohio on his home turf Thursday as five teams — the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat, the Knicks, the Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers — travel there in an attempt to woo James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, an executive of one of the teams in the hunt said Saturday. The executive, who did not want to be identified discussing a player who is not yet a free agent, said he had gathered from discussions with his fellow NBA executives that James was strongly leaning toward joining the Bulls in tandem with another free agent, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors.”
According to John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: “A source with knowledge of the situation said James is expected to be joined in the Ohio meetings by his agent, Leon Rose; his business manager, Maverick Carter; and confidant William Wesley, who works with Rose at super agency CAA Sports. The meetings are expected to be all about basketball because James doesn’t want to get caught up in different cities trying to outdo each other with glitzy presentations. That certainly works in the Bulls’ favor. Of all the teams, they have the most talent in place, plus significant salary-cap room.”
June 25, 2010
According to Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo! Sports: “To listen to World Wide Wes, LeBron will never look back on Cleveland. ‘He’s up out of there,’ is the way he tells it to people, but LeBron’s Akron crew has to tsk-tsk such public talk because they all live in Northeast Ohio, and maybe always will. ‘We’re going to Chicago,’ William Wesley tells people, ‘and Chris Bosh is coming, too.’”
Those are big words from a highly respected and very connected man. If you don’t know anything about William Wesley, then you should read this fascinating post by TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott.
Based on what’s known about him, Wesley’s opinion should not be taken lightly. That said, the only opinion that will matter in the end is LeBron’s. And we still have no idea what he’s really thinking.
Of course, Wesley’s words add just that much more fuel to the “LeBron to the Bulls” rumor fire.
Remember, ESPN TV analyst Jalen Rose recently tweeted: “My sources say that it is almost certain that LeBron James will not be returning to the Cavs! (Bulls/Heat/Clips).”
Although I can’t seem to find it, Rose reportedly added another tweet that said: “as of 2day the Bulls have the best chance of landing LBJ…Miami would need to make more roster moves…Clips have a punchers chance!” And that was before the Bulls traded Kirk Hinrich to clear extra cap space.
Now K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has tweeted: “As someone who covered Rose during his Bulls days, know this: He doesn’t talk out of school. So his LBJ intel shouldn’t be discounted.”
I don’t know if any of this will mean anything when the contracts are all on the table…
…but it’s pretty exciting.
After being one-upped in the all-important “Cap Space Race” by the Miami Heat — who created extra financial flexibility by trading Daequan Cook and their first round pick in last night’s draft — the Bulls countered by reportedly agreeing to send Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick to the Washington Wizards for (you guessed it!) extra financial flexibility.
Take that, Pat Riley.
According to ESPN the Magazine’s Ric Bucher: “The Chicago Bulls have a deal in place that would move Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick to the Washington Wizards, freeing up enough cap space to pursue two maximum-salary players in this summer’s free-agent market, sources with knowledge of the Bulls’ plans said Thursday.”
Now, the reason I say the Bulls have “reportedly” agreed to this trade is because it cannot become official until July 8. See, that’s when the Wiz will have enough room under the salary cap to absorb Hinrich’s contract without exchanging a player or players of similar value.
So last night, the Bulls selected Kevin Seraphin with the 17th pick. And yes, he slapped on a Bulls hat after his name was called, but it’s somewhere between “very unlikely” and “highly unlikely” that he’ll ever wear a Bulls jersey. He’s headed to Washington. Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.
After picking Seraphin, Gar Forman released the following statement:
“This evening we selected Kevin Seraphin with the 17th overall pick of the NBA Draft,” Forman said. “At this time, we are currently in discussions to trade our draft rights to Kevin Seraphin; however, we will not be able to complete a trade until after the moratorium period concludes on July 8.
“With that said, we are not at liberty to identify the team that we are talking to or reveal any other specifics of potential trades. Therefore, we will have no comment on this selection until we have completed all trade discussions.”
Mind you, Chicago’s agreement with the Wizards is what you’d call a “good-faith deal.” In other words, either party could back out before July 8. Obviously, the Bulls aren’t going to — they started trying to dump Kirk’s contract about fve minutes after the ink dried — but Washington could.
However, it appears the Sacramento Kings — who relieved the Bulls of Andres Nocioni’s contract back in 2009 — would be willing to make a Hinrich-for-cap-space exchange if the Wizards get cold feet.
But assuming the trade goes through as planned…what does that mean?
According to Bucher: “Either way, moving Hinrich and the pick would push Chicago’s space under the cap from $20 million to more than $30 million. That puts the Bulls on equal footing with the Miami Heat in pursuing not just one but two members of a free-agent class that is expected to include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.”
So…although a theoretical core of Bosh-LeBron-Wade would trump LeBron-Noah-Rose, would it trump Bosh-LeBron-Rose-Noah? Or LeBron-Johnson-Noah-Rose? Or Boozer-LeBron-Noah-Rose? Or LeBron-Noah-Rose-Stoudemire? Or Bosh-Johnson-Rose-Noah? Or…?!
And that’s not to mention Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and James Johnson. The only other supporting character the Heat have on staff right now is Michael Beasley…and they want nothing more than to get rid of him.
Look, I was a big fan of Kirk Hinrich. I liked the utility he provided. I liked the way he could play both guard spots, the way he could defend three positions, the way he never backed down and did what he was told with relatively few complaints (the occasional sour look notwithstanding).
But let’s face it: Expunging his salary opens up a lot of amazing possibilities for the Bulls. Many things will have to happen before it’s all said and done – two big-namers must agree to sign, and management will have to fill out the roster with a couple shooters and a few capable backups — but the Bulls could become championship contenders by as early as…
And seriously, why wouldn’t the big-namers want to come here? As John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out: “With a nucleus of point guard Derrick Rose (the team’s first All-Star since the Jordan era), center Joakim Noah, small forward Luol Deng and power forward Taj Gibson, the Bulls have more quality talent in place than any other of the teams with significant cap room.”
And don’t think the big boys aren’t taking notice.
This is what Bosh had to say on ESPN Radio yesterday: ”Chicago is a team worth checking out. When you have a city like Chicago and you have young talent like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and a new coach like Tom Thibodeau, that’s something worth looking at. I know they’re all about winning. I know they have a winning tradition in Chicago and I know they’re trying to get back there.”
Of course, Bosh also said: “Toronto is a great place. … They have a lot of good things going. And they’re definitely a team that I’m going to be looking at very hard because they can do things that other teams can’t.”
In other words, they can offer him more money than anybody else can. So, like I said, many things will have to happen before Bulls fans start buying their 2011 NBA Finals tickets in advance.
But it’s starting to look like the sky’s the limit.