This just in from ESPN.com: “The Detroit Pistons made the biggest early splash in free agency on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Former Bulls guard Gordon will receive a five-year, $55 million deal, while former Bucks forward Villanueva gets a five-year deal for $35 million, sources told ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard.”
Wow. I guess that’s it, then. Ben is no longer a Bull. And that $11 million per year “rumor” turned out to be dead on.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune got a quick reaction from the man himself: “Even in his excitement, Gordon expressed disappointment to be leaving the city of Chicago and a Bulls organization for which he consistently maintained he hoped to play. ‘I’ve always said since the jump this is somewhere I’d like to retire, have a 15-year career, get a couple of rings,’ Gordon said. ‘That was my idealistic thing the day I got drafted. But you never know in this business.'”
No. You really and truly never know.
Honestly? I’m bummed. Despite his flaws as a player — undersized, one-dimensional, a little shot-happy — Gordon, more than anyone else, was the team’s one true constant over the past four or five seasons. He missed only 12 games in five seasons. He never shot under 40 percent from three-point range (and only during his rookie campaign did he hit less than 41 percent). He led the Bulls in scoring the past four seasons. He never quit or gave up on the team, even after contract negotiations broke down the last two summers. No, he couldn’t defend bigger guards (which was pretty much everybody), but during his time in Chicago he was an exemplary player and person. (Well, exept for that time he cussed out Vinny Del Negro.)
But you know what’s odd about Ben’s career in the Windy City? He was a proven 20-point scorer and one of the league’s premier long-range snipers, and yet management never treated him like anything more than a complimentary piece…and not a make-or-break piece at that. Sure, they offered him $50 million-plus the last two summers, but they were never willing to grant him The Man status. Heck, it was never even a sure thing he’d be a starter.
Some franchises fall all over themselves for somebody with Ben’s combination of character and ability (not to mention his stats). Just ask the Pistons. But in the end, this was a business decision. On the giant brass scales of NBA value, Ben’s knack for putting the ball in the basket did not outweigh the combination of his flaws and worth on the open market. Not to Jerry Reinsdorf anyway. Not in this economy. Not with a shot at a bona fide superstar next summer. (Don’t even get me started on “What if the Bulls can’t lure Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh to Chicago?”)
Now the Bulls have to move on. They need to figure out where Ben’s 20 points per game is going to come from. (I’m guessing it will be covered by committee.) They’ll have to groom somebody else to take the big shots. (My money’s on Derrick Rose.) They’ll have to plan for the future…because Ben Gordon is history.
Update! More quotes from BG:
On leaving the Bulls: “I don’t have any regrets, and I don’t have any bitter feelings for the Bulls. Business is business. I’m going to a situation now where winning is the No. 1 priority. I’m happy with my decision. … Once I tried to sign their offer last year and the deadline passed and I signed the qualifying offer, I knew leaving was a possibility. Really I don’t have any mixed feelings. I’m just excited about my future with the Pistons.”
On joining the Bulls’ Central Division rival: “The Bulls and Pistons always have had a great rivalry. It will be exciting going against [the Bulls], especially here because this is one of the best sports towns anywhere. I’m definitely going to miss the fans. But being on the other side will be fun too”
On Pistons’ GM Joe Dumars: “Joe’s passion for winning is really evident when you speak to him. He has such a competitive edge to him. And he has a knack for putting together really good teams. “He’s a proven winner whose only priority is to win titles. That’s my ultimate goal too. I feel fortunate where the guy at the top [again] feels just as passionate about winning as I do.”
On his Bulls legacy: “I’m sure there are fans with mixed emotions. Some will remember me positively. Some will remember me negatively. One thing I hope they remember me for is being professional, competing hard and never giving up on the game. I just always tried to help my team win.”