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.
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.