Can You Say Chi-City?
How the Bulls have made themselves THE most attractive free-agent destination in 2010.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
All week there had been speculation in Chicago that the Bulls were looking to trade either Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich. The answer on which player would be moved came just prior to the draft on Thursday evening when word started to spread that Chicago had traded Hinrich and the 17th pick in the draft to the Washington Wizards for, well, nothing.
OK, the Bulls did get somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million back for Kirk, but more importantly, the move now puts them in position to be able to go after not one, but two of the big name free-agents that will be available on July 1st. It’s a risky gamble but clearly the organization feels confident that in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, along with the addition of their new former NBA Champion and defensive minded—albeit first year—head coach Tom Thibodeau, Chicago has an attractive enough package to be able to convince a guy like LeBron James and (insert your second favorite free-agent here) to bring their acts to the Windy City.
Bulls fans should be both excited and worried.
Excited because the organization is demonstrating just how determined they are to improve the team by signing LeBron and a second high-profile player when free-agency kicks off next week. Worried because the team has been in this situation once before where they had tons of money to spend and instead of coming away with Tim Duncan or T-Mac (the big prizes in the summer of ’00), the Bulls ended up with Ron Mercer.
With the exception of Dwyane Wade who is definitely not leaving Miami, nobody knows where the other big name free-agents are thinking of playing ball next season, especially not the biggest of them all. James’ reputation as a player has already taken a big hit for coming up short of an NBA Championship yet again, and he has to think long and hard about how important the next five (or six) seasons will be for him and his legacy as there is no way ”LeBrand James” can afford anymore years of championship futility.
Meanwhile Chicago, while having more to offer James from a roster standpoint as opposed to Cleveland, Miami, New York, or New Jersey, took a huge risk by not receiving anything tangible other than more money to spend when they traded away Hinrich, especially considering they’ll have only five players under contract after July 1st. I’m of the opinion that they should’ve gotten something back for Kirk just in case, but the people upstairs are clearly confident in their abilities as salesmen.
The best part about all of this for the Bulls (and their fans) is that unlike in 2000 when there were only two big-name guys that everyone wanted, the summer of 2010 will have at least seven—James, Bosh, Boozer, Johnson, Stoudemire, David Lee, and Rudy Gay who is restricted. This does not include guys like Wade, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce who aren’t expected to leave their current teams. The Bulls still have options should LeBron decide to remain in Cleveland or sign elsewhere, but if that happens it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the team to now have to come away with a guy like Joe Johnson and either Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudamire, or Carlos Boozer. And if they fail to even do that, then being forced to settle for guys like Gay and Lee will make Bulls fans lose their minds faster than Young Jeezy and Plies.
Even though playing with Rose and Noah are already excellent selling points for Chicago, it’s most likely that LeBron will sit back and wait to see who signs where first before he makes a decision on where he’ll play. But what the Bulls absolutely cannot afford to do is be reactive. They must be proactive and sign the player who is second on their list behind LeBron first, thus ensuring themselves of two things. One, that they’ll have at least one of the players they covet most which would make losing out on James a much easier pill to swallow should it come to that. Two, it’ll give LeBron a better picture of what the Bulls roster would look like with him on it, thereby allowing him an opportunity to evaluate his chances of winning a championship in Chicago as opposed to someplace else, making for a much easier sell.
But if the Bulls decide to wait until LeBron makes a decision, then they could very well miss the boat on those other guys and there is no way they can afford to do that.
The madness has already started, but it becomes official in six days. I hope everybody is ready.