Will Bulls join NBA's arms race?

607862.png

Will Bulls join NBA's arms race?

Just when it looked like the league's claims of competitive balance and altering the system seemed like a joke -- with a reported deal that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the NBA-owned Hornets to the Lakers, in exchange for Pau Gasol (who would have been dealt to Houston) and Lamar Odom -- things took an even stranger turn Friday evening.

Instead of Paul joining forces in a star-studded backcourt with Kobe Bryant, Gasol suiting up for new Rockets coach and Hall of Fame big man Kevin McHale (a match made in heaven, even if the rest of Houston's roster -- starters Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, as well as reserve Goran Dragic were New Orleans-bound -- would have been gutted) and the Hornets remaining competitive, even in the wake of their franchise player departing, NBA owners cried foul and lobbied league commissioner David Stern to cancel the three-team trade.

On the same day the NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement was ratified -- meaning training camps and the official start of free agency will simultaneously begin Friday afternoon -- that news was overshadowed by widespread reports of the proposed blockbuster deal and subsequent reports that it won't happen. In all, a whirlwind day for the league in general, which was looking forward to a Paul-Derrick Rose matchup to open the NBA season on Christmas Day.

As it relates to the Bulls and other upper-echelon teams, there has to be a big sigh of relief, just as small-market franchises must also be breathing easy with the knowledge that a nearly five-month labor standoff wasn't all for naught, something that would have been exposed if Paul went to the Lakers, especially so soon after the work stoppage ended.

However, that hasn't stopped the free-agency floodgates from opening, as other signings being reported as imminent include Bulls target Caron Butler signing with the Clippers and former Bulls draft pick Tyson Chandler heading to the Knicks, providing New York with the true center they've long coveted to play alongside All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, bolstering their sieve-like defense.

Quietly, the Heat have also been active, reportedly agreeing to terms with Chandler's former teammate, Eddy Curry, to help plug their hole in the middle, as well as veteran small forward Shane Battier, who tweeted the news himself.

The Bulls haven't been completely idle in the hours prior to the official start of free agency, as a source confirmed to CSNChicago.com the Chicago Tribune's report that Chicago native and veteran shooting guard Luther Head has been invited to Bulls training camp.

Head, who spent time in Houston when Tom Thibodeau was a Rockets assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy, isn't exactly the big name fans are looking for and it's likely the Bulls will make further additions, but at the very least, he provides them with an experienced player capable of knocking down outside shots. Additionally, the same source told CSNChicago.com that veteran reserve forward Brian Scalabrine is expected to be present for the first day of camp Friday and eventually be re-signed, as is backup point guard John Lucas III.

However, with fellow contenders like the Knicks, Heat and Lakers making moves (or at least attempting to do so; with or without Paul, it's suspected that a potential deal for Dwight Howard is looming) and potential options like Butler coming off the board -- meaning other candidates, such as Jason Richardson and Jamal Crawford, have a baseline for their market value -- the pressure to keep up with Joneses is increasing.

Furthermore, last season's shooting guard Keith Bogans may not yet be a done deal, according to a source. Bringing back big man Kurt Thomas -- a move made more significant if young reserve center Omer Asik further aggravated the leg injury suffered in the Eastern Conference finals by playing in the summer's FIBA EuroBasket tournament for Turkey, as well as the possibility that backup power forward Taj Gibson could be dealt -- isn't a foregone conclusion.

A person with knowledge of the situation told CSNChicago.com that the Trail Blazers, his hometown Mavericks and the Heat, the team that drafted him, are among the teams interested in the league's oldest player.

Clearly there's a need for a perimeter scoring boost in the Windy City, but if indications that the organization isn't willing to spend the money necessary to sign an impactful wing player are correct, the big splash many Bulls fans both hope for and expect might not happen.

Or will the Bulls, equipped with roster stability, tremendous team chemistry and coming off a 62-win season, join the NBA's arms race and make an addition that garners major headlines of their own?

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

update-121.jpg
AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Road Ahead: Blackhawks play three home games before All-Star break

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Phillips DT Chris Elmore commits to Syracuse

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."