Credit Bulls front office for aggressive approach

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Credit Bulls front office for aggressive approach

Monday, July 5, 2010
6:14 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com
As we all wait nervously for news on the futures of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, its probably a good time to make this point. The Bulls front office and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf have done a tremendous job with their aggressive pursuit of some of the leagues top stars. Do you agree? Please post your comments in the section below.

The whole Summer of 2010 strategy started about a year and a half ago at the NBA trade deadline in February of 2009. When John Paxson worked out a three-team trade that included the long-term contract of Andres Nocioni for a package that included Brad Millers 12 million a year contract that expired at the the end of the 09-10 season, suddenly the Bulls realized they could be a player for the free agent class that would include at least a half-dozen NBA All-Stars. The strategy continued last summer with the decision not to offer free agent guard Ben Gordon a long-term contract. Gordon had been the Bulls top scorer the previous four seasons, but the front office didnt think he was worth a five-year contract in the 55 to 60 million range. Gordon agreed to terms with Detroit on the first day of free agency with no offer from the Bulls. Theres no question the Bulls missed Gordons long-range shooting last season, but the free agency plan was already in place.

The next move involved the trades this past February, sending the contracts of Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte and John Salmons to Milwaukee. Again, the Bulls took a hit from a talent standpoint, but they made sure theyd have enough cap room to offer one max deal on July 1st. And when the Knicks freed up enough cap room to offer two max deals, Paxson and Gar Forman jumped into action again on draft night, trading co-captain Kirk Hinrich and their 1st round pick to Washington to free up another 9 million of cap room, moving them close to the ability to offer two max contracts.

And, no one can accuse the Bulls of dragging their feet once the negotiating period opened last week. They had radio broadcaster Chuck Swirsky in Dallas to present some recruiting materials to Chris Bosh once the clock hit 11:01 in the Midwest last Wednesday night. Swirsky has a great relationship with the All-Star forward after calling his games in Toronto for five seasons, and obviously did his best to sell Bosh on the advantages of playing in Chicago. Pax and new Head Coach Tom Thibodeau also stopped by Boshs Chicago hotel on July 1st to tell him how much they valued him ahead of their formal meeting last Friday night.

Two long meetings with Chicago area native Dwyane Wade last Thursday and Friday showed serious interest on both sides, and the front office also found a way to squeeze in meetings at the United Center with second tier free agents Carlos Boozer and David Lee. Those meetings seemed unimportant at the time, but could pay big dividends if the Big 3 decides to sign elsewhere.

Then came the three-hour session with LeBron and his advisors in downtown Cleveland on Saturday. Weve heard the Bulls presentation emphasized a roster thats ready to contend for championships with LeBron on board, and the opportunities for him to make millions of dollars off the court because of the Chicago market, and the fact the Bulls brand is recognized world-wide. Reinsdorf also told Team LeBron hes willing and able to pay the luxury tax in future seasons to re-sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The Chairman has always said hes willing to pay the luxury tax to compete for championships, and with LeBron on the roster, the Bulls would be a contender every season.

So, if the worst possible scenario occurs, LeBron staying in Cleveland and D-Wade and Bosh joining forces in Miami, dont blame the Bulls for lack of planning or poor execution of their plan. Theyve done just about everything right every step of the way. The reality is money talks in the world of professional sports, and to expect any of the top stars to leave 30 million on the table to move to another franchise requires a huge leap of faith. Theres still a chance LeBron or D-Wade will surprise us by choosing the chance to win multiple championships over money, but Im not going to hold my breath.

A couple weeks ago it looked like the Bulls had a great chance to steal LeBron from Cleveland. But the Cavs made a smart coaching hire in Byron Scott, a guy who won 3 championships as Magic Johnsons running mate with the Lakers, and led New Jersey to back to back NBA Finals appearances as Head Coach. Scott has the respect of his former point guards Jason Kidd and Chris Paul, two of LeBrons teammates on the 08 Olympic team. Im sure Scotts reputation as a no-nonsense coach who favors an up-tempo offense resonated well with LeBron. And, if Scott told him he had a plan for getting Paul to Cleveland in their meeting last Saturday, that probably clinched LeBrons decision to stay home. James was a guest at Pauls sons birthday party a few weeks back, and the Hornets guard is in Akron right now, helping LeBron at this skills camp for elite high school players. They are great friends who would love to play together, and even though Paul battled injury problems last season, hes probably the best point guard in the league.

The Cavs also sold LeBron on their plan to go after some veteran help this summer, like free agent center Brendan Haywood and shooting guard Ray Allen. The Cavs have their mid-level exception (between 5 and 6 million) to offer a free agent, and they have a number of players to offer in trade, including guards Mo Williams, Delonte West and Daniel Gibson, as well as big men Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson. If James really was leaning towards staying home all along, the confident pitch of Scott, and the Cavs plans for upgrading the roster had to be music to his ears.

As for Wade, the Bulls tried extremely hard to get a verbal commitment before he left Chicago for the comforts of his home in South Florida. Wade spent Monday huddled with Heat owner Mickey Arison, and hell be greeted by busloads of young fans and team employees at a news conference in Davie, Florida on Tuesday, all showing their love for Wade and begging him to stay in Miami. Add in the sixth year and the extra 30 million the Heat can offer to Wade, and it seems extremely unlikely hell leave Miami without signing on the dotted line on a new six-year contract. And, that would almost certainly mean Chris Bosh will commit to the Heat shortly thereafter.

If the Doomsday scenario occurs, the Bulls will be forced into Plan C or D involving an all-out pursuit of Boozer and Lee, combined with a search for the best shooting guard available out of a pedestrian group that includes Kyle Korver, Shannon Brown, Tony Allen, Randy Foye, Anthony Morrow and J.J. Reddick. They could also explore trades for some high-salaried players who are believed to be available like Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis, Richard Hamilton and Jason Richardson. Hey, no one ever said free agency is fair. The Bulls went all-in to try to land James, Wade andor Bosh. They knew what would happen if they failed.

Lets hope either D-Wade or LeBron surprises us by turning down the extra money and the comforts of the only franchise theyve known for the chance to win some championships here in Chicago. Otherwise, looking back on the gambles that lopped Nocioni, Thabo Sefolosha, Gordon, Salmons, Thomas and Hinrich and a number one draft pick off the roster might be especially painful in the coming months.

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA free agency doesn't officially begin until 11 p.m. Chicago time on Friday, but league executives have already gone into overdrive in their race to create the next super-team to compete with the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey hinted he had a big move up his sleeve last week, suggesting the Warriors "aren't unbeatable." Well, Morey unveiled that big move on Wednesday, rounding up a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts from all over the league to help him acquire Clippers' All-Star point guard Chris Paul before free agency even begins.

Paul met with Clippers officials on Tuesday, and basically told Doc Rivers he was going to sign with Houston as a free agent, so if the Clippers wanted to get anything for him, they better work out a trade right away. The return L.A. got in the 7-for-1 deal was hardly overwhelming, headlined by Chicago native Patrick Beverley and super-sub Lou Williams, and it showed once again how league executives are powerless if a star player decides he wants a chance of scenery.

Paul and James Harden wanted to play together, and Morey and his staff came up with a creative way to get it done. And, by all reports, Morey isn't done yet. The Rockets are hoping to swing a deal for either Paul George or Carmelo Anthony as a third star in the frontcourt, giving them a shooter's chance against the champion Warriors.

George is one of the biggest chess pieces being moved around boards in executive offices all around the league. Ever since George informed Pacers management he isn't interested in re-signing with the team, GM Kevin Pritchard has been searching for the best possible deal.

The Cavaliers would love to add George as the new third star on their super-team with LeBron and Kyrie Irving and send Kevin Love to the Pacers or to a third team that would provide Indiana with young players and/or draft picks.

Boston is hoping to trade some of Danny Ainge's treasure-trove of draft picks to bring George in, but only after they make a free agent run at Utah All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward, who played his college ball for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Remember, making a trade for George carries a lot of risk, since he's eligible to become a free agent next summer and could wind up being a one-year rental.

George has told anyone who will listen he plans to sign on with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, but will new Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson get antsy with all the trade interest in George and try to bring him in now? Is it worth it for Magic to give up young players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson if he can just wait a year and sign George without giving up any assets?

We're already hearing reports of George trying to recruit Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson to join him on the Lakers when Klay becomes a free agent in 2019. And, speculation continues about LeBron heading west to join the Lakers if the Cavs come up short of a championship again next season.

So many questions as we approach the start of free agency. Where will Derrick Rose end up after a fourth knee surgery? Will the Clippers be interested in bringing Rose in to play with Blake Griffin and keep Lob City going? And what about veterans like Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, George Hill, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague? What kind of market will they find with fewer teams having the kind of cap space we saw last summer?

And, where will Carmelo Anthony wind up now that Phil Jackson is out as Knicks President? Jackson might be the greatest coach in NBA history after winning 11 championships with the Bulls and Lakers, but it was clear the Zen Master was overmatched as a front office executive. Phil didn't want to travel to scout top college prospects, didn't stay on top of day to day roster moves around the league, and insisted on saddling his coaches with running an offense that didn't translate in today's game.

Maybe now Jeff Hornacek will be able to run his up-tempo offense that had some success in Phoenix instead of Phil's beloved triangle. But don't count on Anthony being a part of next season's Knicks team. Reports out of New York suggest the organization is still intent on dealing Melo, problem is that nasty no-trade clause that Phil gave Anthony on top of a $127 million contract back in 2014.

In the coming weeks, you can count on hearing all kinds of Anthony-related rumors. Maybe a trade to Houston, Boston or even Philadelphia. And, if Melo is able to convince the Knicks to buy out the remainder of his contract, look for him to join forces with LeBron in Cleveland for a shot at that elusive championship ring.

The Knicks may have rid themselves of Phil’s front office mismanagement, but their roster is still a mess with no easy solutions in sight.

The great thing for NBA fans is the buzz created by all the speculation. NBA offseasons are the most impactful of any sport since the acquisition of a star player can cause a major shift in any team's fortunes. Unfortunately here in Chicago, don't expect any free agent buzz this year, unless you're excited about the possibility of a Dwyane Wade buyout.

Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson made it clear the Bulls are going in a new direction and will be patient and disciplined in their rebuild. That means no spending on veterans this summer as the front office keeps its power dry for some time in the future when the Bulls are closer to being a playoff contender again.

Player development will be the focus of the next couple seasons as Fred Hoiberg and his staff try to find out exactly what they have in young players like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant, Cris Felicio and Niko Mirotic.

Ideally, the Bulls will lose enough games next season to put themselves into position to land a top-3 pick in next year's top-heavy draft. Paxson talked about building a contending team through the draft, and that will require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Adding a Michael Porter, Jr. or Luka Doncic to a young backcourt of Dunn and Zach LaVine and a promising "stretch 4" in Markkanen could be the foundation of the next Bulls playoff team.

So, while the league's top teams engage in a massive arms race to try to close the gap on the Warriors over the next few weeks, all will be quiet in the city of Chicago. The buzzword for Bulls fans for the foreseeable future is PATIENCE.

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

On the latest BullsTalk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Vincent Goodwill delve into the blockbuster news of Chris Paul being traded to the Rockets. Will any other teams try to go all-in?

With Phil Jackson parting ways with the Knicks, Goodwill shares the behind-the-scenes story of how James Dolan hired Jackson to run his franchise. 

Then, Schanowski sits down with the newest Bull Zach LaVine to discuss recovering from his ACL tear, his love of Space Jam and moving to Chicago.

Plus, the guys break down their first impressions of LaVine and his potential in a Bulls uniform, and how the new CBA is actually leading to teams getting rid of their stars rather than keeping them.

Finally, what will the Bulls do with Dwyane Wade, and where will Derrick Rose end up?

Check out the latest Bulls Talk Podcast right here: