Friday, May 21, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Bosh to Follow LeBron to Bulls?)

Sources: Bosh gives Raptors wish list

Chris Bosh's agent has told the Toronto Raptors that he's narrowed his list of preferred teams to five, two sources told's Chad Ford at the NBA draft camp.

The list of five teams -- Toronto plus the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks, sources said -- were given to Toronto management in case the Raptors want to construct a sign-and-trade deal (assuming he doesn't re-sign with Toronto).

Bosh likes that option, sources told Ford, because he'd get one more year on his contract and could make more money.

Sources said the Raptors prefer a sign-and-trade if Bosh is intent on leaving as well. They likely would want a big man to replace the 6-10, 230-pound Bosh in the lineup.

One source said Bosh's decision hinges on where LeBron James signs.

"If LeBron decides to go to either New York or Chicago, I think that's where you'll see Chris land," the source told Ford. "If LeBron stays in Cleveland, I think the process is more wide open."

Bosh, 26, is an unrestricted free agent. He averaged 24 points per game last season and has averaged 20.2 points per game for his career.

Click-a-Bull (Quick Links)

NBA Barn Burner: Could LeBron James and Phil Jackson go to Chicago?

2009-10 Season Review: Joe Johnson

Bulls still without coach but plenty of options regarding draft picks


Bulls expected to wait for Boston's Thibodeau

Bulls talk to Turner about vacancy

Mavs owner Cuban says he wants to acquire LeBron

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Click-a-Bull (LeBron Hater; LBJ/Cal; No LBJ/Cal; LBJ called Rose; Bulls Lead FA)

Just in case you missed my "Confessions of a "LeBron Hater"" post ...
LeBron to Bulls? ... Confessions of a "LeBron Hater"

I will say it up front: I hate LeBron James. I hate his quest to become a "global icon" and I hate his cocky attitude. Everything he does is annoying to me. I was visibly upset when he stole the show at the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest 2 years ago, only to back out and not even compete last year. It was a ploy for attention, because he's an attention-grabbing, me-first kind of guy. I hated him even more when he walked off without shaking hands against the Magic.

I take delight in his failures, and love all the negativity that resulted from "Game 5" against the Celtics. Instead of taking the blame (like MJ, Magic, Bird, etc. would have), he was defiant. Then he had a pretty bad game last night, despite what his triple-double indicates - he shot 8/21 FG and had 9 TOs to go along with his gaudy numbers. It was like he was forcing the triple-double to make a point that it wasn't his fault. It's his team, and it's his fault.

I have often made my hatred for LeBron known, and so I am frequently asked the obvious question: "What will you do if the Bulls sign LeBron this summer?" And the answer is complicated ...


Source: LeBron-Cal deal not on radar

A source with direct knowledge of the Chicago Bulls front office's plans says the team believes it has the right players in place -- namely, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng -- to surround LeBron James when it makes its case with the free agent-to-be on July 1.

But the source said there has been no discussion of bringing Kentucky coach John Calipari in with James as part of a package deal.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that according to league sources, basketball power broker William Wesley -- a friend of both James and Calipari -- has been quietly contacting NBA teams that have coaching vacancies and salary-cap space about the possibility of bringing in James and Calipari together.

Bulls must weigh if they want James … and Calipari

In the first 24 hours after the Celtics eliminated the Cavaliers on Thursday, the Bulls sold more than 500 new full season tickets and a team official estimated incoming call volume to their sales office stood roughly 50 times normal levels.

The question now is whether the allure of LeBron James will have a similar effect on Bulls management.

League sources said Sunday that noted NBA power broker William Wesley continues to work back channels to sell John Calipari and James as a package deal to franchises such as the Bulls, Nets and Clippers with coaching vacancies and salary cap room.

Another league source confirmed that an unknown Calipari connection contacted Bulls management over the weekend. This not only once again renders the coach's vows to remain at Kentucky hollow, it underscores the juggling act general manager Gar Forman and senior vice president John Paxson must navigate as they tackle a coaching search while planning for free agency, which begins July 1.

LeBron called Rose after Cavs' elimination

Shortly after Cleveland was eliminated by Boston in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, LeBron James placed a call to Bulls guard Derrick Rose.

What did they talk about?

Word is, James said he likes Rose's game, likes his team and would welcome the chance to play together.

Before putting LeBron's No. 6 Bulls jersey up for sale, keep in mind that it's possible James made similar calls to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Maybe even Nets center Brook Lopez. But it has been made clear through various channels that James is very interested in joining the Bulls when he becomes a free agent on July 1.

New York, New Jersey and Miami figure to be James' top options, along with re-signing in Cleveland. Staying with the Cavaliers is starting to seem less likely after the early playoff exit exposed flaws in the team's winning formula.

The James phone call to Rose was mentioned by ESPN reporter Scoop Jackson and confirmed by a league source. Rose has been taking things slowly since the Bulls season ended with a first-round loss to Cleveland, but he visits the Berto Center on occasion. The source said the James-Rose conversation did not last very long.

Free Agent Watch: Bulls in “lead” for LeBron, Amar’e and luck

More thoughts on potential free agents:

LeBron James:
The only “news” we currently have about where LeBron will end up in July is all rumor and speculation. But according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, the Bulls are leading the Race for the King: “I keep hearing that the Bulls are atop his list at the moment. That could change, but that’s the word around the league at the moment. [Top three are:] 1. Bulls. 2. Knicks 3. Heat … I think the darkhorse is Dallas who’ll try to acquire him via sign-and-trade. As for the Cavs, it doesn’t look very good at the moment, but things can change. I think owner Dan Gilbert would essentially have to give him the GM job as well to keep him there.”

In unrelated news, I’m currently “in the lead” for Bionic Superhero of the Future, along with Lou Ferrigno, Homer Simpson and the Easter Bunny.

Okay. Sarcasm aside, the New Jersey Nets were also in the running for LeBron. Until last night, anyway. As Ford noted: “If they can land [John] Wall, they suddenly become much more competitive in the LeBron James sweepstakes. if they don’t land Wall, I think we can scratch them off the list. That’s some pretty big stakes.”

They were big. Unfortunately for the 17 remaining Nets fans — and 17 might be too high a guess — the Washington Wizards won the number one pick in the draft lottery and will almost certainly take Wall. The Nets, who were one of the worst team’s in league history last season, ended up with the third pick. Even if the Wizards go crazy and pass up Wall, there’s no way he will get past the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the second pick.

By the way, Bulls player development assistant Lindsey Hunter literally laughed away the idea that LeBron and Derrick Rose wouldn’t work well together. With all due apologies to John Hollinger.

Friday, May 14, 2010

LeBron to Bulls? ... Confessions of a "LeBron Hater"

I will say it up front: I hate LeBron James. I hate his quest to become a "global icon" and I hate his cocky attitude. Everything he does is annoying to me. I was visibly upset when he stole the show at the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest 2 years ago, only to back out and not even compete last year. It was a ploy for attention, because he's an attention-grabbing, me-first kind of guy. I hated him even more when he walked off without shaking hands against the Magic.

I take delight in his failures, and love all the negativity that resulted from "Game 5" against the Celtics. Instead of taking the blame (like MJ, Magic, Bird, etc. would have), he was defiant. Then he had a pretty bad game last night, despite what his triple-double indicates - he shot 8/21 FG and had 9 TOs to go along with his gaudy numbers. It was like he was forcing the triple-double to make a point that it wasn't his fault. It's his team, and it's his fault.

I have often made my hatred for LeBron known, and so I am frequently asked the obvious question: "What will you do if the Bulls sign LeBron this summer?" And the answer is complicated ...

DC (another BBS contributor) recently summarized my thought process on twitter:
@DanFXC: I hope the bulls don't even make lebron an offer. But when they do I hope he signs. I'm OK with this hypocrisy.

As a die-hard NBA fan, I watch a lot of basketball. I recognize talent, and it's obvious that LeBron is the best player in the Association. (I might technically argue that Kobe is a better basketball player and LeBron is the best athlete playing basketball, but that's not the point.) LeBron is awesome. I went to game 3 of the Bulls/Cavs series a couple weeks ago, and it was incredible. I hated every single second of it, but LeBron was ridiculous. Just so we're clear, I get it: he's great. So would I want the best player on my team? Seems dumb to say no. But I hate him so much, how can I possibly say yes?

I will cheer for the Bulls. I will hope they win every game, just like I do now and always have. But I will never love LeBron the way I love those 1990s Bulls players: MJ, Pippen, BJ Armstrong, Jud Buechler, Horace, Rodman, Will Perdue, Craig Hodges, Cliff Levingston (the list goes on and on ...) and current Bulls D-Rose and JoaNoah. I will never love LeBron like that. He will never be included in my list of "Top 10 Favorite Bulls' Players" (or even my 'Top 25'). I hate him enough that I can be sure of that.

But my loyalty to the Bulls goes much deeper than my LeBron hate. I was only 7 years old, but I still hate the 'Bad Boy Pistons' for walking off the floor when we completed the sweep in 1991. I still remember being mad at Magic a couple weeks later, when the Bulls whooped the Lakers and tied the 1991 NBA Finals 1-1, and he said (with a been-there-won-that swagger): "You could lose by 1 or lose by 20, it's still 1-1". I grew up thinking that every summer started with a Chicago Bulls Championship parade. I didn't hope we would win, I expected it. (That's how good MJ and Pippen were.) I ran up and down the streets banging pots and pans after Pax hit the "3 for the 3-peat". I followed MJ's baseball career, and defended Scottie after "the migraine". I loved the "Beatles-esque" aura that surrounded the 72-win team with Jordan, Pippen and Rodman. I know exactly where I was the day we drafted Dickey Simpkins. I cried, literally cried, when Phil Jackson called 1998 "The Last Dance." I watched us draft the co-rookie of the year, then trade him after he put up two-straight 20/10 seasons. I even hung with the Bulls when they signed the arch-enemy, John Starks. I was there for drafting BG only to let him walk for nothing, and I still wear my draft-day hat from the night we drafted Tyrus Thomas. I jumped up and hugged my roommate when we won the 1.7%-chance lotto for D-Rose, two grown men hugging and yelling like 5-year-olds.

I've blindly stayed committed to this team for the last 12 years. We have had a couple ups, but many more downs. It's been frustrating and terrifying and awful, but I couldn't be swayed ... I'm a Bulls fan. It's what I am, and it's all I know. I know what it's like to win and win and win (twice). So I have held onto that hope during the last twelve seasons, hoping that we can get to that point again. We've had some steps in the right direction, and could be taking a big step toward that goal this summer. And if signing LeBron gives us the best chance to win (and win and win), I will support that signing and support him, because he will be a member of my team.

He's not my first choice this summer, as I'd gladly take Wade or Bosh instead ... but I will support my team regardless of what happens. Maybe after I spend some time supporting the Bulls, and thus LeBron in a Bulls uniform, I will even begin to stop disliking him. I doubt it, but it's possible. But I know that whatever our starting lineup ends up being next year, if LeBron is on the Bulls, he will be my fifth favorite player in that group.

Is LeBron to Bulls Possible? Or LBJ + Wade or Bosh??

Chad Ford on TrueHoop: LeBron to the Bulls? 3 GMs think so

Boston Celtics fans were chanting "New York Knicks" during Thursday's Game 6 every time that LeBron James went to the foul line. Maybe they should've been chanting "Chicago Bulls."

Within minutes of the Cleveland Cavaliers' elimination at the hands of the Celtics, the speculation about LeBron James' next destination resumed in full force.

In the space of five minutes I heard from three NBA GMs via text, e-mail and phone. All three said that based on the information they have, they believe LeBron will leave the Cavs.

More surprisingly, all of them said they believe the destination will be the Chicago Bulls. Two said they believe that John Calipari will be the Bulls' new head coach.

One GM went a bit further in a phone call a few minutes later. "I think the Bulls are really going to go for it. Look for them to offer the Cavs Luol Deng in a sign-and-trade for LeBron. That will allow them to retain most of their cap space. Then they'll go after Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh as well."

I'm sure we'll hear various scenarios involving the Knicks, Nets and Heat over the course of the next month. But it's hard to come up with any other scenario that would be quite as appealing for LeBron.

So the Bulls could trot out a lineup of Rose, Noah, Taj, LeBron and either Wade/Bosh? Sounds unrealistic. And it is, but not by as much as you'd think. Larry Coon has written some great things to make NBA salary caps and the CBA understandable

He was asked on twitter last night if the Bulls could S&T Deng for LeBron, then have enough cap space to sign Wade/Bosh:

"No -- looks like they're about $1.1M short. ... But they can sell/trade/renounce their draft pick, and they'll be just $300K short. ... And technically they could decide to split it."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Will the Summer of 2010 Play Out for the Chicago Bulls? (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of my Summer 2010 predictions, check that out first because I will be severely disappointed if it comes down to this next part ...

The second-tier free agents:

Rudy Gay
Joe Johnson
Amare (ETO)

... and I left David Lee off my previous list, so I'll touch on that option.


Note: None of the first 4 are truly "second-tier" players, as they are all great NBA talents. They just aren't on the level of the "Big 3" from my previous post. D-Lee might actually be a second-tier player, but would be a great addition to the Bulls along with one of the "Big 3." Except why spend the money on D-Lee when we have a pretty legit young PF in Taj Gibson. (I cannot believe I typed that sentence, if the Tyrus dream wasn't over before, it certainly is now.)

Note 2: I have already discussed the Summer of 2010, including a brief paragraph on how each of these 4 would fit with the Bulls:

If the Bulls can land one of these 4, we are automatically much improved in any way you look at it. Boozer (the other player averaging 20points/10rebounds) would have a similar effect to Bosh - great in the pick-and-roll, would be excellent with D-Rose and Noah. Rudy Gay gives us a young, athletic, scoring 3 that could play off (and grow together with) Rose. It would give us versatility on both ends with him and Luol playing the 2/3, giving us an athletic, big lineup and creating plenty of matchup problems. Joe Johnson would have that same effect, and give us the much-needed aplha dog to takeover at the end of close games. Amare is having a down year (for him) since eye surgery, but has been hitting the boards much better recently. His killer 17-20' jumper would work incredibly well with D-Rose in the pick-and-roll, which would create much more space for Rose to use his speed/quickness.

I don't think I can better summarize how each of those guys might fit with the bulls than I did back in December, so I'll get into my predictions of how/why these guys might leave (and how much they could/should sign for).

All five (including D-Lee) of these guys could pull a near-max deal for a couple reasons:

(a) All 4 are very talented and pretty young (more on age below).

(b) A bunch of teams have money to spend, and have sold their fans on "Summer of 2010" hope, so those teams cannot come away with nothing.


Amare is a freak, coming back from micro-fracture and a dislocated retina ... and he has been going nuts since the trade deadline (trust me, he was on my fantasy team). It's hard to argue that he would not be a good addition to the Bulls. A perfect fit for the pick-and-roll with D-Rose because he can attack the basket, or step back and drop 20-footers. That being said, his injury history makes me cautious + he came straight out of high school. So he's only 27-years-old, but already in his 8th season.


Boozer is younger than you might think at 28, but has missed significant time in 3 of his 8 seasons. I think he is clearly the 3rd option for a PF this summer, behind Bosh and Amare (who seems headed to the Heat). No one seems to have a clue what he will do, but I know one thing ... he will be signing a very large paycheck with whatever team offers him the most money.

I know that he can bring a lot to his team, consistently putting up double-doubles for the first half this season and can easily go off for 30+ points ... but I am really hoping it doesn't come down to this for the Bulls. That means we will have missed at many better options, including both Bosh and Amare just at this position!

Joe Johnson

It appears the Hawks will not be offering a max-deal, so another team may be able to swoop and and get JJ if they are willing to pay the money. Will that be the Knicks? It's very possible, but there are other teams interested as well:

The word from the paper of record, the New York Times, is that it is far more likely that the Knicks will have Atlanta Hawks forward Joe Johnson(notes) on its roster next year. Johnson and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni worked well together in Phoenix and the coach would supposedly love to have him back.

The eight-year pro guard is averaging 21.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The Times says the Hawks are going to try and retain Johnson and the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls are likely going to try and sign him as well.

So will the Bulls land JJ? I hope not. Add his playoff performance to that (29% shooting, 12ppg against the Magic), and I would be extremely disappointed if the Bulls sign JJ. As Bill Simmons recently wrote: "You cannot win a title if Joe Johnson is one of the two guys making max money on your salary cap unless the other guy is named "LeBron." Desperate NBA teams with money to burn this summer, consider yourselves warned."

Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay is 23 years old, and has career averages of 17.4p, 5.5r, 1.7a. Seems like that would a legit addition to our frontline of Noah and Taj, but ... Don't the Bulls already have an overpaid, 23-year-old small forward who puts up 15.8p, 6.5r, 2.2a?? Seems redundant.

I have no idea if RG will stay in Memphis this summer, and I really don't care. If the Bulls sign Gay, I think it will be out of utter desperation after swinging and missing at our real targets.

David Lee

I have no idea what David Lee will do, but part of me believes that he would love to play on a team with a "true center." He has spent the last few seasons playing as an under-sized center for the Knicks, and being 4 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than everyone you are going against on a nightly basis has to get old. If the Bulls sign a wing player (Bron, Wade), Lee could be the perfect compliment ... but we already have Taj in that spot. So it would seem like a waste to sign a more expensive power forward.


So how would I rank the top Free Agents for the Bulls?

(1) LeBron (hate him, but he is the best player on earth)
(2) Bosh (actually my number 1 choice)
(3) Wade
(4) Amare
(5) Boozer


(34) David Lee
(87) Rudy Gay
(108) Joe Johnson


So what do I think the Bulls will do this summer?? I am terrified at how this will turn out ...

Sign Reggie Theus as our head coach based on his performance in season 1 of "Hang Time" (possibly replacing him next year with Dick Butkus).

Sign-and-trade Taj Gibson for Joe Johnson (max deal), freeing up enough cap space to sign Rudy Gay to a max deal. Our starting lineup will be Rose, Noah and 3 wings (Deng, Gay, and JoeJo) with no power-forward on the roster.

That will leave us with no cap-space for the next few years, allowing both Rose and Noah to leave for better teams that can give them the money they deserve.

[Singing] "Only the BULLS! Only the BULLS!! ..."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Coaching edition: JVG; Calipari; McHale; + JJ/Bosh)

The Bulls are being rather patient in getting their coaching search underway ... which I don't think is the best plan. But part of me thinks that they really like Tom Thibodeau (Boston assistant/defensive genius), so they are holding off on interviews to give him one of the first shots at the job.

Other than Thibs, options include: JVG, Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank, Coach Cal (?) and Kevin McHale

My personal choice is JVG. I am interested in Byron Scott, but his team once quit on him in Nawlins. I am opposed to Kevin McHale (not enough experience, and he's too good on TV).


Van Gundy rips Bulls over Del Negro

Jeff Van Gundy isn't the only member of his family who thinks the Chicago Bulls handled the end of the Vinny Del Negro era poorly.

Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy does not believe the recently fired Del Negro was given the proper backing from the Bulls front office, and Stan doesn't think Jeff will return to the coaching ranks next season for the Bulls or any other team.

"I was shocked by the coaching change," Van Gundy told after the Magic's shootaround on Monday morning. "I thought Vinny did a great, great job developing the young guys, and I think it will be very hard for anyone to come in and do a better job than he did."

The Magic will try to complete a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Jeff Van Gundy, working as an ESPN analyst, was critical of the Bulls' handling of Del Negro during a nationally televised broadcast several weeks ago, and his brother agreed.

"From midseason on, I don't think Vinny got much support from their organization," Stan said. "I didn't understand -- you never know the inner-workings, and so maybe there was some stuff behind the scenes -- but from a coaching perspective, Vinny did a very, very good job with that team.

"They gave up their two best wing scorers in [Ben] Gordon and [John] Salmons, and they were a great defensive team that struggled to score. I don't think that's shocking when you give up two guys like that. The front office makes the decision to make those trades [Gordon left via free agency], and then Vinny's the scapegoat for it. [It's a] hard thing to understand."

As for speculation that Jeff is a possible candidate for the Bulls opening, Stan was skeptical.

"I don't think he will coach again next season," he said. "I think there's other priorities in his life. I'd be surprised, in fact, I'd be very, very, surprised if he were back coaching next year."

When asked specifically if he thought his brother would listen if a team like the Bulls came calling, the Orlando coach went a step further.

"I don't even think he would have a willingness to interview," he said.

Hiring Calipari to coach Bulls would be foolish move

LeBron James has won consecutive MVP awards, living up to his considerable teenage hype to become the NBA's best player. He's led the Cavaliers to back-to-back 60-win seasons.

But what James really wants in his basketball career is to play for John Calipari. At least, that's what a flood of recent news stories have suggested.

If the Bulls hire Calipari as head coach, LeBron will follow. Unless, of course, the Cavs make a pre-emptive strike and replace Mike Brown with the first-year coach at Kentucky.

Why wouldn't that happen? After all, Calipari posted a 72-116 record in two-plus seasons as coach of the New Jersey Nets. In college, he's coached four players who were top-four picks in the NBA draft (we're counting John Wall) and never won a national championship.

As this is being written, a team of lawyers may well be petitioning the NCAA to return James' amateur status so he can enroll at Kentucky next season.

In reality, this plan doesn't make much sense at all, which is why the Bulls are not considering Calipari for their coaching vacancy.

McHale wants to coach Bulls

The Chicago Bulls apparently haven't contacted Kevin McHale about its open head-coaching position but he wouldn't mind if they asked, according to ESPN.

The former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach would like to be the replacement to the fired Vinny Del Negro. "You go in there and talk to [Bulls general manager] Gar [Forman]. I know Gar and John Paxson real well. And hopefully if it's the right fit, it's the right fit. That's what you're looking for and that's what they're looking for. They're looking for the right fit," McHale, a TNT analyst, told ESPN.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic's Vince Carter(notes) is apparently saying he'd like to see former New Jersey Nets head coach Lawrence Frank should be selected in the Windy City: "He was great," Carter told ESPN about the man he played under for five years. "Very intense."

Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson sending signals they will leave

Well, at least we know one free agent who’s definitely leaving his team. Yes, everyone has long thought it would be Chris Bosh, and he’s done nothing to discourage that thinking with some bizarre social networking behavior in which he’s asked fans to recommend what he should do.

Bosh changed his location on his Twitter account location to “everywhere,” and removed a biography section that noted his status as Raptors captain. These seem fairly obvious hints, and Bosh last week was at a Lakers/Jazz game at Staples Center tweeting about holding the MVP trophy. It seems Bosh is working on his Lakers sign-and-trade. Gasol? Bynum? I assume the Raptors take either, if they have a chance.

But the one I was more thinking of is Joe Johnson, who in this disastrous Hawks playoff meltdown basically bidding goodbye to the booing home crowd after Game 3 when he said the booing didn’t bother him.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t bother our team,” said Johnson. “We’re in this together. Us in this locker room, we could care less if they showed up or not.”


If I were the Bulls, I’d step up aggressively and offer him the maximum deal. I might not do the sign-and-trade, but allow a clause for a year extension or work out an insurance deal for a sixth year. From everything I’ve heard, the Bulls would have to mess it up to lose Johnson.

Those who know Johnson say he is low key and doesn’t want to be in the New York area. His agent is Arn Tellem, who represents Derrick Rose, and Johnson also is close with Rose’s agent/mentor B.J. Armstrong. Plus, it would be ideal for Johnson’s game to play with an up tempo style with a point guard like Rose, and good for Rose to have a shooter to spread the court and big two guard to defend.

Now this part would be just guessing as the Bosh scenario could play out in a dozen ways. But then if you were the Bulls, you’d be in position to offer the Raptors a sign-and-trade of Hinrich, Taj Gibson, a No. 1 pick and the rights to Omer Asik for Bosh, and you figure they’d have to give that serious thought. Even if you can add Johnson and keep Hinrich, Gibson and Luol Deng, that’s a heck of head start on the future. And it doesn’t seem so improbable.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicago Bulls Coaching Vacancy (VDN Links + Candidate List)

Vinny Del Negro was (finally) fired yesterday, or Monday, or in December ... but the announcement was made yesterday. I posted my thoughts on VDN at the bottom of my "Season Preview ... Review".

Here are some other VDN posts from around the interwebs, and a look at potential candidates ...

The Chicago Bulls finally fire Vinny Del Negro
Leave it to the Chicago Bulls to make a sympathetic figure out of Vinny Del Negro.

Vinny Del Negro was fired Tuesday -- or last night, or last December -- because he did a poor job of coaching the Chicago Bulls. His minute allotments were curious, his teams were wildly inconsistent and his outfits executed quite poorly on the offensive end. Also, Chicago was oftentimes less structured and efficient coming out of timeouts than it was heading into them, and any bit of player development can be more or less pegged on the expected growth you usually get from an athlete in his early 20s.

He was not a good coach. He might be a good coach someday, but in spite of a .500 record over two years filled with injuries, turmoil, roster upheaval and underachieving players, Vinny Del Negro was not a coach who deserved to keep his job.

And yet, the Bulls made it so they'll appear the bad guy in all of this. Mainly because they are.

Oft-criticized just days into his tenure, Del Negro received absolutely no public front-office support that warmed beyond the point of tepid. Chicago's curious arrangement involving general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson never seemed to be in any sort of charge, which allowed Del Negro (who had no prior coaching experience when Chicago hired him) to take the brunt of all sorts of issues regarding this strange organization.

Toss in Jerry Reinsdorf's unyielding influence, hands-on in every way that doesn't involve paying proper money to coaches, or the right amounts of money to the right players, and you have a miserable mix that probably only a group featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson could win with.

The Bulls were designed to tread water, at best, this season. And that's exactly what happened as the team peeled off another .500 year while making the playoffs, all while retaining cap space and trying to forget 2009-10 ever happened -- even if that brand of amnesia happened 45 games into 2009-10. And that's where you get into the uneasy takes on VDN's tenure. Because on paper, it seems as if he did his job.

The team willingly let its top scorer sign with another team for no compensation, it signed what turned out to be possibly the least-effective free agent on the market last year in Jannero Pargo(notes), and yet Del Negro's team still made it back to the playoffs, coming through on what I just referenced as an "at-best" situation. So why is he gone?

Del Negro never stopped being a pro

The usual pep was out of Vinny Del Negro's step on Tuesday afternoon.

It's not hard to figure out why. Getting fired will sap all the joy out of you quickly.

Still, having covered Del Negro almost every single day for seven months the revelation was a bit disconcerting.

The NBA lifer was almost always the most positive guy in the room. He always figured that he could turn lemons into lemonade. His belief was that if he kept working hard he would find a way to succeed and push past whatever obstacle stood in his path. That's what he continually preached to his team. That's what he continually preached to the media. And there's no doubt that's what he continually preached to himself even at his lowest points.

Does that make up for the fact that he was a mediocre coach who still seemed to struggle at times with certain intricacies of the game? Of course not. But it should shine a little more light on the person whom many didn't get to see on a daily basis.

No matter what you thought of Del Negro as a coach you can't question that work ethic. He wanted to succeed badly. He wanted to prove to everyone who had ever doubted that he could be successful as a head coach that they were wrong. He enjoyed the day-to-day grind that comes with being a head man in the NBA. That's why the scene, albeit one that everyone seemed to know was coming for months, was so strange to see on Tuesday. It was the first time I can recall seeing Del Negro wearing an article of clothing without a Bulls logo on it. He seemed kind of lost as he briefly spoke to the media in front of the Berto Center and then continued the process of packing and wheeling out boxes from his office.

After all the speculation that he endured over the past few months regarding his job status, the realization that he wouldn't be driving into work at the Berto Center anymore finally must have hit him.

Bulls begin coaching search; here's a list

So now the Bulls need a new coach with the official announcement Tuesday of the firing of Vinny Del Negro.

I suppose if you are looking to get to the so-called Point C, then, literally, you might need a C for Collins. But that ship has sailed and I don’t believe the former Bulls coach Doug Collins is in the mix to be the next coach.

Other Cs? Casey, Cleamons, Cartwright, Cheeks? No, I don’t think that’s what the Bulls have meant about going to Point C, which, actually, GM Gar Forman avoided referring to in his Tuesday press conference.

The question not only is who, but what. What makes a good coach?

There are several principal elements and several particulars that apply to the Bulls.

Forman Tuesday talked generically about accountability, teaching and leadership, and I didn’t take that as a direct shot at Vinny, but more general qualifications.

Still, Vinny was not so much a so-called accountability coach, as was Scott Skiles. Those guys say play defense. You don’t, you sit until you do. But since the Bulls had one of those and fired him, the next guy tends to be a bit looser, more so-called player friendly, which Vinny was. Plenty of good coaches are--Flip Saunders, for example.

There’s also experience. Though Forman said he wouldn’t exclude anyone, I’d assume the Bulls would this time want a coach who knows the NBA, which Forman did refer to, and a coach who didn’t require on-the-job training. That would be a former head coach or, at least, a veteran assistant with longtime experience and leaguewide respect.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chicago Bulls: Season Preview ... Review

For longtime BBS readers, this should look familiar: At the end of last season, I completed a "Season Preview Review" - where I looked back at my pre-season predictions with updates/comments. It seemed like a good way to wrap up the season and compare my expectations heading into the season with how things actually went between October and May.

Now I have decided to make this an annual event, so I will be repeating the process this year. Here is my "Bulls 2009-10 Season Preview" - which I have copied below, but now added all of my current comments/updates now that the season is over. [All of my comments will be in brackets and bold] And everything from October will be normal text. Enjoy!


  • With BG in Detroit, where will the points come from?

I'm not the first person to ask/answer this question, so I don't claim to be offering anything new in this space. Losing BG surely hurts, as I've said before: he is an incredible scorer, and probably the Bulls best player for the last few years. But for everything he got us on the offensive end, he cost us the almost-the-same with bad shots and terrible defense.

Replacing BG with Salmons in the starting line-up should be looked at as an upgrade. Salmons is over the groin injury that slowed him last season, and has an entire pre-season and training camp to get into the flow of the Bulls' system. He is better suited to play off Rose than BG. BG was an offensive black-hole, but Salmons should be better at letting Rose handle the rock and create shots for him, rather than needing the ball in his hands. [Oops, looks like Salmons played so well last year because he was playing small forward. Playing him at the 2 spot ensured he was being defended by a quicker player every night, and he simply wasn't effective. We ship him to Milwaukee, they play him at the 3 and he starts producing again.]

Luol Deng is also healthy, and has put on some muscle in the off-season. I'm hoping the muscle will help more on the defensive end when he has to stay in front of guys like Lebron and Joe Johnson. If he really is healthy, there's no reason to think he will not benefit from playing alongside D-Rose. I could see him moving back toward the player we had 3-4 years ago, and actually earning some (but not all) of his $71 million. [Not a terrible prediction.]

We also have Kirk and Pargo off the bench, so replacing BG's 20ppg is not as tough as it first seems. Kirk can play either the 1 or 2 spot, and provides a great defensive option that we never had with BG. Pargo can give us the quick scoring spark on some nights. [I was hopeful that Pargo wasn't terrible, and I was wrong.] Those two provide great versatility as far as creating difficult match-ups for opposing second units.

We should also expect to see a big jump (or more realistically, a small increase) in TT's points/offense if he continued to work on his jumpshot this summer. D-Rose's jumper will undoubtedly be improved, which should open up more options in the pick-and-roll with TT. [I loved TT, but I'm over it now. Wish I wouldn't have disliked Taj so much at the start of the year because of TT.] Hopefully both of those players will have a decent enough jumper to keep opposing defenders honest, which will open up some lanes to the hoop.

So while we no longer have 1 player who can get hot and fill it up on any night, we have Salmons and Deng healthy, D-Rose with a year of NBA experience, two guards coming off the bench, and what should be an improved TT. That group of players should be able to collectively make up for the offense that left with BG, and won't cause bad match-ups for us on the other end.


--- Player-By-Player Analysis - Starters ---

  • Derrick Rose -

Rookie stats (per game average)

CP3 ||||| D-Rose

36 | minutes | 37
16.1 | points | 16.8
7.8 | assists | 6.3
5.1 | rebounds | 3.9
2.4 | turnovers | 2.5
43% | FG % | 48%

CP3 did not have a huge jump in his sophomore season. His points and assists each jumped about 1 per game (17.3 and 8.9) and his rebounds fell off slightly (4.4). If we expect similar changes in D-Rose, we are looking at about 18ppg, 7apg and 3rpg.

I realize that comparing anyone to CP3 is a stretch, but he seems to be the closest comparison for D-Rose. Their games aren't exactly alike, as Rose seems to be a slightly better scorer and CP3 is a better passer - but it's worth comparing.

I tried to remain relatively calm about D-Rose going into last season, hoping for some flashes of greatness and expecting some rough patches. He completely blew me away ... and in the words of Bill Simmons "the ceiling has been removed for Rose. I am prepared for anything over the next 12 years. Anything."

I think Rose will become a more consistent player (avoiding bad shooting or defensive stretches and mental errors) and still have his explosiveness (on the court and in the scoring column). He should have the ball in his hands more with BG gone, and I see him running a much smoother offense, scoring whenever he needs/wants. I feel confident making a bold prediction for Rose this season, so here it is:

Prediction: D-Rose makes the jump to a top 3 PG in the League, makes the All-Star game, and leads the Bulls into the playoffs for the second-straight year.
Projected stats: 18.3ppg, 8.1apg, 4.5rpg [Actual stats this year: 20.8ppg, 6.0apg, 3.8rpg ... so D-Rose saw a bigger jump in scoring, but not much in assists. I guess that should have been expected because we needed him to take over more games and provide scoring. His assists are sure to improve if we can add a legit scorer (like D-Wade or Bosh) or we get a better offense with a new coach.]

  • John Salmons -

I realize John Salmons' numbers have made a big jump in the past 2 years. In his first five seasons, Salmons never averaged double-digit points. He then jumped to 12ppg 2 years ago, and averaged 18ppg for the the Kings and Bulls last season.

I am hoping that his production will remain at or near his recent production, rather than trending back to his early career numbers. And I think the numbers will stay up because something clicked and he figured out what he was doing. I don't think last season was an aberration, I think he will continue to put up similar numbers this year. [Which he did, playing the small-forward spot for the Bucks!]

Playing along-side Derrick Rose can only help Salmons get open looks, and he shot 42% from three last season. He made a smooth transition into the Bulls line-up in the final 26 games last season, and having a full off-season and training camp should help. Plus, starting Salmons and Rose in the back-court will give us a pair of big, physical guards (something we never had with BG).

Prediction: Salmons will adequately fill the 2-spot for the Bulls [False!!], not as explosive on the offensive end as BG, but not as much of a defensive liability.
Projected stats: 17.5ppg, 2.0apg, 4.1rpg [Who cares? Traded for cap space ... HE GONE!]

  • Luol Deng -

Where to begin with Luol? What can we expect?
2006-07 Luol: 82gp, 18.8ppg, 2.5apg, 7.1rpg
2008-09 Luol: 49gp, 14.1ppg, 1.9apg, 6.0rpg

It's hard to make a prediction with any certainty, because I have no idea what to expect. Luol's per game averages last season certainly weren't bad. I would be satisfied with that production over 82 games ... but I don't want to settle for satisfaction. Especially not when we spent $71 MILLION (guaranteed) to sign him for six seasons!

It is easy to forget that Luol is only 24 years old, so we can assume he has not hit his prime yet. But will he? And when? Even if he's healthy, can Luol guard the best 3s in the Association? Where does he fit in the Bulls' offense? Will he stand alongside the pick-and-roll and drain easy mid-range buckets all year? Has he worked on a go-to offensive move? [Sadly, still no.] As you can see, I have a lot of questions. And no answers, at least not yet. All we can do is wait and see.

If Luol does return to his form of 3 years ago, when he was widely considered a lock to be a future all-star, where does that get the Bulls? If D-Rose, TT and JoaNoah continue to develop and Luol is a stud, can the Bulls win 50 games? 51? 52? I don't see why not. [This paragraph can be used to define the phrase: "blindly optimistic".]

Prediction: Not sure that I'm ready to peg Luol back to where he was 3 years ago, but I don't see why he can't split the difference between that and last season (without the injuries).
Projected stats: 75gp, 16.4ppg, 2.3apg, 6.5rpg [Actual stats: 70 games played, 17.6ppg, 2.0apg, 7.3rpg -- pretty close to what he was doing 3 years ago, and yet still feels very overpaid.]

  • Tyrus Thomas -

Another question mark for the Bulls. I will get this out of the way: I love TT! [Still do, hoping it works out for him in Charlotte (or somewhere).] I have been opposed to the Bulls trading him for just about anyone. We have put in the time/effort developing him, waiting for him to take the step. I feared that if we traded him, he would make the jump and we would regret it for the next decade.

Now a part of me is nervous that it will never happen for TT. Will he ever make the jump and become the player we thought he could be when we drafted him? (Actually traded LaMarcus Aldridge for him and Viktor Khryapa). There is still hope, there is more than hope, there is reason to belive. TT spent last summer working on his J, which was not spectacular, but much improved. He does not need to be a knockdown shooter, just good enough to keep opposing defenses honest on the pick-and-roll with D-Rose.

If TT can continue to take steps (even small steps) on the offensive end, he can continue to use his freakish athleticism to get boards and block/alter shots on the other end. I realize that LaMarcus Aldridge and TT are not the same player, not even on the same level right now - but I don't think it's as far off most people think. LA's rookie stats (22mpg, 9.0ppg and 5.0rpg) were similar to TT's stats last year (27mpg, 10.8ppg, 6.5rpg). Then LA had a big jump the next year (17.8ppg, 7.6rpg).

Prediction: I see no reason that TT won't make a similar jump this season, so it all comes together this year. The Bulls (organization and fans) patience will pay off.
Projected stats: 15.5ppg, 11.5rpg, 1.0apg, 2.2bpg [I'm just glad we didn't pull a BG and let TT walk for nothing. I'm sad to see him go, but I realize it's for the best. Best of luck to TT, I really hope he gets it at some point.]

  • Joakim Noah -

I have never had a bigger swing on any athlete (except daily with BG for the last 2 years). I hated JoaNoah at Florida. I convinced myself to give him a chance when the Bulls drafted him. He started to grow on me, then last season I started to like him. A young, energetic center who can play D, grab boards and doesn't care about offensive stats ... what's not to like? Then came the Celtics series, and the steal. If it didn't happen before that, that was the moment when JoaNoah entered Bulls lore and became a true Bull in the eyes of Bulls fans. He went from being some guy we didn't really understand, to "our guy". And for all that, at some point he became the most un-tradeable Bull not named D-Rose. [So glad I thought/wrote this before the season. Noah is a warrior, who puts everything out there every single night. Possibly going to crack my top 5 favorite Bulls of all-time if he plays his whole career in the Chi.]

The Bulls actually have a good, young center. He might not be the best at any one facet of the game, but he gives the Bulls what they need. Energy, hustle, defense, passion ... he's our intangibles guy, and he's a great one. Henry Abbott (ESPN TrueHoop) recently stated: "Joakim Noah will never be beat in the race to congratulate a teammate." What a compliment.

Prediction: It's hard to see a jump in any of JoaNoah's offensive stats, but I think we will see a jump in a stat he really needs to improve: rebounds. He has the hustle/energy, and this year he combines that with experience and brains to get more boards.
Projected stats: 7.0ppg, 10.2rpg, 1.0apg, 1.7bpg [Actual stats: 10.7ppg, 11.0rpg, 1.5bpg +50%FG and 75%FT, and heart/energy rating: 110/100.]


--- Bench ---

The bench should be one of the Bulls' strengths this year. [Ha, oops!!] We have a great mix of savvy veterans and athletic, young players. We should have an advantage over many teams if the second unit consists of: Captain Kirk, Pargo, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and Mad-Bad-Brad. We have tons of front-court depth with those 2 new rookies, and even more depth if you include the possibility of Derrick Byars and Chris Richard (who have been getting some pre-season burn). 9Note: I am consciously/intentionally not including Aaron Gray because I don't want him to wear anything but a suit this year.) [Nailed it!]

  • Kirk Hinrich -

Definitely our most versatile back-court player because he's a combo guard that plays both positions well. He can spell either D-Rose or Salmons, depending on fouls and situations. Playing Kirk at the 2 is extremely useful because it opens up the possibility that Salmons can spell Deng (at small forward) at times. [Still love everything about Kirk ... except his contract. Maybe the best backup G in the league because he plays and defends both spots so well.]

  • Janero Pargo -

Touted as the poor man's homeless man's BG, I'm not sure if that's a compliment or an insult. Either way, I'm much happier to pay Pargo $2 million for 1 season than give BG a long-term, big-money deal. It's obvious that this is a big down-grade offensively, but might be better for the team overall. Pargo might not have the same ability to score as BG, but he is willing to play his role. BG was the perfect 6th man, but he always wanted to be paid and treated like a starter. Pargo seems much more willing to accept limited minutes, but is definitely capable of providing an offensive spark. [No comment.]

  • James Johnson -

Not exactly sure what we can/should expect from JJ. He looks to be a versatile 3/4, which will definitely add to our depth up front. We don't really have another backup 3 (other than playing Salmons at 3 with the 2nd unit), so he might actually log some meaningful minutes. [Feels like another Tyrus, right? We're going to spend the next 2-3 years giving him sporadic minutes and no confidence, then end up trading him for a 2nd round draft pick.]

  • Taj Gibson -

Looks like this was an excellent value pick. He played 4 years at USC, where he got some good experience playing with and against NBA-caliber players. He should be NBA ready and able to give the Bulls solid minutes as a rookie, but not sure how many minutes - picks up a lot of quick fouls. [Taj turned out to be a stable/consistently really good power-forward, and is a great asset moving forward. I could see some team (read: Raptors) wanting him as part of a sign-and-trade for a free agent (read: Bosh). If not, I look forward to Taj being around for awhile. He reminds me of a way younger PJ Brown ... he will never be spectacular and drop 50 points, but a very consistent power-forward who will always provide productive minutes at both ends.]

  • Brad Miller -

Possibly the slowest player in the Association, Brad Miller still manages to provide the Bulls with some much needed toughness and versatility. A seven-footer with his range is always useful, especially running the pick-and-roll. [I would love to re-sign Brad. Adds great toughness and is an awesome back-up. Plus, he still needs to get his revenge on Rondo ...]

  • The rest (Lindsey Hunter, Aaron Gray, Jerome James, Richard Byars, Chris Richard) -

What can I say? I wouldn't mind seeing Byars and Richard make the roster, if only to add to our front-court depth. [I really do like Chris Richard -if he doesn't stick with the Bulls, I hope he ends up on a roster for next season.] Never hurts to have some extra big bodies around. I love what Hunter brings as far as coaching/guiding D-Rose, but not sure he needs to get any meaningful minutes. [I must be a soothsayer.] I am absolutely sure that Aaron gray does not need any meaningful (or meaningless) minutes.


  • Coach: Vinny del Negro

I did not like this signing, and complained about hiring a non-coach as our head coach. There were times when VDN looked lost, which will happen when you have no game-management experience. We consistently ran terrible inbound plays, and often looked lost on both ends of the floor. I have to believe that it has to get better because it cannot get much worse. I am hoping that having a year under his belt will allow Vinny to do a little more coaching and a little less worrying.

Vinny should have a much better understanding of his personnel heading into this year, so he should be able to take advantage of his players' skills. I would love to be pleasantly surprised this year, so I'm willing to give Vinny a chance to show what he can do. [Optimism at it's finest. Here is my quick take on VDN: would make awesome assistant for another team - he understands the game, and definitely knows how to motivate players. He just isn't ready to be a head coach at this point because he has no clue on the Xs and Os or how to manage a game. Maybe he will get another head coach opportunity down the line (when he will be more ready/prepared) and will succeed, but this was the wrong hire for the Bulls from the start. As for the Bulls coaching situation ... I have no idea?? Maybe Byron Scott because he handled a young CP3 so well. Plus, he runs the pick-and-roll, so that would work if we get Bosh CP3/DWest = Rose/Bosh?). Or maybe Thibodeau for some defense? Use Rose the way the hated Celtics use Rondo on D (in the "free safety" role: don't think, just play on instincts). But that would be another unproved head coach (though Thibs has at least coached before). We also underestimated the incompetence of our front office ... what proven coach would want to come play for this organization and risk another Pax/VDN situation????]


--- Overall Team Projection ---

I am obviously being very hopeful/optimistic with my player predictions, and I see no reason to change that here.

I already projected the Bulls to finish 6th in the East, but I hoped they could finish as high as 4th, so I'm splitting the difference now.

Without the black-hole known as BG clogging up the offense, I think D-Rose will thrive with the ball in his hands. Having Salmons and Luol in the line-up could help space the floor around the pick-and-roll. Luol and TT are poised to take steps this season, and the Bulls will take a step with them.

  • Record: 48 - 34
  • 2nd place in Central
  • 5th in Eastern Conference
[Whoops! ... a little too confident, should have gone with another .500 season and another 8th seed. We're still one piece (Wade or Bosh) short.]


--- Looking forward ---

  • Why signing D-Wade would be good in the short-term, but bad in the long-term:

We all remember the 2003 NBA draft class, and it seems crazy to think those players are entering their seventh NBA season. While LeBron cane straight from high school and is 24 years old, D-Wade played 2 seasons at Marquette and is 27 years old.

As a 26-year-old, I can tell you that 27 is not that old - but things are different in the NBA. It's a physical game that makes a player "old" before their age indicates that they are old.

One thing to look at regarding an NBA players is the number of games played. D-Wade has racked up only 394 regular season games over his career, but that number is skewed low because he has missed many games due to injury. He has played in 70+ games in only 3 of his NBA seasons. The total games number also does not include playoff games (61), international qualifying games, or the Olympics.

D-Wade has to play one more season before becoming a free agent, so he will be 28 years old when he signs his next contract. Assuming Wade signs for a max deal (as he undoubtedly will), he will be on the books for the next 6 years. Toward the end of that deal he will be a 34-year-old guard who spent 11-12 NBA seasons relentlessly driving to the rim and drawing fouls.

I have no doubt that D-Wade is (and will remain) one of the top players in the league for the next few years. What worries me is the last 2-3 years of the contract. With his history of injuries and aggressive/slashing style of play, it's a question of how far he will have fallen physically 5-6 years from now.

Derrick Rose turned 21 years old a couple weeks ago. The start of his prime is still 4-5 years away. Watching him grow and develop with D-Wade would be incredible, but I don't think their primes will overlap so I'm not sure it's the perfect match everyone thinks. D-Wade will be declining just as Rose reaches his full potential. The Bulls would defintely be exciting and fun to watch for the next 6 years with those 2 playing together, but really only leaves a 2-3 (2012-14) year window for a legit shot at the title.

All that being said, I am not opposed to the Bulls signing D-Wade. A home-grown Chicago back-court would be epically fun to watch and cheer for. We would be a legit contender in the East for the next couple years, taking advantage of D-Wade's prime. Then D-Wade could take a secondary role, possibly re-inventing himself as a player (think Jordan fade-away), while we continue to be a contender through all of D-Rose's prime. Plus, I would never trade a chance at current success (possible NBA title) for fear of a contract hurting us 5 years from now. Even if signing D-Wade to a max deal might not be the best long-term plan, it's hard to argue that it wouldn't make the Bulls a real championship contender for the next 3-4 years. [I think I was playing "devil's advocate" before the season, I would love to get Wade or Bosh. Ironically though, that whole line of reasoning can be applied to Joe Johnson ... so I'm hoping the Bulls don't end up throwing a max deal his way. Read my thoughts on upcoming free agency here (2nd part coming soon): How Will the Summer of 2010 Play Out for the Chicago Bulls?]