Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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

[Editor's Note: This is a continuation of Part 1, which was originally posted back in March and was re-posted yesterday. So much has changed since these were written that it's almost funny to look back. But this is definitely worth scrolling all the way down for my "worst-case-scenario" for the Bulls.]

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!! ..."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

RE-POST: How Will the Summer of 2010 Play Out for the Chicago Bulls?

[Editor's Note: This was originally posted back in March, so a lot (I repeat: A LOT!) has changed since then. But it's still fun to look back.]

The "Summer of 2010" has been talked/written about extensively for the last 2-3 years. We know all the players and teams involved, and it has almost taken on a life of its own. But enough with the vague, hopeful claims - it's time to look into some realistic possibilities and probabilities for the Chicago Bulls.

Here are the teams with enough cap space to sign a free agent to a max contract:

New York (4 players, 17.8M, no pick holds) 32.8M free
New Jersey (7 players, 23M, 1 high pick hold) 25.6M free
Miami (5 players including Wade, 26M 2 medium pick holds) 22.6M free
Washington (6 players including Gilbert, 28M, 1 high pick hold) 20.1M free
Chicago (7 players, 33M, 1 medium pick hold) 17.6M free
Sacramento (9 players, 33M, 1 high pick hold) 16.6M free
LA Clippers (4 players, 32.6M, 1 mid-lottery hold) 16.5M free

(That info was harder to find than I thought, but I'll trust it because the numbers are fairly close to the numbers at this link and this link.)

Then I found this link from a more reputable source, HoopsWorld (note that this shows contracts, not cap space):

Miami HEAT 5 - $30.7 million* 2 5 - $2.4 million
New York Knicks 5 - $18.6 million 0 7 - $3.3 million
New Jersey Nets 7 - $25.9 million 2 3 - $1.4 million
Sacramento Kings 10 - $34.2 million 1 1 - $0.5 million
Chicago Bulls 6 - $31.9 million 1 5 - $2.4 million
Los Angeles Clippers 4 - $33.5 million 2** 6 - $2.8 million
Minnesota Timberwolves 8 - $35.0 million 2** 2 - $0.9 million

The Bulls made the list because they were able to turn Nocioni('s terrible contract) into Salmons and Brad Miller last season, then turn Salmons into expirings from the Bucks this year. Those moves freed up enough cap space to offer a max deal to a free agent this summer, so now we have to figure out which player that might be.

Here are the free agents (or likely free agents) heading into this summer (from my previous Summer 2010 post):

The Big 3:
DWade (Player Option)
Bosh (PO)

The next level:
Kobe (PO)
Dirk (Early Termination Option)
Rudy Gay
Joe Johnson
Amare (ETO)
Paul Pierce (ETO)
Yao (ETO)

Obviously the Bulls (and everyone else) cleared space to go after 1 or 2 of the "Big 3" - and since there are 7 teams with max space (including the Knicks and Heat with space for 2), there will be a bunch of teams disappointed and settling for second-tier free agents. So which players will end up on which teams? Let's figure it out ...

The "Big 3"

The major issue is that these 3 (and any of the other FAs) can get an extra year (at $25M) if they stay with their current teams. That is a huge economic advantage for the Cavs, Raptors, Heat respectively and would be enough to keep almost anyone in any situation. But each of the "Big 3" have all kinds of money, so each could leave their current teams for different reasons.

LeBron -

Let me get this out of the way: I hate LeBron. I understand that he is the best basketball player on the planet, but I just don't like him. That being said, I'm sure I could learn to love him in a Bulls' uniform. I hated Rodman on the Pistons and hated Noah at Florida, and I have learned to embrace/love them.

So will he leave Cleveland? At first I thought it would depend on whether they win a title this year, but I'm not so sure that is the deciding factor.

The money is least relevant to him because he has a HUGE endorsement deal from Nike, and would probably make even more endorsement money in a bigger market. Plus, he wants to be a "global douche icon", which would be easier in a real city, like Chicago, NY or LA.

On the other hand, he is from Ohio, and would ruin basketball in Cleveland if he leaves before bringing them a title. So weighing both sides ...

I am pretty convinced that he will stay in Cleveland, but for a short-term deal so that he can keep the team on the hook to keep improving.

Chances LeBron stays or leaves?
Back with Cleveland: 80%
Leaves the Cavs: 20%

I initially had 85/15, but increased the chance of him leaving when thinking about the possibility of Dallas (or some other team) offering a sign-and-trade. That would allow Bron (or Wade or Bosh) to leave their city without completely destroying the team's hopes. So that is a possibility, and has Bill Simmons' has pointed out, something that Mark Cuban is hoping/planning to work on this summer.

If he does leave CLE, I assume he will go to the NY Knicks, which brings is to ...

Chris Bosh -

I don't see him staying in Toronto. He is a legit star, but stuck on the only NBA franchise in Canada - and just doesn't get the credit/recognition he wants/deserves. I realize it would be difficult to leave $25M on the table - but Bosh has to be convinced that he could make up some of that through exposure and endorsements. Toronto tried to bring in some pieces and make a run at things this year, but it hasn't panned out and I see Bosh leaving.

Chances CB4 stays or leaves:
Stays in Tor: 10%
Leaves for NY: 15%
Leaves for Miami: 25%
Leaves for Chicago: 50%

I realize that it looks like wishful thinking from a Bulls fan, but I have legit reasons for each % above:

Toronto - possible he stays for the $25M.
NY - will only head there with LBJ, because the Knicks are so terrible that they have to get 2 of the Big 3, or they will get none.
Miami - Bosh could leave

Chicago!!! - Doesn't this seem absolutely perfect for Bosh?! 5 reasons ...

(1) He leaves Toronto to come to a major city in the States (read: endoresement $$).

(2) The Bulls have been searching for a back-to-the-basket, low-post scorer for years, and Bosh has said that he wants to be "The Man" on his new team.

(3) The center he currently plays with (Bargnani) is a perimeter player. In Chicago he would play with a true center (Noah) who does all the dirty work (boards/protects paint), so he could focus on offense.

(4) he gets to play with one of the best young PGs in the league.

(5) He could basically "pick" his coach because there is no way VDN is back next year.

Chicago literally seems to have everything someone like Bosh could want, so I think there is a legit 50% chance he signs with the Bulls. (And yes, I can admit that part of that % is wishful homerism.)


Six months ago, I would have typed this:

Stays in MIA: 100%
Leaves: 0%

And that would be it. Now? I have some doubts. Miami has a lot to offer: weather, no state tax, extra year for $25m, etc. Plus Wade already has major endorsements (Jordan, T-Mobile) because he is in a major market. But Miami lacks one crucial thing: a basketball team with any chance of actually winning a title.

Wade is a warrior, and more importantly, he is a winner. He kills himself every night to carry that garbage team, possibly even to the playoffs. (And that garbage team EMBARRASSED Los Bulls last night.) Part of him wants to win, and knows he might have to do that elsewhere. He sees other teams adding pieces to get better, and the best the Heat can do is/are get mentioned in some rumors. So I think there's a small chance he could leave.

Stays in MIA: 95%
Leaves MIA: 5%

I kept the percentages very highly skewed toward Miami, mainly because they have the space to offer Wade a max deal AND bring in another max or near-max player. If he does leave the Heat, I have no doubt he will come home to Chicago to form the greatest hometown backcourt in NBA history! (Again, I concede some homerism.)

So by my percentages, it looks likes the Bulls have a good shot at Bosh and a small chance to get Wade ... but I don't think they have any chance of getting both. So who will it be? (cue "Ace Ventura" voice) Finkle and Einhorn, Einhorn and Finkle? ... Wade and Bosh, Bosh and Wade?

Obviously, either would be awesome in a Bulls uniform. Bosh would be the low-post player that the Bulls have coveted (cue Squints-voice from "The SandLot") FOR-E-VER. D-Rose and Bosh running the pick-and-roll would be a joy to watch.

But Wade is more of a superstar, and comes pre-packaged with championship experience. Plus, he and Rose would complete the best hometown backcourt in NBA history.

Given this choice, in most cases I would say to pick the better overall player ... this is a superstar league and D-Wade is the bigger star. But even in my pre-season preview, I wrote (mostly playing devil's advocate) that the Bulls should not sign D-Wade (scroll to the bottom).

It's almost too hard to choose, mainly because landing either of these guys would be the greatest thing to happen to this franchise since the 1.7% ping-pong ball that landed us D-Rose. So all that being said, I'm pushing for Bosh. Wade might be better, but Bosh will drastically improve with our team (read: Noah and Rose). Plus, we have a better chance of getting Bosh (I think), so we might as well go all in on that front.


Assuming I am totally wrong about the "Big 3" - which of the second-tier FAs could/should the Bulls go after?

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

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Reactions to the Bulls' Hiring of Thibodeau)

BBS: Chicago Bulls Hire Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach

BBS: Click-a-Bull (World Wide Wes, Tom Thibodeau and Free Agents (Chris Bosh and Lebron James))

Quite an experience...

It's another mystery as Bulls tab Thibodeau, who doesn't have what they wanted

This is what the Bulls call head-coaching experience? One year as the top man at Salem State?

Twenty five years ago?

An NCAA Division III school currently in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference?

Oh, well, it wasn't I who was in search of a man with NBA head-coaching experience, it was the Bulls brass itself.

Instead, John Paxson and Gar Forman have agreed to sign Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, 50, to be the new man to lead the Bulls to the promised land.

I know there's been a lot of buzz about defensive guru Thibodeau lately, with the New Orleans Hornets offering him their head-coaching job, and other places allegedly pursuing him.

But if your main competition is a small-market franchise like the Hornets -- weren't they in North Carolina a while ago? -- then how high have you set your sights?

Thibodeau has never been a high-level college or NBA head coach.

Thibodeau brings experience, respect

Here are a few reasons why the Boston Celtics' assistant will be introduced as the new head coach of the Bulls once the NBA Finals end:

1. A player's coach: By almost all accounts, Thibodeau is beloved by the players he has coached. He is able to break down each player's game and consistently finds a way to make them better. Players respect his work ethic and trust him. In listening to players speak about him over the past few years, it's clear that he has the ability to connect with all types of players."Tom's a workaholic," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said recently. "I'm always catching him in there working, watching film in his office. He's probably the most prepared coach I've ever seen."

Celtics forward Glen Davis may have summed up the team's feelings towards Thibodeau best.

"I have no trouble following a guy who knows exactly where he's going," he told the Boston Globe.

2. More than a defensive guru: Thibodeau made a name for himself, at least nationally, by essentially being the defensive coordinator for the Celtics. But if you ask his peers, there is far more to him than simply being a defensive whiz. The Bulls wouldn't have decided on him unless they liked what they heard when he started talking about his offensive principals. Rivers and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who hired Thibodeau in New York and Houston, made it a point in recent weeks to go out of their way to praise Thibodeau for his ability in other areas of the game as well. One of the biggest knocks on former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro was that he didn't run a very imaginative offense. It will be interesting to see how Thibodeau incorporates Derrick Rose and any prospective free agent into this new era of Bulls basketball.

Tom Thibodeau's To-Do List

As soon as the NBA Finals are finished, Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau will be named the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls, and if were Jerry Reinsdorf I'd very quickly be having a conversation with my new skipper to let him know what he'd need to do in order to hit the ground running with one of the most promising teams in the Eastern Conference.

If it were my organization, and Thibodeau were my new coach, these are the things I'd suggest to him to make sure his first year with the Bulls was a success:

#1: It'd be great for us to get a marquee free agent, but let's start planning things this summer as if we're not going to end up with anybody better than our current best player, Derrick Rose. Keeping that in mind, remember that this team plays its best basketball when Rose is allowed to play to his strengths. Allow him ample opportunities for isolation plays so he can get into the lane and create. This roster has been built for pick-and-pop since Skiles was coaching the team, so that's still your bread-and-butter. But just understand that the more creative Derrick is allowed to be, the more effective that particular offense is going to run.

#2: And while we're talking about Derrick, get him to slow his roll a little bit on those transition jumpshots. He's gotten stronger in that area each of the last two seasons, but it's still not smart basketball. Remind him to either get to the cup and draw the foul—something he really, really needs to work on—or just pull back and wait to set up a safer offensive set.

#3: Joakim Noah is the emotional leader of this team. Any way you can get him to be more effective, you do it. Put him in situations defensively to make plays, and encourage him to continue his voracious rebounding. He's done a lot of weight-lifting in the last year, but get him on a strength-building program to make sure he's not getting pushed around by the bigger fives in the league. If he's going to be this team's center, he's got to bulk up so he can stay out of foul trouble. Get his rear end in the weight room and keep him there until October.

#4: Also, remind him not to take those 16-18 foot jumpshots. He likes them, but they're not a high percentage shot for him. I would encourage him, though, to continue pushing the ball up the floor off of easy rebounds when the other team's center is snoozing. Noah's an absolute joy in transition. You're going to love him. You really are.

Simply the best man for the job

Thibodeau hired for qualifications, not for LeBron

Pay attention conspiracy theorists: Exhibit A: After placing a premium on experience at the outset of the coaching search last month, the Bulls hired Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, whose only head-coaching experience was more than 25 years ago at a Division III college.

Exhibit B: The usually deliberate Bulls moved with lightning speed to get the deal done. They met with Thibodeau for the first time late last Wednesday night and an agreement was reached by lunchtime on Saturday.

Exhibit C: Thibodeau is represented by the same agency, CAA Sports, as Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, the biggest star in this year's star-studded free-agent class.

Conclusion: The Bulls settled for Thibodeau because he will improve their chances of signing James when the free-agent period begins next month.

Nice theory, but like most conspiracy theories it has little to do with reality.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Click-a-Bull (World Wide Wes, Tom Thibodeau and Free Agents (Chris Bosh and Lebron James))

The Tom Thibodeau-LeBron James via William Wesley corrolary

The Bulls' hiring of Tom Thibodeau is in and of itself a great maneuver. Thibodeau, long considered a defensive guru and a major component of the Celtics' ridiculous defense the last two years. He's widely respected and was considered an obvious choice (seriously, the Bulls could ink LeBron on the first day of free agency and still find a way to look bad doing it).

But there is another element, and it's one that bears discussion. Thibodeau recently signed with CAA member (I know, you'll never believe it) William Wesley. Man, who didn't see that coming. And as Adrian Wojnarowski outlines in his Yahoo! report this morning, it's that move that prompted the Bulls to move a little switfter in swooping up Thibs, on account of Wesley's relationship with James.

The Bulls' candidacy as a suitor for James began as a trickle, then turned into stream, then became a river, and now it is the broken dam, water rushing down the valley sweeping away homes, livestock, and the occasional 7-11. It reeks of a massive plan, instituted by a team that hasn't exactly shown a "mastermind" element over the last few years.

What's more confusing is Wesley's role in all of this. Wesley's phenomenally powerful, there's no doubt about that. But his specific role within the James camp is the subject of conflicting reports. There is a definitive sense that Wesley's in the room, but the question is whether he's a vocal participant, or a wallflower. The wallflower idea was growing steam, but then one of his client coaches was hired by a major suitor, one that Woj claims is now in the lead.

But riddle me this.We know the top free agents have been discussing the highs and lows of this whole process for a while. We know CAA is involved in this process. And we know Wesley just recently began formally representing coaches for CAA.

So what happens if the Bulls' maneuvering sets off an arms escalation and the Nets respond with hiring John Calipari, another Wesley buddy. The ramifications of this kind of approach could develop a power base for CAA and Wesley for years, across multiple teams.

I know, I know, massive speculation is no one's friend. I'm with you on that. My point is more that it cannot be understated the ridiculous levels the James pursuit has reached. Thibodeau was hired for many legitimate reasons and should make a great head coach.

But having friends of friends never hurt either.

NBA stands at LeBron’s beck and call

World Wide Wes has been telling everyone that he believes LeBron James(notes) is leaning hard toward signing with the Chicago Bulls. No one can be certain if basketball’s most famous middleman has been whispering honest insights to friends or amping the anxiety of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert. Just know this: It wasn’t until Tom Thibodeau – who swore he never again wanted an agent – signed with William Wesley’s CAA that the Chicago Bulls grew serious about the coach’s candidacy.

Something pushed Bulls officials to get on a plane, fly to Los Angeles on the eve of the NBA Finals and meet with the Boston Celtics assistant coach. Within 48 hours, the Bulls had a deal for Thibodeau to become their head coach. For several weeks, the Bulls had chances to interview him. They never did. Just a year ago, Thibodeau couldn’t get offers from the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia Sixers and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics see him as a career assistant and wouldn’t even consider him as a candidate to replace Doc Rivers.

Only now, Tom Thibodeau has a three-year contract to coach the Chicago Bulls.

As one front-office executive with a franchise that has significant salary-cap space this summer said, “I think all the big free-agent deals will be done by July 1, if not the draft. The NBA would have a cow if [it] knew what’s going on now.”

Some league executives don’t even believe Bulls general manager Gar Forman was sold on Thibodeau, but it doesn’t matter. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf was. Everything is happening on the ownership level now, and that’s the reason Gilbert wants to become Jerry Jones and Danny Ferry wanted out of a Cleveland future whether it included LeBron James or not. The hiring of Thibodeau doesn’t assure the Bulls of James, but consider it something of a down payment.

Dwyane Wade(notes) isn’t coming to the Bulls, and they know it. He’s recruiting free agents for the Miami Heat now, and his public disparaging of the Bulls’ lack of loyalty to their former great players was mostly directed toward the ears of his free-agent peers. Wade is selling the organizational stability of the Heat, the possibility of playing for the best available championship coach on the market, Pat Riley.

Riley promises to sell James and Chris Bosh(notes) on taking a little less money for a chance to be champions. He plans to tell them all about how the Showtime Lakers did it in the pre-salary cap ’80’s and how they can do it, too. It’s an improbable scenario, and a source with knowledge of his plans says Riley clearly prefers Chris Bosh over Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) with the second max contract slot the Heat have available. In fact, Riley is believed to still be torn about whether he would take Stoudemire over Utah’s Carlos Boozer(notes). Riley is also intrigued with signing Boston’s Ray Allen(notes) to get a shooter on the floor with Wade.

What’s been lost for the Cavaliers is the strong, steady leadership they had with Ferry and coach Mike Brown. Gilbert was honest with Ferry: He wanted to take back control and involve himself with everything again. Before Ferry was hired as GM, it wasn’t uncommon for Gilbert to pass notes to the bench for substitutions he wanted Paul Silas to make. Ferry had come out of San Antonio, and believed an orderly structure made for successful, winning organizations.

“LeBron never had to come out and say that he wanted Brown and Ferry gone,” one front-office executive familiar with the Cavs’ dynamic said. “But the anti-Brown and anti-Ferry sentiment from LeBron’s crowd was loud and clear to Dan Gilbert. He knew where LeBron stood.”

Ferry convinced Gilbert to step back, let him do his job. But more and more, the owner’s impulsive need to inject himself into everything took over the franchise. Most of all, Gilbert had become the biggest enabler of LeBron James and his inner circle, and that only promises to get worse. Ferry never loved the players’ pregame skits, the hiring of James’ buddies, the associates’ riding on the team plane, but Gilbert seldom said no to anything. He behaved like the permissive parent who believed his kid would love him more if he spoiled him rotten. And it got the Cavs a superstar, James, who never respected anyone and a cast of associates who had the run of the place. Had James wanted Ferry to still be the GM, Gilbert would’ve backed down and Ferry would have a new contract.

“Danny’s been miserable for the past two years,” a friend of his told Yahoo! Sports. “Even if they kept LeBron, do you still lose for winning there anyway?”

Ferry fought to retain Brown, but Gilbert, a staunch Michigan State man, is determined to hire away Tom Izzo. Unless James tells him he wants John Calipari, and then they’ll hire John Calipari. As much as anything, the Cavaliers are giving the franchise completely over to James and his inner circle now. Whatever he wants to stay, he’ll get. Now, Ferry isn’t there to play the wet blanket anymore. He never feared fighting Gilbert on issues because he had stature, money and, truth be told, he didn’t need the job.

All this changes with the promotion of new GM Chris Grant, a capable and respected young executive who won’t have nearly the muscle with Gilbert that his old boss did. Grant isn’t in the job to challenge the owner, but to carry out his vision. The message to James and his people is unmistakable: Whatever you want here, you’ll have. Your way is our way now. That isn’t how it works with winning organizations, and the tragic part is that James may well recognize that and bail on Cleveland anyway.

All the pieces stay fluid and evolving now. World Wide Wes whispers the Bulls for those listening, and all hell has broken loose with a free-agent chase for LeBron James that’s well under way long before July 1.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chicago Bulls Hire Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach

It's been some time since I've posted here because I am studying for the Bar Exam, but today's news seems post-worthy.

My quick take: I am excited. Thibs was the best candidate available and gives the Bulls the best chance to land a top free agent. He is a defensive mastermind and will give the Bulls the identity that they have lacked for a few years. I really hope to see D-Rose finally develop some D (possibly playing safety like Rondo) and would love to see how good Noah can be with some coaching.

Thibodeau has been rumored as a top head-coaching candidate for a couple years, and it seems he is ready to make the leap. Supposedly he wants to run a drive-and-kick style offense. We have the first part of that with D-Rose, but will need to add a shooter (or shooters) to make it work.

My hesitation about the hire? Thibodeau is a great assistant, but who knows how he will be as a head coach? Yes, we have an identity, but we also have a head coach who has never been in that position before. I think Thibodeau will be great, but I don't know for sure. It always takes a coach a couple years to truly understand the "game-management" part of coaching (when to call timeouts, sticking with a rotation v. playing a hot player, etc.), so I am hoping the Bulls are really committed to Thibodeau. I don't want the organization (or the fans) to get impatient after 1 or 2 seasons and have to start this over.

So let's give the new coach a top free agent, and stick with the coach/core/identity for many seasons and really develop something.

As always, Click-a-Bull:

The Bulls and Tom Thibodeau have a deal

With K.C. Johnson reporting that the Chicago Bulls have come to terms with Boston assistant coach Tom Thibodeau on a three-year deal to coach the Bulls, Chicago fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Their team has just hired the best candidate possible.

And the Chicago front office can enjoy another sigh of relief, because despite their worst effort, they just dodged another mediocrity bullet.

Because the Bulls nearly blew it, again, with Thibodeau, the (say it with me) highly-regarded Celtic assistant. The team, curiously, never even interviewed him during their search for a head coach in 2008, at a time when Thibodeau's stock was, at the very least, as high as it stands right now. The team didn't move an inch toward considering him, instead flirting very publically with Mike D'Antoni, doing all but hiring Doug Collins, and settling (in a settle for the ages) on Vinny Del Negro.

VDN managed a .500 record in two seasons with Chicago, and despite major roster turnover and a terrible relationship with team management, it was still a disappointing turn. Del Negro just wasn't ready to lead an NBA team, which shouldn't be a surprise as he hadn't coached on any level prior to taking the job. His work was so poor, even considering the mitigating circumstances, that the Bulls even tossed musings out to the media that they wouldn't even consider dealing with a candidate with no head coaching experience.

Thibodeau doesn't have any head-coaching experience, in the NBA at least. He did run a Division III team for a season, Salem, back in 1984; but beyond that he's more or less spent his time as the top defensive guru for some of the top defensive teams of this generation.

And considering the options beyond Thibodeau, those with head coaching experience to fall back on, the Boston assistant had to be Chicago's choice. Mo Cheeks just hasn't worked as a head man, Eric Mussleman has talent but has also flamed out of a couple of gigs, Lawrence Frank is a sound coach but not the highlight name Chicago needs at this point, and Dwane Casey is a terrific talent with a mindset that the Bulls front office, for whatever reason, did not appreciate.

No, it had to be Thibodeau. And why it took so long for Chicago to swoop in and interview the man that seemed the obvious choice both in 2008 and 2010, seems beyond my comprehension. Word is that Chicago has had Boston's permission for weeks to speak with the assistant, and yet they didn't really make a move until Wednesday night, the eve of the biggest coaching game of Thibodeau's career, to deal with the man.

Thibodeau hired to coach Bulls

The Bulls have a new coach, Tom Thibodeau of the Boston Celtics.

Thibodeau, according to reliable sources, agreed to a three-year deal early Saturday afternoon to become the 15th (not counting interims) coach in Bulls history.

Thibodeau currently is the associate head coach of the Celtics, who are down 1-0 in the NBA Finals.

NBA rules do not allow the announcement of significant transactions like a trade or coaching hire during the Finals so as not to distract from the league’s premier annual event.

I know. Apparently this memo never reached LeBron James.

So the Bulls declined comment.

But reliable sources close to Thibodeau confirmed that Thibodeau received the three-year offer worth some $6.5 million late Friday and agreed early Saturday.

Sources also said Thibodeau is trying to persuade Oklahoma City Thunder assistants Mo Cheeks and Ron Adams to join his staff in Chicago with holdover Pete Myers.

Thibodeau also is not expected to comment until the Finals conclude and under rules of the Celtics assistant coaches cannot do interviews with the media.

Unlike the interview process, which was permitted by the league to be public, the Bulls will have to wait to make the official announcement. Team officials could not be reached for comment.

But it was clear with word from Thibodeau’s associates the deal is done and that Thibodeau is thrilled. Thibodeau made the unusual commitment to pass on several job opportunities just for the chance to be considered a prime candidate for the Bulls job.

Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers Discuss Tom Thibodeau's New Job With the Bulls

With the reports surfacing today that Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer from the Bulls to become their next head coach, it was only natural for the subject to come up at practice Saturday, as Boston continued its preparation for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.

Doc Rivers did his best to not comment too much on it, and refused to confirm that Thibodeau had actually taken the position. But he did talk a little about the situation, and was clear in pointing out that whatever happens with the man who has essentially been his defensive coordinator, it will not be a distraction during this series.

"It won't have an impact, right now we're focusing on basketball," Rivers said. "I'm not going to confirm it. I hope it's true, but we're not going to comment on it, I can tell you that. We're focused on the NBA Finals, and there's two teams: there's the Lakers and the Celtics, and that's what we're going to keep the focus on.

"But on Tom, he deserves a job. I think he's the best candidate out there. I've said that for three years now. But other than that, we're going to leave it at that."

Paul Pierce was a little more forthcoming, and talked about the influence Thibodeau has had on this Celtics team.

"[Thibodeau] has been major to a lot of things we do, but so have a lot of other coaches on our staff," Pierce said. "I think Doc does a pretty good job of expanding their roles. Before Doc got here with his staff you really didn't see too much of that with the past coaches. Especially [Thibodeau], everybody knows his role with this ballclub is mainly with the defense, even though a lot of us believe he can do other things, but that's just his role and I think his influence, just defensively on this team has been major for us in getting to the point we're at right now."