Like most Chicagoans, I woke up with a start this morning. Feeling a profound disturbance in the Force, I opened my computer only to find out that Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh had decided to stay/go with the Miami Heat.
After I beat my wife for a while while sobbing, I realized I was overreacting (sorry, baby). Wade was probably never leaving South Beach and money on the table to come to Chicago. Bosh probably wasn’t worth giving up Joakim Noah for (especially when you factor in the difference in their salaries).
Now that LeBron has taken my advice for a televised announcement special , we know that everything will finally be over this week. While the Bulls have seen their shot at greatness reduced to a last-second three-pointer, I’m here to tell you all is not lost. Let’s break it down.
Off The Table: Wade was ultimately not gettable, no matter how many sobbing children he leaves behind in Chicago. Bosh is more of a letdown; however, all indications are that he would have insisted on a sign-and-trade. Noah would have been the most likely bait; Bosh doesn’t want to play center anymore, so that would have created as many problems as it solved.
Of the second-tier free agents, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki were signed to reasonable deals by the current teams they were never going to leave. The Grizzlies kept Rudy Gay for 5 years at $80 million. It’s always risky to give a basketball player a big payday based on potential (he’s 23), but they absolutely had to keep him. Joe Johnson stayed with the Hawks for a max deal. That’s 6 years at $119 million for a 29-year-old player who has made one All-NBA Third Team and just got thrashed in the playoffs. It would be the biggest bad-signing/overreaction except… Amare Stoudemire was given 5 years at $100 million by the Knicks… uninsured. He’s had so many injury problems, including microfracture knee surgery and a detached retina, that no insurance company will touch him at 27. Plus, he’s a chronic malcontent (even when playing with Steve Nash), tries only on rare occasions, has averaged a paltry 9 rebounds a game, and is so well-respected that he pathetically campaigned to be included in the “Free Agent Summit”, which he wasn’t. Other than that, great signing.
On The Table: Bron-Bron. We’ll get to that later.
Of the second tier, Carlos Boozer and David Lee are still available. Either would be a great partner with Noah in the front court. They’re close in age, statistics and general ability. All indications are that Crazy Russian Nets Owner will back up the truck to steal Knicks-fan-favorite Lee. The Bulls might have to slightly overpay Boozer, but reports say he wants to play in Chicago.
The Bulls also need a shooter. Ray Allen may be past his prime, but he’s still lights out when he’s hot and can compensate for off-nights with his defense… plus, he’s Jesus Fucking Shuttlesworth. J.J. Redick is a nice, affordable piece who could grow into the Paxson/Kerr role. Nate Robinson is a PG, but these playoffs showed that he’s a great energy shooter to bring off the bench… he could spell Rose and even play with him in some up-tempo sets.
Why I Still Believe: All of Chicago has shrunk into passive-aggressive defense mode. Cries of “It’s the Olympics all over again” and “He was just leading us on” and “He’s an ego-maniac diva anyway” can be heard echoing through the concrete canyons. All hope seems to be lost. But listen to old D.S.C…. not so fast.
Cleveland’s Dead: I don’t care what the conventional wisdom says. In the past 24 hours, LeBron has seen Chris Bosh turn down a chance to play with him for the highest possible salary; instead he’s in Miami with Wade for less money. The reason? The putridness of Cleveland. Bosh could have had the two things he claimed to want most. But when push came to shove, he wasn’t willing to spend 6 years in the worst city in the NBA. And this isn’t an isolated problem. The best player James ever played with was Boozer… who left at the first opportunity… to go to Salt Lake Fucking City. Now, James is looking at playing with Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison with the certain knowledge that he’ll never get a top free agent to join him as long as he stays in Cleveland. Even if he only signs a three-year deal, he’ll be 28 with no championships when it ends. If he stays out of loyalty, they should rename the city for him.
Plus, the big announcement TV special isn’t a good sign for Cleveland. If LeBron goes through all this speculation and buildup, only to announce on national TV that he’s staying, it’ll be the biggest mockery since Al Capone’s vault. Somehow I think he has a better sense of public relations than that.
Miami’s The Bitch Move: LeBron offered Bosh the moon to play with him; Bosh chose Wade instead. For James to now follow them to Miami for a smaller contract… let’s just say that’s a bit much to ask from a guy who calls himself “King James” on Twitter. Kings aren’t Pat Riley’s sloppy seconds. Do you think MJ, Kobe, Magic, Bird, etc. would have ever followed another player around? No goddamn way.
Plus, basketball’s still a team game and Miami’s seriously stripped down. Except for Wade and Bosh, they only have Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Kenny Hasbrouck under contract for next year (and one of those is probably heading to Toronto). I know Wade/Bosh/James would make up for alot, but filling the rest of roster with minimum guys and winning a title? It’s not a sure thing.
New York’s The Dumb Move: Putting your future in the hands of Charles Dolan is only slightly smarter than putting it in the hands of Donald Sterling. Guys under contract for the Knicks next season: Amare, Eddy Curry, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas, Danilo Galliani, and Bill Walker. Non-minimum guys they’d be able to sign after a LeBron max contract: nobody. The only way this happens is if LeBron knows for sure that Carmelo Anthony is joining him after next season.
That Leaves The Bulls: LeBron had meetings with the Clippers and the Nets, but that was just a courtesy. The Bulls could offer him a max deal in a big market with a great roster… they’re the only team that can say that.
What do they need to do to give themselves the best chance? Sign some players. Now. Today. Get Boozer (or Lee) and Allen (or Redick) locked up. That would give the Bulls a starting roster of PG Derrick Rose (21 and already an All-Star), SG Allen (34; 9-time All-Star), SF Luol Deng (25), PF Boozer (28; 2-time All-Star) and C Joakim Noah (25). With LeBron, Deng goes to the bench with Taj Gibson, (25), James Johnson (23) and Omer Asik (24), a Turkish center the Bulls have been waiting on for two years. Get it set… it would give LeBron something serious to sleep on, and let the Bulls save face with a competitive roster if he spurns them.
Maybe LeBron will choose loyalty (Cleveland), friendship (Miami) or exposure (New York). But his basketball biological clock is ticking. Kobe has five titles, with no end in sight. Durant just signed an extension that puts him in Oklahoma City with Jeff Green, James Harden and Russell Westbrook through 2016. Rondo already has a title, and will be in the mix as long as Pierce and KG stay healthy. Dwight’s still getting better in Orlando. And now Miami has Wade and Bosh. If he is serious about challenging Jordan, LeBron better get going.