Longstanding NBA truth: Nobody good ever comes to the Bulls and nobody knows why, but if you think the Bulls landed a good player, then he turns out to be Carlos Boozer.
Recent NBA truth: The Heat can be made to look like the Cavaliers. The Pacers already imploded. With some big moves this summer, the Bulls could hope to be the Eastern Conference patsy that gets pantsed by the Western Conference champion.
The NBA is unforgiving when it comes to the premium placed on talent. If you have the best player, you have a championship contender. If you don’t, you’re just charging hundreds of dollars a seat to watch gym class.
And so, as LeBron James seemingly heads toward opting out of his contract with the Heat to test free agency, the Bulls look like they have two choices if they are ever going to get a shot at a seventh trophy:
Sign James or hope he gets injured.
Harsh, but true. Deal with it.
The last time James put himself on the market, the Bulls got a meeting, but were losers going in. It wasn’t their fault. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had already decided they would gang up in Miami, and they’ve been to the NBA Finals every year since.
But now the Heat are broken, or at least looked it against a great team. The Bulls are not a great team. The Bulls can’t do that to the Heat, even with the waste of time that Wade has become. The Bulls aren’t as talented as the Spurs and are aren’t as well-coached. They aren’t great at anything except hustling, and that gets you nothing but a pat on the head, like you were the NBA’s pet golden retriever or something.
But the Bulls could be the greatest team in the East if they can somehow lure James here, and there are indications James will put himself back in play. He didn’t immediately say no when asked after the Heat lost Game 5 on Sunday. He didn’t say much of anything, actually, which had to make Bulls management happy, despite the team’s history of Cubs-like failure in free agency.
And so, we arrive at the most important Bulls summer since the last time James offered himself around. The Bulls could get a do-over in terms of changing the franchise.
There are signals the Bulls intend to change everything, or at least, they’re open to it. They reportedly would trade anyone, including Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the coach, and they should because it hasn’t worked. If they don’t consider trading any and all, then John Paxson and Gar Forman should be fired.
The Bulls apparently want to try a different profile because being gutty and relentless has led to nothing but relentless disappointment and the realization that talent wins and they don’t have enough, not even close, stop it right now.
It all starts in Miami. The Bulls’ bright future or utter waste of another generation starts with the Heat. Ideally, the Bulls make a play for James, let him dictate personnel, coach, style, and minutes played.
Whatever James wants, James gets. Just get him out of Miami, while Wade stays with the Heat and drags them down to Pistons territory.
Problem is, James could opt out in Miami and then opt back in for less money while luring Carmelo Anthony to the Heat.
The Bulls supposedly are hot for Anthony to opt out in New York because they can’t score. The Bulls were the lowest-scoring team in the league. They need scoring so badly that even the defensively obsessed coach is willing to take on a defensive liability just to have someone who can make a shot.
But Anthony joining the Heat was the latest rumor, which is believable after the way James, Wade and Bosh conspired last time. Great, huh? The Bulls are so ostracized by quality players that they can’t even win the rumor battle.
And another thing: If Anthony opts out and then chooses the Bulls instead of a chance to play with James, then do you really want someone who’s too stupid to hook up with the best player on the planet?
After James and Anthony is Kevin Love, but frankly, he seems like as much of a door prize as Boozer turned out to be. Love has never been to the playoffs, never lifted his team there, isn’t much for defense, and can be hard to find when you need points in the fourth quarter.
The argument would be that Love would have better teammates and coaching with the Bulls, and what a dropoff that is in discussing hopes for the Bulls. In the matter of a couple paragraphs, we’ve gone from dreaming of the best player on the planet to talking yourself into the ability to hide shortcomings of a player who sounds like the last plan all over again --- the plan the Bulls are trying to get away from.
James is the prize. The rest are lovely parting gifts. But here’s the worst part:
Acquiring Love or Anthony still wouldn’t guarantee that the Bulls win anything, but not getting either, or anybody better, would guarantee another lost decade.