It starts at the top of the organization, where Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf one day will leave a legacy of loyalty in which he takes more pride than he does in the Bulls' six NBA championships or the White Sox's World Series title. Reinsdorf became who he is in the business and sports world by honoring his word, an old-fashioned concept those in the Bulls and Sox organizations say the chairman never let go out of style. Those who work for Reinsdorf stick around a long time because they not only share that fundamental belief but practice it, which brings us to the rumored Bulls trade of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott for Love.
Mirotic bought out his contract with Real Madrid of the Spanish League only after the Bulls committed to keeping him in Chicago, according to a source familiar with negotiations. It's one thing to trade a savvy NBA veteran like Gibson after reassuring him to "buy, not lease,'' as general manager Gar Forman has advised, but another to mislead a 23-year-old rookie who uprooted his wife and young son to cross an ocean and become a Bull.
Smart business move or not, dealing Mirotic after earning his trust over three years would be contrary to everything Reinsdorf wants his organizations to represent and a departure from how the Bulls typically operate. It would be bold but borderline betrayal. It might lead to more victories but overall result in the loss of respect, and the Bulls traditionally care about both.
Perhaps that explains why, as of Thursday, Mirotic and his representatives remained under the impression the 6-foot-10 forward was not part of any "significant offer'' the Bulls made for Love. And without Mirotic included in a package centered around Gibson, the chances of the Bulls' latest Love interest leading to a relationship in Chicago dwindle. Removing a player with Mirotic's potential likely makes competing offers from the Cavaliers and Warriors more attractive to the Timberwolves.
Also complicating factors would be Mirotic's contract including a 15 percent full trade kicker, according to a source, adding $2.494 million to his 3-year, $16.61 million deal. Not that such fine print will be necessary to interpret if the Bulls do right by fulfilling their pledge to Mirotic.
All the circumstances surrounding Mirotic's celebrated arrival made it hard to view Thursday's trade speculation as much more than a hypothetical; good mostly for Web clicks and sports-talk radio shows. And hypothetically speaking, though likely moot, from a basketball perspective the Bulls instantly would sit in a better position to win an NBA title within the next three years by making that trade for Love.
As much as the Bulls believe in Mirotic and McDermott, the rookies remain unknowns while the more established Love offers a nightly dose of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Gibson improved as much as anybody in the league last year but surely even the Taj fan most guilty of overstating his importance realizes he isn't the elite player Love is.
Love tempts the Bulls because he would be the second star Derrick Rose never had. But be careful not to idealize Love as the perfect player: His defensive deficiencies would test coach Tom Thibodeau, he doesn't always command a double-team and his injury history isn't exactly spotless. Plus, Love joining the Bulls would force Pau Gasol to accept a bench role he didn't pass up richer contracts elsewhere to play.
Still, an All-Star pedigree and strong rapport between Love and Rose, developed during offseasons in California, should motivate the Bulls to keep trying to find trade combinations that won't include Mirotic.
A package of Gibson, Jimmy Butler — who likely will seek a contract out of the Bulls' price range next summer — and a first-round draft pick probably wouldn't entice the Timberwolves as much as any Cavs' proposal including Andrew Wiggins. Gibson, Butler and McDermott might come closer, but remember the Bulls spent two first-round picks to move up to No. 11 to draft the man called Dougie McBuckets. McDermott already made a strong impression in the summer league, a good start if not a true gauge of NBA success. McDermott was the first new addition in an offseason that, if not for the failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, would be perceived as a rousing success.
The Bulls had to call the Timberwolves about Love's availability. They have to keep calling until Love is a former Timberwolf. They must do everything within reason to try to keep Love away from the Cavs.
It would be stunning if a Bulls organization headed by Reinsdorf considered breaking a commitment to Mirotic, a player who trusted them implicitly, within reason.