“And the Bulls started to rebuild.”
Those words emblazoned across the screen to end “The Last Dance” served as a reminder of the fate that awaited the franchise after the dynasty’s splintering. Michael Jordan retired again, Scottie Pippen embarked on a sign-and-trade to the Rockets, Phil Jackson slunk into hiatus and various role players departed by way of trade or release. The team won a combined 30 games over the next two years.
But, apparently, in the summer of 2000, Jerry Krause had a plan to catapult the Bulls back to prominence — light years ahead of schedule.
Appearing on The Platform Basketball Podcast, Jamal Crawford detailed the scheme, which involved signing either two or all three of Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady.
“My rookie year, Jerry (Krause) thought he was gonna get Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady,” Crawford said on the show. “So, obviously, MJ just retired, right. We have all this cap space. And so we have all these rookies, and — go back and look, I guarantee you Grant, Tim and TMac were all free agents. And Jerry wholeheartedly believed we would get all three of them.”
Indeed, Duncan, McGrady and Grant Hill were all eligible to be signed that summer, and the Bulls sat “roughly $18 million” under the $35.5 million salary cap — primed and ready to strike.
Their courting of McGrady, specifically, involved meeting the 21-year-old at the airport upon his Chicago arrival with a band, the Luvabull dancers, Benny the Bull and chanting fans — a spectacle that prompted then-Orlando Sentinel columnist *checks notes* Skip Bayless to term them the “Hooterville Bulls.”
Of course, none came to fruition. Hill and McGrady teamed up with the Orlando Magic, but injuries quickly derailed their hopes of glory. Duncan re-upped in San Antonio and spearheaded one of the greatest dynasties in modern sports over the next decade-and-a-half.
The Bulls’ biggest free agent acquisition that summer was Ron Mercer on a four-year, $27 million deal. They flipped Mercer in February 2002, and finished above-.500 just twice in the aughts.