Bulls

Bulls Coaching Situation More Up in Air than Ever

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Bulls Coaching Situation More Up in Air than Ever

Wednesday, December 30

by Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

You can count me among the media members wondering why John Paxson or Gar Forman were so reluctant to make a public statement supporting their embattled head coach, Vinny Del Negro. Well, after watching Forman struggle to come up with the right words before Tuesday night's game against Indiana, I now understand why. The Bulls general manager did manage to utter the phrase "Vinny is our coach", but he quickly undercut that statement by saying everyone in the organization is being evaluated at all times, and the front office is considering all options to improve the team. When I asked Forman if he could commit to Del Negro as the Bulls' head coach for the rest of the season, he refused to give a direct answer, saying instead how all evaluations should remain private within the organization. In my mind, the non-answer was the same as a no. Vinny is on a very short leash now, with any kind of a losing streak possibly leading to his dismissal.

Del Negro has done a remarkable job of keeping his poise in this difficult time, patiently answering almost daily questions about his job future. But he admitted before the game Tuesday night that the line of questioning had become a little "ridiculous", asking reporters to talk to Forman or Paxson about the situation. Wednesday, a report on Yahoo Sports claimed Del Negro and his staff were very disappointed in Forman's lukewarm vote of confidence. According to that report, Del Negro finally realizes the front office is not in his corner anymore. Now, it's just a matter of how the Bulls' play on the court either improves his chance of staying on the job, or accelerates the desire of the front office to find a more qualified long-term replacement. We can all watch it play out in front of our eyes over the coming weeks.
TYRUS IS TERRIFIC

Del Negro's prospects certainly look better with the return of a healthy Tyrus Thomas to the rotation. Thomas has been nothing short of sensational in his first two games back, putting up 21 points and 9 rebounds against New Orleans, then following that up with an 8 point, 15 rebound, 3 blocked shots performance against Indiana. Sure, Tyrus still puts up bad shots at times, but his ability to run the floor and block shots gives the Bulls an element they simply don't have without him. He's one of the few players on the roster who can get easy baskets on the fastbreak and off the offensive glass. And, those emphatic dunks have more value than just 2 points on the scoreboard. They can pick up the energy level of the other Bulls' players on the court, while deflating the other team. Thomas' return also allows Del Negro the chance to go with a deeper rotation, saving the starters from playing heavy minutes every night. With Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson now in the starting line-up, Del Negro can call on Thomas, John Salmons and Brad Miller for consistent production off the bench, with James Johnson and Jannero Pargo also available for spot minutes depending on match-ups. We don't have to worry about seeing Lindsey Hunter or Aaron Gray on the court anymore, or worry about Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng burning out by mid-season. Quality depth was supposed to be one of the Bulls' strengths this season, but the early season injuries to Thomas and Hinrich took that away. Now that Del Negro has a complete roster again, we should find out in the next few weeks whether the Bulls can be a .500 or better team this season. The front office has to make a decision on the future of Thomas, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 1st. Remember, they'll have to renounce Thomas' rights to have a chance to make a maximum contract offer to one of the elite free agents next summer. And if Tyrus continues to play at the level we've seen over the last 2 games, that decision might not be as automatic as it appeared.

McGRADY TRADE COULD SOLVE CAP ISSUES

Which bring us to a suggestion we made about a month ago here on Beyond the Arc. The Bulls should pursue a trade for Houston's Tracy McGrady, who was sent home last weekend with the assurance that Rockets' management would explore deals to find him a new home. Granted, McGrady is just a shadow of the player who was a perennial All-Star for most of his NBA career, but he has an expiring contract worth around 22 million dollars which could guarantee the Bulls will be a major player in free agency next summer. Plus, T-Mac spent last summer rehabbing from microfracture knee surgery here in Chicago with Michael Jordan's long-time trainer Tim Grover. He might actually welcome the chance to revive his NBA career here in Chicago. The Bulls could offer several possible combinations for McGrady. If Houston wants expiring contracts in return, the Bulls could package Brad Miller, Jerome James and John Salmons. If the Rockets want more immediate help, the Bulls could send them Miller, Hinrich and Salmons. Or, they could make the package Miller, Thomas and Salmons, but that sounds like too much for the Bulls to give up. McGrady might be able to give the Bulls a go-to scorer for all those close games they figure to be involved in the rest of the way, but even if he doesn't, the salary cap relief would be a big bonus for a team that's obviously willing to sacrifice this season for the chance to mine free agent gold next summer.

So, what do you think? Please post your comments in the section below, or send me an e-mail. I'll see you New Year's eve at 1:30 for Bulls Pregame Live. Kendall Gill and I will preview the match-up with the struggling Pistons, who've lost 8 games in a row, but should be close to turning things around with the return of Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and former Bulls' star Ben Gordon from injuries. You can watch the game on Comcast SportsNet at 2:00, followed by Bulls Postgame Live.

Happy New Year everyone! Let's hope 2010 begins a long run of sustained excellence for the Bulls' franchise, starting in July with the addition of a superstar like LeBron or D-Wade.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

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USA TODAY

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

The Bulls will enter free agency with approximately $20 million in cap space. That’s far short of the amount needed to sign a max-salary player, but there is a path for the team to land a star — if one chooses to play in Chicago. With rumors out of Brooklyn that D’Angelo Russell would be on his way out if the Nets sign Kyrie Irving, coupled with the uncertain futures of both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Bulls fans are wondering “what if.” I’ll let much wiser people debate if the Bulls should extend an offer to any of these players; I’ll outline how it could happen.

In terms of this discussion, it’s very important to note that not all free agents are eligible for the same max salary. The league has three tiers of max free agents, broken up by years of service. Players with 0-6 years of service are in one tier, 7-9 years in another, and 10+ years of service in the last.

Players in the more experienced tiers can get a much larger contract over players coming off their rookie contracts. The wonderful Larry Coon explains this in detail in his CBA FAQ. The exact 2019-20 salary cap will be announced at the end of the month. It’s currently projected at $109 million, and for this scenario, we use that number. Essentially, tier 1 players can get 25 percent of the cap, tier 2 30 percent and players with 10+ years of experience can get 35 percent of a team’s cap.

Russell would fall into the 0-6 years tier, earning him a first year salary (the one that matters in terms of cap space) of approximately $27.2 million. Klay Thompson has eight seasons of experience and is eligible for a first-year salary of about $32.7 million. His teammate Kevin Durant can sign a max deal starting at $38 million.

Step 1- Get medical waiver on Omer Asik’s $3 million cap hit.

The Bulls will find out by June 30 if the league approves their waiver request on Asik. The former Bulls big has a $3 million cap hit of guaranteed money on the books for the 2019-20 season. The team waived Asik back in October and it looks like his NBA career may be over after dealing with arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. The NBA is likely to approve the Bulls request, and they’ll get that money back in cap space for free agency.

Step 2- Waive and stretch Cristiano Felicio

The league allows teams to waive players and stretch their contracts over several years to lessen the immediate cap hit a team takes. Felicio is owed approximately $15.7 million over the next two seasons. The stretch provision means teams can spread out the cap hit of a waived player twice the years remaining on the deal, plus one. This translates to a cap hit of approximately $3.1 million over the next fives years instead of the amount he’s owed. This means the Bulls would gain an additional $5 million in cap space this summer.

Accomplishing steps 1 and 2 will clear enough cap space for the Bulls to sign a 0-6 year free agent, so if Russell wants to play for the Bulls and the front office feels he’d be a good fit, it would only take these two steps to sign him. It gets more complicated for the more experienced free agents.

Step 3- Trade Kris Dunn for a 2nd round pick.

Dunn is owed $5.3 million for the 2019-20 season. Trading him for a second round pick would net the Bulls a cap saving of $4.4 million. The reason the Bulls don’t get to keep the full amount is that teams have to account for a roster spot against the cap when they go below 12 players. Trading Dunn would get them into the 7-9 years tier and allow them to sign Klay Thompson (or any of the other free agents at that tier).

Step 4A- Trade out of the first round of the 2019 draft

Here is where it gets a lot more difficult for the Bulls if they want to sign a 10+ year free agent. They have to clear about $5 million more in cap space. Let’s safely assume they aren’t going to trade Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter for pennies on the dollar just to clear cap space. Otto Porter’s contract makes him a very unlikely trade candidate as well. Trading the No. 7 pick for a future first nets them another $4.4 million, close enough to get to that max slot with other small moves.

The major flaw with this is the draft is June 20 and free agency starts 10 days later. You’re not going to get a commitment from any superstar worth this amount until June 30, so essentially this option is off the table.

Step 4B- Trade Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison for second round picks

This option is a lot more likely if the Bulls can sign a superstar in the 10+ years tier. Hutchison showed promise in his rookie season, and despite missing all of last season, Valentine should be able to get you something (especially if packaged with Hutchison). I doubt the team wants to punt on Hutchison after one season, but they'd have to, if this was the only thing in the way of signing a franchise changing star.

If you want to dream for the Bulls, our friends at NBC Sports Boston put together a list of the top free agents available. The likelihood is that the Bulls will use their cap space to sign a few veteran free agents to give them some much needed depth, but should they dream big, there is a path to be in play for a star.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis-to-the-Lakers trade, but it could have an effect on the draft

Bulls not a part of Anthony Davis-to-the-Lakers trade, but it could have an effect on the draft

Farewell, Lonzo Ball-to-the-Bulls rumors.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday evening that the Los Angeles Lakers have finally acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, and the deal doesn't include a third team.

In exchange for Davis, a six-time All-Star about to enter his prime, the Pelicans recieved Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and three first round picks, including the No. 4 pick in next week's NBA Draft.

There was some speculation - also reported by Woj - that a third team would need to get involved in order to satisfy what Pelicans GM David Griffin was looking for in a package for Davis.

Though the Bulls were never directly connected in reports as a potential third team, it made sense considering they own the No. 7 pick and have a need at point guard.

There was also some speculation - though, again, never concrete news or reports - that Zach LaVine could have been an option in a deal, with the Bulls acquiring the No. 4 pick.

Alas, the Bulls aren't part of the deal. But it still may have an effect on them.

The Pelicans now own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks in next week's draft. They're obviously going to take Duke forward Zion Williamson with the first pick but now have options at No. 4. Whereas the Lakers had been linked to Vanderbilt poing guard Darius Garland, the Pelicans really don't have a need there with Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt.

That, in theory, could bump Garland down to No. 6 and the Phoenix Suns, which would then free up the Bulls to take North Carolina's Coby White at No. 7.

Wojnarowski also reported that teams are still inquiring about the No. 4 pick from the Pelicans. It's unlikely the Bulls would depart with LaVine though maybe they could put together some sort of package to move up from No. 7.

What's more likely is the Bulls keep their assets intact in such a weak draft class and move forward with the best player available on the board at No. 7.

But it's officially Woj Bomb season, so buckle up. As is the case every NBA offseason, anything can and will happen.