Bulls

Bulls' pursuit of LeBron losing momentum

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Bulls' pursuit of LeBron losing momentum

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
4:14 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

It's been two and a half weeks since LeBron James and the Cavaliers were knocked out of the playoffs by Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Are you feeling better or worse about the Bulls' chances of signing LeBron as a free agent? Please post your comments in the section below.

It's hard to know how much James and his "team" are affected by things they read or hear, but the Bulls' hopes certainly weren't helped by comments made by Dwyane Wade and former NBA super-agent David Falk last week.

Wade criticized the Bulls organization for not showing loyalty to their former players. Wade grew up in the Chicago area and watched them win their six championships. The former Richards High School star says Michael Jordan is his favorite NBA player ever, and he finds it odd that Jordan is no longer with the organization. Same with Scottie Pippen, who now lives in Miami, and is a frequent guest at Heat games. Wade said loyalty is very important to him, and the Heat organization is loyal to its former players. And, Wade said he doesn't see that with the Bulls.

One day later, Wade and his agent, Chicago-based Henry Thomas, went out of their way to say Wade's comments were taken out of context, and he didn't mean to take shots at the Bulls' organization. But that's exactly what Wade meant to do. His current team, the Heat, will be competing with the Bulls to try to sign LeBron and the other top free agents this summer. Surely, Wade knows by running down the Bulls' reputation to guys who respect him, he has a better chance of convincing them to join him in Miami.

Wade played on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team with James, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson. They became friends during training sessions in Las Vegas and their two-week stay in China. And you can bet those other players will believe what Dwyane Wade has to say about the Bulls' organization more than the mountains of evidence that can be presented that the Bulls have been EXTREMELY loyal to their former players. In our society, perception is reality, and if the top free agents have the perception the Bulls won't be loyal to them, there's almost nothing John Paxson and Gar Forman can do to convince them otherwise.

Jordan's former agent, David Falk, also made some comments over the weekend that could hurt the Bulls' cause in recruiting LeBron. Falk didn't criticize the Bulls' organization, but he did say Chicago is "the last place" LeBron should consider. Falk stated the obvious, saying James will always be measured against the standards Jordan established with the Bulls, meaning six titles, six Finals MVP awards and five regular season MVP honors. Granted, this is a negative recruiting theme we've heard before, and former free agents like Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady were probably impacted by the specter of Jordan's greatness and career accomplishments.

But if LeBron truly wants to be considered among the greatest players of all-time, he shouldn't be afraid of playing in the House that Michael built. Instead, he should embrace the challenge. Chicago has passionate fans who will support him unconditionally. And, if he wins three or four championships instead of six, that can hardly be viewed as failing to live up to Jordan's legacy.

Only time will tell if the comments made by Wade andor Falk will hurt the Bulls' cause in trying to sign LeBron, but the one thing the front office really has to fear is the possibility that Jordan himself tries to talk James out of signing with the Bulls. LeBron grew up as a huge Jordan fan, and he idolizes Michael. If Jordan were to complain to LeBron directly about the fact the Bulls didn't offer him a minority ownership stake or a high level job in the front office, that could knock the Bulls out of the running for James' services almost immediately. Let's hope Jordan doesn't hold on to any bitterness over the circumstances that led him to accept a management position with the Washington Wizards years ago.

THIBODEAU AND SHAW KEY NAMES IN COACHING SEARCH

Meanwhile, the Bulls search for a new head coach continues to crawl along, probably by design. The front office decided not to make a trip to Boston to interview Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau before the start of the Finals on Thursday. The Hornets would like to hire Thibodeau as their new head coach and reports indicate they are already negotiating terms of a contract with Thibodeau's agent. But Thibodeau is interested in talking with the Bulls and Nets before he accepts the job, and K.C. Johnson of the Tribune is reporting Thibodeau is most interested in the Bulls' job, which isn't surprising, considering the talent already on the roster, and the possibility of acquiring an all-star in free agency. Thibodeau signed on with LeBron James' agent, Leon Rose, and Rose is also associated with noted talent broker, William Wesley, a.k.a., Worldwide Wes. Hard to say if bringing Thibodeau in as head coach will help the Bulls' chances of signing LeBron, but it's certainly something the front office has to consider.

In the same fashion, the Bulls might also be waiting for a chance to interview Lakers' assistant coach Brian Shaw, who's spent the last five seasons learning the intricacies of the triangle offense with Phil Jackson and Tex Winter. Shaw is considered head coaching material and he has Jackson's strong endorsement. If LeBron really is intrigued by the idea of playing in the triangle offense, hiring Shaw would be a step in the right direction for the Bulls. Any way you look at it, the search for a new head coach figures to be put on hold until the Celtics and Lakers decide the NBA championship over the next two weeks.

Please let us know what you think about the latest developments concerning LeBron and the coaching search. Post your comments in the section below or send me an e-mail. Enjoy the Finals, still a month to go before the start of free agency!

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.