Sam: Bulls sinking to middle class of NBA


Sam: Bulls sinking to middle class of NBA

Not to beat a dead horse here, but the four-team blockbuster trade centering around Dwight Howard only further illustrates the gap between the NBA's haves and have-nots.
Unfortunately, the Bulls appear to be sinking into the latter category.
That may sound preposterous to some, as the Bulls are in one of the NBA's biggest markets, have one of the league's highest payrolls, won the most regular-season games for two consecutive seasons and are doling out four eight-figure salaries -- including a true superstar in Derrick Rose -- but in this summer of the rich getting richer, the franchise is falling behind in basketball's arms race. And while Rose is still only 23, going on 24 and this fall will begin the first season of his five-year contract extension, despite the fact that he's currently on the shelf, it doesn't appear that at this point, the obsessive winner will have a legitimate shot at hoisting a championship trophy during at least the early prime of his career.
This isn't a knee-jerk reaction to the organization not acquiring Howard, an idea that's been dead for some time now. The game's top center simply didn't want to be in Chicago on a long-term basis and, unlike the Lakers, the Bulls weren't willing to roll the dice on the notoriously indecisive big man not signing a contract extension, even before Rose suffered his devastating ACL injury.
Perhaps more significantly, the Magic clearly were looking for a trade package different from any permutation of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and future assets, just as they somehow didn't want the Rockets' proposed deal of draft choices and young talent or even the Nets' offer of Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and four first-round picks -- while ridding themselves of Hedo Turkoglu's infamously bad contract -- scenarios that in retrospect, seem preferable to what Orlando reportedly will receive.
Regardless, now that Howard is headed to Hollywood to join a star-studded cast featuring fellow All-Stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and free-agent acquisition Steve Nash, the Lakers have seemingly one-upped the defending-champion Heat, at least on paper, by putting together a "Big Four" in the wake of Miami's "Big Three" delivering on its promise and winning a title in June. Games still have to be played and it's no guarantee that with Howard, the Lakers will leapfrog the West's reigning top dog in Oklahoma City, but even though it's the other conference, one can't help but notice how the Bulls are increasingly less relevant in the conversation about the league's upper crust.
Even in the East, the efforts of the Heat to maintain its standing, the Celtics' attempts to upgrade their aging roster for another run to the Finals and splashy summer moves of the Knicks, Nets and now Sixers -- not to mention the Central Division rival Pacers' resolve to continue building on their recent success, if not jump into the fray of contenders -- has only exacerbated the impact of the Bulls' cost-cutting offseason maneuvers.
Whether or not you believe the decimation of the "Bench Mob" has been overblown, or will hurt even worse most would have you believe, even if Rose's eventual late-season return provides a boost, the Bulls no longer possess the same advantages in depth, size, chemistry and defense (based on losing the likes of backup center Omer Asik and reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, though Tom Thibodeau's infamous preparation will have something to say about that) that made them such a special group over the past two seasons.
That isn't the point, one might say, as Chicago is a city used to championships, and with Rose still recuperating, a celebratory parade down Michigan Avenue wasn't in the making next summer anyway, so why not exercise some fiscal responsibility in hopes of winning big in the future?
Except it's being proven that to the aggressors go the spoils, both in free agency and in the trade market, so sitting back until 2014 to catch a big fish or two is no guarantee, especially with cap-space competitors like the Magic assuredly going to throw their hats in the ring. And even that is a very uncertain proposition, as superstars in their prime like LeBron James won't necessarily opt out of their contracts, leaving only aging stars like Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki to pursue, a scenario that already foreshadows the disappointments of 2000 and more recently, 2010.
Sure, some intriguing trade possibilities will be on the horizon and the Bulls definitely have assets and flexibility: Trading Rip Hamilton's expiring deal this season, Luol Deng's contract coming to an end after the 2013-14 season and amnestying Carlos Boozer to more-remote considerations, like the rights for 2011 draft choice Nikola Mirotic, the trade exception acquired from Atlanta in the Kyle Korver trade and the increasingly-valuable future pick from Charlotte.
But in the meantime, the reality of the situation is that big-market Chicago has firmly slipped into the NBA's middle class. In a way, that isn't the worst thing in the world, as the Bulls clearly studied the league's punitive new CBA and resisted joining their free-spending peers while still fielding a team that should be competitive enough to make the playoffs.
But after being a true contender for two seasons, is that enough, both for fans and the team's "nucleus," as the franchise's brass so often refers to it, of Rose, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, to remain content? (Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, while integral to the team's success now, have had their names bandied about in speculation so much that, as the old adage goes, "Where there's smoke, there's fire") Only time will tell if the front office's cautiousness will pay off, but in the meantime, the realization that the Bulls don't have the firepower or the desire, in the present, to keep up with the Joneses, has become even clearer.

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

The Bulls are still scrambling to add depth at point guard and found another body to throw in the rotation.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Bulls "are planning to sign" Shaquille Harrison. Harrison was waived by the Suns on Monday.

In order to complete the move, the Bulls are reportedly waiving center Omer Asik.

Harrison went undrafted out of Tulsa in 2016. The Suns signed him and sent him to the then NBA D-League. Last season, the 25-year-old from Kansas City played in 23 games and made two starts in the NBA. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 assists in 16.7 minutes per game.

The Suns signed Jamal Crawford earlier this week and waived Harrison. The Bulls apparently have swooped in.

This move comes just six days after the Bulls added Tyler Ulis, who was also waived by the Suns. Ulis didn't play in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia.

Kris Dunn will miss his second straight game Saturday against the Pistons. His absence against the Sixers showed the lack of depth at guard for the Bulls. Cam Payne started at point guard and split minutes with Ryan Arcidiacono. Payne went 0-for-4 in 21 minutes and led coach Fred Hoiberg to say potential lineup changes are "still up in the air."

Harrison can now join Payne, Arcidiacono and Ulis in a battle for backup minutes at point guard when Dunn returns to the lineup.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games


Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.