Bulls

Schanowski: Free Agency Not an Automatic Cure

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Schanowski: Free Agency Not an Automatic Cure

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010
6:26 p.m.

Will the addition of one player from next summer's free agent class automatically make the Bulls a contending team in 2010-2011? Please post your comments in the section below. If the Bulls are able to sign LeBron or D-Wade, the answer is yes. If it's somebody else, the answer is a lot more uncertain.

For a concrete example of how cap room isn't always a quick fix, just take a look at Monday's Bulls' opponent, the Detroit Pistons. Joe Dumars has long been regarded as one of the NBA'S best general managers. But with nearly 20 million dollars in cap room last summer, Dumars wouldn't commit to offering enough money to entice Carlos Boozer to opt out of the final year of his deal with Utah. Then he looked around at what was left in a shallow free agent market, and wound up blowing all his cap room on Charlie Villaneuva and former Bulls' star Ben Gordon. Granted, both players are nice additions, but hardly worth the 18 to 20 million Dumars committed to the tandem over the next 5 seasons. Now Detroit is capped out, and has too much duplication at their perimeter spots. Dumars would love to trade Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince for a low post threat like Boozer, but so far, he hasn't found any takers. So, Detroit is loaded with small guards like Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Chucky Atkins and Will Bynum and small forward-types like Hamilton, Prince, Villaneuva and top draft pick Austin Daye. Their centers? How about former Bulls' free agent bust Ben Wallace and one of the worst number one overall picks in the history of the NBA Draft, Kwame Brown! When you add this roster mess to the infamous decision to draft Darko MIlicic instead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh with the 2nd overall pick back in 2003, maybe Dumars isn't as smart as most NBA people think.

The Pistons have lost 12 games in a row, and there aren't any easy solutions out there. First year coach John Kuester has been dealt a bad hand because of long-term injuries suffered by Hamilton, Prince and Gordon, but even with a healthy roster over the last half dozen games, the Pistons have been brutal. At some point, Dumars has to help his coach out by trading Hamilton andor Prince to get some much-needed frontcourt help. But both players are overpaid, and Hamilton is definitely on the downside of his career. It will be interesting to watch the Detroit situation over the next few months to see who takes the fall for Dumars' ill-conceived summer spending spree.

BULLS STILL TREADING WATER

Meanwhile, back here in Chicago, the Bulls are still underachieving. They followed up an encouraging 4 game winning streak by going 1-and-3 last week against the likes of Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Minnesota. You can rest assured John Paxson and Gar Forman are working the phones, looking for a trade that will add some much needed scoring punch. If the Bulls struggle for the rest of the month, the focus may change to trading veterans like Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons for salary cap relief. At some point, the Bulls front office will have to decide how badly they want to make the playoffs this season. If that's the goal, they might consider bringing in established players with remaining years on their contracts like Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand and David West, and say goodbye to the possibility of entering the free agent market. But if they decide to wait until the free agent chase begins on July 1st, we might be saying goodbye to Captain Kirk andor Salmons before the trade deadline hits on February 18th.

The Bulls' problems are essentially the same ones we've observed all season. Without an inside scoring threat or a reliable 3 point shooter, they're prone to long stretches of offensive futility. And, since the promising 6-4 start, their commitment at the defensive end seems to come and go. Derrick Rose has picked up his offensive production over the last 6 weeks, but Luol Deng is struggling right now with a fractured left thumb, and the Bulls are still searching for a reliable 2nd scoring option. They've been able to defend their homecourt pretty well with a 12-7 record, but their weaknesses become too much to overcome on the road, where they are 3-13.

With home games coming up against Detroit and Washington this week, along with a quick trip to Boston, it's important for the Bulls to go 2-1. Otherwise, that 7 game western swing that begins on January 18th starts to look even more difficult than it does right now. We haven't heard much about Vinny Del Negro's status over the last couple weeks, but a bad road trip could make Vinny and the Bulls one of the NBA's hot topics during All-Star weekend in Dallas in mid-February.

Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome. It's supposed to get warmer here in Chicago this week, and as we all know, the Bulls are long overdue for a sustained hot streak!

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.