The grand moves weren’t made, not the ones that had ring No. 7 dazzling in the imaginations of #Bullsnation, but there’s no mistaking that after the events of today the Chicago Bulls are a leaner, more equipped team ready to face the Eastern Conference’s best in the upcoming NBA season.
Tuesday saw the final chapter in the Carlos Boozer reign of terror in Chicago as the much-maligned forward was informed he’ll be released from the team via the Bulls’ amnesty provision…ok, a reign of terror is an overstatement but it gets closer to the true feelings of the average Bulls fan.
Boozer and his $16.8 million dollar guaranteed salary hung like impeding death over the Bulls and all of the franchise’s dealings. Since it became clear that Boozer’s output would not match the money promised him and that he had to be removed from the team somehow, this moment has been anticipated more so than any other event in Chicago sports, the bitterness of having to carry this walking, shiny sculled albatross weighing down at least a little on everyone who sympathizes with the Bulls.
It was Boozer’s less-than-inspiring play and his salary cap hold that ensured Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t become a Chicago Bull, it also made the choice to include Taj Gibson in any deal for a more established talent, Melo or Kevin Love as prime examples, more of a conflict than it should have been.
This writer hates to be another one to pile on Boozer, it never appealed to me during his run here and nor does it currently, but the disappointment of knowing that such a high-profile and expensive acquisition didn’t provide even one memorable moment or stretch of moments to establish him in Bulls lore is hard to take. Think of it, little mini-players like Nate Robinson and the now-former Bull D.J. Augustin did more to excite than the hulking Boozer, who could never take over a game when he needed too, never enforce his physicality effectively when called on.
His screams often filled the United Center — and granted he never screamed on a member of the press corps or swelled up on an unsuspecting fan even though he had to have felt the constant shade wherever he went in this town, he was never less than a pro — but the reason why Boozer’s screams were so often audible is because rarely did he ever make us scream with enthusiasm.
Peace, Booz. Good luck in the rest of your career and keep cashing ‘dem checks.
Along with Boozer’s exit also came the bootings of Lou Amundson, Ronnie Brewer and Mike James, all made Tuesday as well. Room needs to be made on the Bulls roster, which welcomes the twin stretch interior powers of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic along with possibly someone else.
In this post-Melo or bust environment, it would be hoped that such an added piece to the puzzle could be a Lance Stephenson, or at least a Stephenson-type (creative on and off the ball, able to penetrate defenses and stop opposing ball handlers, young and athletic, etc), although the only remaining guys like that are typically either unproven (Kent Bazemore, Xavier Henry) or not quite worthy of a starting spot (Jarryd Bayless) or a mix of both but still with the yearning to get paid like a starter (Jordan Crawford).
Looking at Sam Smith’s breakdown of the upcoming season’s roster as it stands now I just don’t feel too comfortable, not with Dunleavy in the starting lineup, not with Hinrich as the lead ball-handler off the bench (or really on the roster at all, and he could have taken Dunleavy with him) and not with Cameron Bairstow or Anthony Randolph having to see any tic if an unexpected injury (though at this point we kind of half-expect some injury) was to occur. Luckily, the Randolph experiment has ended before it began as well.
As I wrote recently, the Bulls weren’t into this latest free agent frenzy looking for saviors, there weren’t any to be had, not even Melo. Still, new strengths had to be formed and deficiencies had to be expunged. It’s still not certain if the Bulls have done the former, and that can be frustrating to come to terms with (just listen to the most recent D and Davis to get a sense of how frustrating), but they’ve done the latter, that’s something.
The tireless NBA breakdown expert over at Grantland, Zach Lowe, has the Bulls as a “tenative winner” in his omnibus column going over the free agency’s winners and losers so far. Expect our own detailed breakdown tomorrow with Michael Walton II. Here’s Lowe’s take on the Bulls work, read the rest of his look at NBA free agency here:
If Chicago ends up having to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer, it will have paid a heavy price to sign another aging subpar defender to a three-year, $22 million contract.
That’s a better deal than most folks around the league expected Chicago to get, and Gasol is a clear upgrade over Boozer. Both were turnstiles on defense last season, but Gasol should perk up playing for a good team under a new coach, and he’s better than Boozer on that end simply by being three inches taller — and by not being Boozer.
Gasol had a bit of a bounce-back last season while Boozer suffered through the worst year of his career. Gasol can do everything better on offense, and he’s a natural fit in a Chicago system that has incorporated more high-post passing during Derrick Rose’s absence. He’s a decent midrange shooter, but he won’t provide the Bulls with a meaningful uptick in spacing on his own.
Good news: Nikola Mirotic will, and sharing the floor with Mirotic would allow Gasol to more easily defend centers — the only position he can really defend game-to-game at this point. The Gasol-Mirotic combo might be dreadful defensively, but Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are both quick enough to guard power forwards when paired with Gasol.
Gasol isn’t the home run Chicago targeted, and the team is adamant it could have opened max-level cap space for Carmelo Anthony had he committed there. It will be years before we can evaluate the draft-day trade for Doug McDermott, a bet that got even bigger yesterday, when the Bulls sent Orlando two second-round picks to dump Anthony Randolph. (Nice move, Magic!) The Bulls could still use some help on the wing.
You can’t anoint Chicago the favorites in the East given Rose’s uncertain health. But if Rose rediscovers his peak form, the Bulls will earn that status.
Lowe likes the Bulls in general, even when there isn’t much good news to be had, so his hinging the Bulls’ contendership on a healthy Rose isn’t surprising. I’d say the team needs not only a healthy Rose but a re-rejuvenated one and a true threat along side him in the back-court, now that one won’t be available at the small forward position, not unless Dunleavy somehow felt restricted under the Boozer regime or Mirotic makes a Jose Abreu-like acclimation to pro sports in the USA.
Elsewhere… Michael Wilbon offers the good and bad of the new Bulls at ESPNChicago.com…
Russ Bengtson is high on the Bulls’ moves at Triangle Offense…
and so is Magic Johnson, he has the Bulls as the preseason No. 1 in the East.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt