NBA Saturday: Big Changes for Bulls?
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Chicago’s Long-Term Plan
Here’s the cold hard truth: the Chicago Bulls team that is currently slugging it out with the Miami HEAT in the Eastern Conference Semifinals is not the same Chicago Bulls team that is going to take the court next season, and they’re even more different from the team that will hit the court in 2014-2015.
That seems like seriously forward thinking, but with some fans clamoring for Nate Robinson’s return, it’s absolutely something the Bulls themselves already are considering. It not only is going to affect the fate of Nate, but also will dictate the kind of money Chicago spends this offseason and what kinds of trades they’ll consider over the course of the next year.
For starters, it’s important to note that Chicago paid the luxury tax this season for the first time in franchise history, and if given the option it’s not something the organization would do every single year, particularly not with the increasingly punitive effects of the new luxury tax.
So what does that mean for Nate Robinson? Robinson made $854,389 this season, which obviously was one of the best contracts in the NBA, but it was a one-year deal and certainly quite a bit less than he’s expected to get as a free agent this summer. Even if he gets only $2-3 million a year on a 2-3 year deal, Chicago will have Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, and Marquis Teague under contract for $22.765 million. Why would they tack on any extra money for a player that does the kinds of things Rose is expected to do already?
Remember, Robinson was a late free agency addition, and probably wouldn’t have been added at all had Rose been healthy. That doesn’t bode well for Robinson’s return. Not with Teague as a cheap, burgeoning third-stringer that will make just a shade over $1 million next season.
Plus, there’s long-term cap space to consider. The Bulls, like many other teams in the NBA, are gearing up for the huge free agency class of 2014, which currently includes guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and many, many more. After next season, Luol Deng’s expiring $14.275 million contract comes off the books, and Chicago will probably (finally) consider using the amnesty provision on the last year of Carlos Boozer’s deal, worth $16.8 million.
That would put the Bulls under $40 million in commitments for ’14-’15 with Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and Teague all under contract. That leaves the door open for the addition of one of the aforementioned free agents.
Nikola Mirotic, drafted in 2011, would likely make his NBA debut with the Bulls for 2014-2015, as well, which gives Chicago an interesting opportunity to reshape the roster dramatically just a year from now.
Knowing that, it seems likely that they’ll want to keep their financial options open. Signing Robinson to any sort of multi-year deal, which he’ll be likely to get, takes away some of that flexibility. Same with Marco Belinelli and anybody else not on an extremely inexpensive, short-term deal.
That all means that Chicago’s approach to free agency and the trade market over the course of the next fourteen months is likely to be the same as it has been for this past season. No big moves that hamper flexibility in 2014—just veteran minimum signings. They’ll hope that a core of Rose, Noah, Boozer, Deng, Butler, and Taj Gibson will be enough to make a go of things next year, and that bargain-hunting for veteran role players will be as fruitful as it has been in the past.
Maybe that’s the wrong way to go about it, but there’s a practicality to the approach. Chicago will have more than enough to make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals next season, and they’ll do it without sacrificing their ability to chase the big fish in 2014.
It might mean losing Robinson now, and Boozer and Deng in a year, but if that’s what it takes for an opportunity to land someone who could be even better for the franchise long-term, then it seems that is what the team is prepared to do.
Hawks Interested in Both Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard?
It doesn’t look like Larry Drew will be returning to the Atlanta Hawks next season, as evidenced by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowksi reporting that GM Danny Ferry has made Stan Van Gundy his primary target to replace Drew as the team’s head coach.
Of course the Atlanta Hawks are interested in Stan Van Gundy. Most of the teams with coaching vacancies will have interest in a man that is clearly one of the best candidates in the coaching pool this offseason, but Atlanta has been especially committed to Van Gundy right out of the gate. The two sides have reportedly had some phone conversations, but no in-person meeting has yet taken place.
But there is a potential problem here: despite the fact that hiring Van Gundy would be great from a coaching standpoint, there’s a possibility that it could hamper them landing their most desired free agent this summer: hometown stud Dwight Howard.
At the end of the 2011-2012 season, the Orlando Magic determined that one or the other could not exist in Central Florida, that the relationship between coach and player was anything but symbiotic. So why would either sign up for a reunion of that unbelievable headache?
According to Wojnarowski, Howard might welcome a reunion with his former Magic coach. Apparently his time away from Van Gundy has given him perspective on how good a skipper he really is. If that’s really the case, there’s a possibility that hiring Van Gundy could actually help them land Howard, not hinder them.
But all of this is contingent on Van Gundy deciding he wants to return to coaching this season. Howard may decide he’s cool with Stan, but Stan might not feel so warm about Dwight. Plus, there are likely to be other teams that come calling on Van Gundy’s services, and there may be a better fit for him than Atlanta.
For now, the Hawks’ interest is very real and very serious, and the future of Howard in Atlanta apparently wouldn’t necessarily be derailed by a potential Van Gundy hire. That’s enough to give Hawks fans some hope and Van Gundy Dwightmare flashbacks that cause him to wake up in a cold sweat. He’ll have his fair share of offers this summer, but the Hawks may be the most interesting of them.
Now It’s Seattle’s Turn for a Last-Ditch Effort
Well, the Seattle/Sacramento saga continues, as both cities fight over the Kings in a story that continues to show more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera.
Just two weeks ago, a committee of owners showed support for the city of Sacramento by recommending them as the permanent home of the Kings. This came after an upped bid from a Sacramento ownership group that included the forfeiture of some revenue sharing that would net the rest of the owners group approximately $15-20 million.
Now, according to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, Chris Hansen’s Seattle group has upped their bid from $550 million to a staggering $625 million. That’s something owners will clearly enjoy because it sets the floor for their own franchises in any future sale. It doesn’t put tangible money in their pockets, but it definitely makes them quite a bit richer. Hansen is doing everything he can to change these guys’ minds.
It wasn’t that long ago that these owners were rubbing their hands together over the thought of a sale valued at $525 million because, as Windhorst points out, the Grizzlies sold for $377 million in October of 2012. That should put the magnitude of this new figure into perspective.
“While we appreciate that this is a very difficult decision for the league and owners, we hope it is understood that we really believe the time is now to bring the NBA back to Seattle,” Hansen said in a statement. “It is paramount that we do everything we can to put Seattle’s best foot forward in this process.”
The owners are supposed to finally, officially vote on Hansen’s bid to relocate the Kings to Seattle next week in Dallas, and this last-minute upping of the ante makes the decision harder for these owners than ever before. It would very, very difficult for them to leave that much extra bread on the table. In short (if it’s not too late for that), this is a game-changer.
Both these cities want an NBA team, but only one is going to get one. Every time we think this thing is over, the story comes back to life. In about a week, we’ll get our final answer, but it’s hard to imagine the city that loses out on the franchise losing graciously. This is going to be ugly either way.