Bulls might face summer of 2010 again with LeBron James’ opt-out

CHICAGO – Oh, goody, the Chicago Bulls will get to miss out on LeBron James again.

If the news about James opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat did nothing else Tuesday, it shoved Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love aside however temporarily as offseason objects of desire for Bulls fans and, more so, Chicago sports-talk radio.

Unfortunately, if you allow for some fill-in-the-blank action or lawyerly redaction, this is 2010 all over again.

You remember 2010, right? That’s the offseason in which the Bulls went shopping in FreeAgentpalooza for a franchise sidekick to Derrick Rose and only came home with a Carlos Boozer “Holdat!” T-shirt. Chicago’s front-office traveling party called on James in his downtown Cleveland office suite like all those other suitors, to no avail. They courted native son Dwyane Wade, coveted Joe Johnson, might have been happy with Chris Bosh – and wound up with Boozer, who for four years has been exactly the player he was before, except at a heftier price tag because of 2010’s supply-and-demand tilt.

So here the Bulls are again, interested in and allegedly interesting to all the big names, potentially being fitted for their fourth or fifth choice. Like that zany Dunkin’ Donuts race they run on the videoboard at United Center each game, Biggie Bagel (James), Dashing Donut (Anthony) and Cuppy Coffee (Love) all might hold the lead briefly in their run to Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau and the madhouse on Madison Street. But the winner, just as it was four years ago in relative terms, might again be:

Donut Hole.

Or Arron Afflalo, Nikola Mirotic and some bench depth.

Let’s take these one at a time:

LeBron James (50-1 shot)

VIDEO: LeBron James was too much for the Bulls to overcome in the 2013 playoffs

James decided to exercise the early-termination option in his Heat contract, a rerun of what he did with the Cavaliers in 2010. But that’s the only thing that will be a repeat. He and “his team” surely learned a few lessons that summer. It was unbecoming to run the top brass of a half-dozen NBA teams through Cleveland in a couple days’ time to make their pitches to His Majesty, and it was crippling to James’ public persona for two or three years at least to stage “The Decision” as prime-time self-indulgence.

Besides, James isn’t going anywhere. Miami, its legacy and its commitment to winning has nothing in common with Cleveland. James needed to go seek out his rings, and sufficient help to claim them, the last time he was free. Now he has two, with four straight trips to The Finals. Wade has receded, Bosh has deferred and South Beach is fairly bereft of talents beyond James’. He can be in Kobe mode now, holding team president Pat Riley and team owner Micky Arison‘s feet to the fire to “retool” around him. Finding younger teammates to sacrifice salary for a chance to win is trickier than luring veterans, but it’s no impossible with James as your ultimate teammate.

What, he’s supposed to uproot again, go back to a chilly Midwestern city and gamble on Rose staying healthy now, when he wasn’t interested enough in 2010?

Kevin Love (15-1)

VIDEO: The Starters discuss what team might be best for Kevin Love

This guy’s the best fit, for the bundle of skills he’d bring to Chicago, both boosting the Bulls’ attack and replacing some of the basics they surely would have to give up (Taj Gibson). He and Rose in pick-and-roll machinations could be dreamy and deadly, and the two of them are pals from way back (AAU ball, 2008 draft, offseason L.A. workouts). Playoffs-less to this point, Love has much to prove, as far as his value to a team. Plus, if Thibodeau could get serviceable team defense out of Boozer for four seasons, he ought to be able to plumb Love’s potential.

Trouble is, this isn’t up to Love, who won’t be free to make a decision until next summer. It’s up to Flip Saunders, who has to strike the best deal for Minnesota regardless of Love, where he’s headed, how long he stays there or how well it plays out. Maybe Chicago’s rumored package — Gibson, Tony Snell and two first-round picks Thursday (Nos. 16 and 19) — is enough. More likely, it isn’t, not with Golden State no more than a blink away from tossing in Klay Thompson with Harrison Barnes and David Lee.

There also is the chance that the Timberwolves won’t get anything done before camps open anyway — Love can’t risk going into too big of a funk to where it hurts his production, not with free agency looming next summer.

Carmelo Anthony (7-1)

VIDEO: Knicks.com looks back at Carmelo Anthony’s 2013-14 season

Just so we’re clear on this tout sheet, we’re saying it’s seven times more likely Anthony doesn’t end up with the Bulls than that he does. Just because the odds are less bad than the two above daydreams doesn’t make it likely to happen.

Anthony probably will stay in New York. Why? The money. The stage. And the money. Often, when folks wring their hands about the money a free agent would be leaving on the table by switching teams, it’s a strawman – most of those guys end up employed in the league, at a nice price, in what would have been that exclusive fifth year only their current clubs can offer. But in Anthony’s case, we’re talking $29 million at age 34 – an amount, at that age, he’s highly unlikely to see as Year 1 of a new deal. There’s no shame in staying for that back-end bump of Monopoly money to play with over the final 50 or 60 years of his life.

Casting his lot with another team would assure him of nothing more than he’s already achieved: Playoff appearances, not necessarily rings. Big deal. Unless he’s willing to sign with San Antonio, fitting into the Spurs’ pay structure, there is no sure thing. And we’ve noted this before: Anthony now has the perfect cover in Phil Jackson, a new dawn in Knicks Nation, with a guy who built winners around stars the likes of which Anthony fancies himself (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant). Melo can say he’s staying for the winning, while getting the money and New York attention that matters to him, too.

Sign with the Bulls, hope for the best that Rose returns to All-NBA form, gut out Thibodeau demands not just 82 times a year but in all those practices as well – and risk becoming the next Boozer when UC fans don’t get what they crave and gripe about how well guys thrown overboard (like Gibson) do elsewhere – all at a sacrifice of $30 million or more?

That’s a donut-hole daydream.


  1. imissthethunder says:

    I agree, this is a very odd article. So, the Bulls aren’t going to get any better? Not getting Carmello? I say they have bigger fish to fry. Nobody has a clue what condition Derrick Rose is really in. We are getting ready to find out. They need to lose Boozer before they do…

  2. bullysix says:

    What are the chances that the Bulls can pull off the fantasy ball deal and get both Melo and Love?

  3. zach says:

    Well Vegas strongly disagrees with this article as they have the bulls as the odds in favorite to land carmelo at -250 betting odds. If you actually beleive this non sense your spewing you should put your money where your mouth is and bet carmelo to thr knicks at +500. Carmelo has said nothing except winning is the number 1 priority and hes not winning anything in NY and he knows it.

  4. Khalil says:

    I hope Lebron james goes to bulls

  5. bulls fan says:

    Hell no! there’s no way we will welcome james crybaby and flopping antics to the bulls. also, we have many loyal fans and would not need to add bandwagon fans in our place. even the players wouldnt want him given how much animosity they have for that flopping queen.

    • bullysix says:

      Not only were the Bulls hood winked by the Miami 3 but all the teams who brought them in. Those 3 had decided years before to make that move. So are the Bulls interested yes but going all out for Bron I don’t think so. The Bulls are going all out for Melo if Bron wants to talk with the Bulls I think he has to issue that to the Bulls through those three that guard him like he is the president.

    • bullysix says:

      I dont think you have to worry about Bron to Chicago the shadow is to big and to much to live up to

  6. Dupax says:

    Trade harden and parson for lebron and allen!!

  7. Hasan says:

    Bron and melo should goto the same team. It can be anywhere they would be in stoppable together

  8. Bob Ellison says:

    With all due respect, time for a little semantics scrum:
    You wrote: “Phil Jackson . . . a guy who ‘BUILT’ winners around stars . . . (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant).”
    Nope. NOT ‘BUILT”!
    G. M. Jerry West brought teenager Bryant to the Lakers.
    And MJ was already a Bull when, if memory serves {to borrow a Red Smith clause}, Doug Collins was canned, Jackson replacing him.
    No one can question the Zen-Hipster’s 11 chunks of bling, but G.M.ing demands a separate set of skills than coaching.
    Gonna be fun to see how the madness in Manhattan pans out.

  9. Swayy says:

    Despite what many think I believe this time around the Bulls have a legitimate shot at Anthony. The main thing it comes down to is if Anthony is serious about wanting a title shot then currently right now the Bulls are the best shot of that happening if its a money grab then he resigns with the Knicks. Athony has made plenty on money in his Career so I think he has possibly made up his mind for the most part and will sign with Chicago. With Chicago Anthony can continue to be himself a scoring machine and just be serviceable and play team defense but mostly will just need to score and if D-Rose comes back to being 80% what he was b4 knee injuries along with Noah,Gibson, Butler and playing in the East Conference the bulls would be instant consideration coming out the East….

  10. SuperSonic says:

    I think Love is the best bet for the Bulls. Melo would be money in the bin and lead to a deficient second unit. He scores a lot because he puts up a lot of shots. LBJ will likely stay in Miami with a revised and improved roster.

  11. JM says:

    Melo? Why do we give a lot of hype to this guy? He’s a ball-hog who won’t play any defense. He scores but on an rate that makes teammates worse.

  12. edrik says:

    if carmelo goes to the bulls…. defense of the bulls will complement melo’s offense…. like definitely boost, triggers, jumpstarts bulls attack on their offense.. and surely thibs will slowly work on melo’s defense…

  13. talldave2 says:

    Shrug. If they want to win, this is the place to come. Rose wasn’t MVP in 2009, and Noah wasn’t DPOY.

  14. whyohwhy says:

    Yeah Jack, I also think Spolstra is a so so coach. Although Michael Beasley was very productive in his limited minutes all season, Spolstra never took the time to integrate him into the lineup. Beasley looked very impressive in the minutes I saw him play, but Spolstra must not have seen the same thing. Given their current skill sets, I would have given Beasley all of Rashard Lewis’s minutes and worked to find some additional minutes for him on top of that. I also would have instructed Bosh to take fewer threes.

  15. RT says:

    Thanks, Aschburner. The past three devastating NBA seasons were not sobering enough. Now that summer has come to Chicago, teasing us into optimism (gasp!), we really need your bucket of cold water to keep us properly miserable.

    • Z for 3 says:

      Seems like every article he writes is trashing the Bulls’ front office, coaching sstaff, and/or players

  16. BullsAllDeWay says:

    Really sounds like you do not like the Bulls.

    I believe Bulls should go in this order:

    1) Love – His combined talents makes him #1 to acquire even if they don’t get Anthony.
    2) Anthony – He should come BECAUSE of Love. Acquiring Love would make the Bulls the MOST ATTRACTIVE option if Melo wants a title. Heat would not be able to give him the ball as much as he would want. Too many LEADERS on that team already.

    A starting lineup with Rose, Anthony, Noah and Love can stand up against any 4 on any team….That is a finals quality team….Will it be a Championship team? Could be. I think they make finals year 1 and Championship year 2. That gives them 1 year to iron out the kinks of working together and some of them learning Thibs system.

  17. manuel Mercado says:


    • Don says:

      There is no better coach in the league than Eric Spoelstra and he has the beat mentor in Pat Riley that any coach could wish for.

  18. Jack says:

    This is an odd article. Lots of teams missed out on those free agents in 2010. The Knicks ended up with Amare and his uninsured knees. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh clearly colluded to join up together. Hard to call the miss a failing on the Bulls when it seems they never had a chance to begin with.

    No one in Chicago seriously expects James to come to the Bulls. Melo is definitely seen as a legit possibilty, maybe even inevitable (which is dangerous thinking on the part of the fanbase). Love, who knows. Bulls have been absent from those rumors for a while now.

    Interesting that you mock the plan that involves team-building and depth over the free-agent savior. Guess you missed the Finals this year?