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Bulls Fri Jul 09 2010LeBron James made his decision official last night when he invaded television screens from coast-to-coast on the special edition ESPN program aptly titled "The Decision". With his proverbial chess piece moved over to the Miami Heat side of the board, most of the biggest NBA free agents have been accounted for.
Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James fall to the Heat. Joe Johnson re-signs with the Atlanta Hawks. Amare Stoudemire signs with the New York Knicks.
No matter which way it is analyzed, these players formed the nucleus of what has been understood for years to be the greatest free agent class in recent NBA history. Landing one of these marquee names, specifically any of the three that are now in Miami, was the goal heading in.
The Chicago Bulls are now left with Carlos Boozer.
In the hours that have past since it became apparent that the Bulls would be hanging their hats on the Duke graduate, many have been trying to spin the benefits of his addition to the team. Of course having Carlos Boozer is better than not having Carlos Boozer. He is a quality player who is a proven scorer and rebounder. This part is not debatable. However, the conditions surrounding his signing make it a complete failure.
We all watched from afar as this offseason took shape in Chicago. We began a few months ago with little intention of being major players in this all-encompassing game. As the Cavaliers faded quickly against the Boston Celtics on the back of a less than enthusiastic performance from King James, the doors began to open all over the NBA. In Chicago, the door was kicked in with mass media attention. Covering the "James Chase" would become THE story in all of Chicago. Only a small disturbance in the form of a Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory could knock the Chase off the front pages.
Once the hockey season ended, James alone could be the focus for Chicago fans. Baseball was no longer an option, at least for North Siders, and football was still off in the distance. James fever caught on completely.
Sports radio seemed to cover it with a veracity that few subjects could generate. Fans interest bubbled to a boiling point as the different situations were hypothetically played out in front of them. Bulls fans, who only a few weeks prior were content to see the improvement from their core of young stars, were know enamored with the idea of adding a LeBron James or a Dwyane Wade or a Chris Bosh.
Clearly, the Bulls were the favorites for the next ten years in the NBA.
Nothing the front office did would temper this enthusiasm. In a series of moves and statements it became clear that those making the actual basketball decisions were on the same page as the rabid fan base it inspired. Cap space was cleared in a way that would allow for not one, but two near-max contract players to be added to the roster. The vision of a super team was now appearing. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng. This could be our team? This or any one of a thousand scenarios were imagined.
By the end of the NBA Draft, the possibilities were endless, but all roads led to a Bulls team with talent beyond that of any other franchise. Time to break out those "Three-Peat" shirts and hats, maybe even pull out a "Repeat the Three-Peat" jacket. There was no cap on what could be accomplished.
James, and the rest of the big name free agents, had started a series of team interviews to determine their options. The Bulls made it clear that they were major players in these discussions. They told the fans that they had the strongest presentation possible. Reports told of an all-business approach that would make it clear to any of the burgeoning superstars that Chicago provided the best possible chance at championships. From the sidelines, it all appeared to be falling into line. Not only was our own local media hyping Chicago as the next dynasty, but national figures were strongly behind the Bulls as the stand alone best option for any of the available players.
Be it simple media over-confidence or even misleading reports, the Bulls began to slide out of the relevant conversations. The writing was on the wall. No longer was the short list of destination cities including the Windy City. From the top of the mountain came a fall to an unknown bottom in a matter of days. Suddenly the talks switched from how many future Hall-of-Famers could the Bulls land to if the Bulls were going to be completely shut out.
Then the actual dominoes began to fall. Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire, Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce. All big names that signed or re-signed with teams that were not the Bulls. It was looking more and more like Chicago went all in with two pair only to be bested by four other hands around the table.
In what now looks like a panicked "we have to make something happen" move, the Bulls finally signed a free agent. Only it wasn't an exciting one; it was one that had been rumored to be going to the Bulls on what seems like seven different occasions. Carlos Boozer joined the Bulls. Sound the trumpets, the savior has arrived.
There is no reason to disparage Boozer, as before stated he is a very, very strong addition to a young core of players. But when one looks at the way the Bulls positioned themselves with the roster moves and PR outreach, this offseason can only be classified as a failure.
Chicago waned LeBron James and did not get LeBron James. Chicago wanted Dwyane Wade and did not get Dwyane Wade. Chicago wanted Chris Bosh and did not get Chris Bosh. This is a complete and utter failure.
A person cannot throw a net out in hopes of catching a shark and then celebrate over the hooking of couple of grouper. Let us all be reasonable with our conclusions on the offseason thus far. The Bulls failed.
Basketball minds might eventually look at what the Bulls did these past few months and notice that they set the table for a successful team for years to come. This is not the issue. Fans in Chicago were excited about basketball at a level that has not been seen since the end of the Jordan era. They were honestly expecting to become a relevant title contender for this next season. Now these same people must come down to Carlos Boozer and the rest of the reshuffled roster.
The Bulls might surprise us next season, they may even outplay the three-headed beast of a team in Miami. Whatever they do manage to do, they will not be able to live up to the same level of excitement that was generated by the expected major signings. Thus, they have failed.