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As the NBA finals came to an end Sunday night, one question in particular demanded an answer: How does it all impact the Bulls?!
The short answer is: Not much. NBA teams operate in realm of the possible, and it will be simply impossible for the Bulls to build a roster similar to the one that enabled the Spurs to so thoroughly dominate the Miami Heat in a way we can only dream about.
And let me just say, how much fun was that to watch? Sure, we definitely don't like the Heat in general and LeBron James in particular around here, so it certainly didn't kill us to watch them go down in flames. To be sure, I'm no fan of the Spurs either, but you had to tip your cap to that team and the wonderful way it played basketball in this series.
You also have to tip your cap to the unselfish veterans who made this possible. Everyone knows that Tony Parker and Tim Duncan in particular could have made more money if they had hit the free agent market at some point in the last decade. Duncan's deal in particular is illuminating. The man who now is quite simply one of the five best big men (a category containing all centers and power forwards) in NBA history, was paid $10 million this season. That meant he made just $361,000 more than Tiago Splitter.
Hopefully Bulls leaders Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose took note of the Spurs stars' willingness to sacrifice grabbing every last dime during contract negotiations. I'm confident Noah would do the same if he trusted management (and I think he mostly does at this point) and believed that his team wasn't far from true championship contention. Rose is another story for another day.
But in terms of emulation, the Bulls will still have to follow the Miami model. You know, the one that has resulted in four straight trips to the Finals and a pair of championships?
The first way the team could emulate the Heat would be if it could sign LeBron James as a free agent. And while a part of me says I would rather have my team try to be the next team that can beat the Heat, or whoever James signs with if he signs with someone else this offseason, a fan has to keep a reasonably clear head. If he does, he knows that if there is any chance in the universe LeBron would sign with Chicago then the team would need to give him a decent chance to do so. But unless we hear that is a possibility in the next week (and it almost certainly isn't), the team has to move on pretty quickly.
And where do you move on to? You add a third star. And by third star, I mean third star. Why would Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love come to the Bulls if Noah wasn't going to be here? It will not happen.
My preference is definitely Anthony, and the latest reports seem to indicate that Anthony is leaning toward leaving the Knicks and that the Bulls are seriously in contention for his services.
Certainly Anthony, 30, is five years older than Love, but Love is if anything an even worse defender than his fellow forward. Also, Love can't play anything but power forward. Anthony would have to play the 4 a decent amount of the time but he would give the Bulls more flexibility at both ends.
Anthony also has a more diversified and athletic offensive repertoire.
Really the only question about Anthony is whether he will be willing to take less money to play for someone else. And if he is telling people he is ready to leave the Knicks, he is already acknowledging he would take less because the Knicks can offer him considerably more in a max contract than anyone else because they are his current team.
So if Anthony is leaving, it makes much more sense that he will work with whichever team signs him to make his contract work with the other contracts that team has. Right now, the Bulls offer him the best chance to do so. The Rockets are the team most often listed as the other leading suitor for the forward, but they have to make difficult moves to get into position to really be in the running. Reports this past week said Miami will try to get in on Anthony but A) anyway you slice it, playing with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would force a pay cut of a historic proportions and B) Anthony simply doesn't work with that group.
And the Heat are going to try to find a fourth wheel for the guys who have brought them two championships, doesn't it make more sense for them to go after a point guard or a center?
If Anthony is willing to leave the Knicks, there is a great chance his best option will be the Bulls. Can Gar Forman and John Paxson avoid screwing it up?
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.