Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Memo to John Paxson

Dear Mr. Paxson,

You blew it! Everything your franchise has been working toward since the retirement of the man who legitimized you as anything more than a mildly effective spot-up shooter, you've doused with lighter fluid and torched.

I understand that it’s fun to be “loaded with young talent” and an “up and coming” team every year, but you were given the opportunity to trade for the NBA’s best player at price you could afford, and you… passed? For what? Luol Deng? You mean the same Luol Deng that passed on you by turning down a 5-year, $50 million contract extension? While Deng is clearly an excellent young player, even of he sticks around, he will never come close to having the impact of Kobe Bryant, both on the floor and in the cash register.

Since the end of the Michael Jordan era in 1998, the Chicago Bulls have focused on accumulating young talent and freeing up loads of cap space, all with an eye toward making a bold move to attract superstar talent returning to title contention in the NBA.

Heading into the season, your rumored trade for the NBA’s best player, Kobe Bryant, seemed inevitable. For a package consisting of some combination of Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Ben Wallace, Kirk Hinrich (but NOT Luol Deng!), plus cash and draft picks, the Bulls were on the doorstep of acquiring the best player of the post-Jordan era. However, as was the case with Pau Gasol, and Kevin Garnett before him, Kobe Bryant proved to be just a mirage- the latest in a series of attempts by the Bulls to complete their return to the NBA’s elite. After a decade of planning and scheming for a way to attract a top-flight NBA show-stopper to the Bulls, you not only failed to grab the best opportunity that will EVER present itself to you, you succeeded in turning the Chicago Bulls into a joke. Congratulations, you have officially supplanted the Knicks as the NBA’s “Team Who Cried Superstar” most often without acquiring an actual game-changing playmaker.

For all of the young talent on the Bulls, this is still a flawed team plagued by chronic issues like their slow starts to every season, as well as the lack of both an inside scoring threat and a bona fide “go-to guy”, not to mention the improvement of several teams at the top of the Eastern Conference. If these issues weren’t troublesome enough, a whole new series of obstacles are poised to slam the window shut on the championship aspirations of this Bulls’ era:

  • Both Luol Deng and Ben Gordon turned down 5-year, $50 million contract extensions before the start of the season. The ultimatum that is presents is simple- pay one (or both) of these solid #2 players superstar money ($13+ million/year), or turn back the clock to the 1999-2000 season.
  • After years of hoarding cap space, the man you finally elected to make a huge commitment to, one-time defensive stopper and rebounding specialist Ben Wallace, is a complete bust and looks to have aged about a decade in a little over a year. In addition to having lost his game, at a price tag of $44 million over the next three seasons (including 2007-08), he has NO trade value until he becomes Theo Ratliff 2.0 during the 2009-10 season, with his $14 million salary poised to come off the books.
  • Your other big-money man, Kirk Hinrich (owed $47.5 million thru 2011-12, including 200-08), is an inconsistent, foul-prone (3.33/game for his career) point guard, who’s not much of a shooter from the field (41.1 career; 37.3% in 2007-08).
  • Finally, for all the talk of highway robbery that circled around your trade of Eddy Curry to the New York Knicks, what do you really have to show for it? Well, you paid Tim Thomas to go away (he thrives elsewhere), I think Mike Sweetney and Jermaine Jackson parked my car at an Applebee’s last week, Tyrus Thomas is a very nice player (but’s he’s Shawn Marion without a Steve Nash), and Joakim Noah will go down as one of the most useless top-ten pick in recent memory. Hell, at least Curry’s good for double-figure points!

So let’s get this straight, in your time running the Bulls, you didn’t trade a guy who wouldn't re-sign with you in order to acquire the planet’s best player, you threw gobs of cash at two flawed and overrated players, and you traded Eddy Curry (an underachiever in his own right) for a package of 5 players, only two of whom are on your team today- and they’re giving you a stellar 11.6 points, 8.6 rebounds per game?

Man, you are a terrible GM! Lucky for you Isiah Thomas is still running amock in New York. Otherwise, the NBA might be focusing on what a joke you’ve turned the Bulls into!

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