First and foremost it is in the Bulls' best interest to win this year. I know that statement is painfully obvious, but that includes winning over developing talent. They need to win as much as possible and get as deep as possible in the playoffs to show off their team for potential free agents. I'm on board with any way they can achieve this while simultaneously keeping cap space for 2010. That includes being happy with Taj Gibson being in the lineup while Tyrus Thomas sits. As long as Tyrus continues to put himself before the team he is compromising the Bulls' ability to win games. And in my opinion Tyrus has clearly been looking out only for himself. The Bulls need all hands on deck.
Remember going into the summer of 2000 the Bulls had Artest, the ROTY Brand, & 2 lottery picks, yet McGrady & Hill still went to Orlando. Why? Orlando went 41-41 while the Bulls went 17-65. It didn't matter that their best player was Darrell Armstrong (Don't believe me? Click Here) . The reason they went to Orlando was that the Magic had proven that they have the ability to win. Don't you think that if the Bulls could do it over they wouldn't have dealt Kukoc? I'm talking about this separate from the fact that the 2000 draft sucked. Just purely from the standpoint of marketing the team to free agents. We would have won more games if he stayed. But I digress...
And I think we, both the fans and the organization, have learned the lesson of the summer of 2000. To free-agents it doesn't matter "what could be" with teams. It matters what is. I don't care if Taj Gibson's career ceiling is a PJ Brown-type. Even if that Brown-type is one minus the leadership elements and maybe some important intangibles. As long as Taj keeps hitting at least 40% of his 12-15 footers and worries more about staying in front of his man than getting the show-stopping block I want him to be the one playing over Tyrus. Period. The Bulls have a better chance of winning that way.
Obviously losing Tyrus to injury isn't great from a personnel standpoint. I'm not happy about that. Having him healthy, with this current roster, is better than having him hurt. At the worst he is another big body. And he does have the ability to present certain threats that no one else on the team possesses by virtue of his combination of size and athleticism. But I feel like every single other player on this team is on the same page, right down to James Johnson (who has gotten 0 meaningful minutes). They all seem to be putting winning above everything else. Maybe if Tyrus is separated from that situation, through his injury, he can gain some perspective and realize how different his current mindset is from the rest of the team. Maybe he will buy into the team first thing. But I think that's being overly optimistic. I haven't seen that version of Tyrus since his rookie year. And even then I may have just been blinded by his potential when he was a game changer off the bench with his athleticism and dazzling highlight dunks. Even then it was probably just him showing off his athleticism rather than realizing the general benefit it was providing the team.
The Bulls have a unique advantage in free agency: the draw of the opportunity to play with a budding unselfish point guard. Who, by the way, most think will be a superstar. No other team with cap-room has that. If they show the ability to win on top of that, the Bulls will have stacked the deck in their favor for 2010 free agency. Someone will come here. It may not be 'Bron, Wade, or Bosh. But whoever it is, they will be better going forward than Tyrus. Even if it's Rudy Gay or Joe Johnson.
Management made their bed by not re-signing Gordon. They essentially decided "we are not going to win a title with Ben Gordon nor will we have any cap-space to improve our team moving forward". It was a bold move, but the right one. Not that we don't all miss Ben's scoring, but by tying up all of their cap-space in Ben the Bulls would be signing up for mediocrity. If mediocrity eventually comes the Bulls' way in the form of tying up cap space with Rudy Gay, then so be it. Nothing will be lost in the difference between Gay and Gordon. Thomas' tenure with the Bulls will have been the casualty. And like it or not it is over. If the Bulls even want to attempt to lure free agents to Chicago they will have to renounce his rights to clear up the cap space. That means that even if the Bulls can't convince any of the big guns to sign with them, they still can't fall back on matching whatever offer sheet Tyrus may get. And it's not going to be abundantly clear whether or not any of them will sign before it happens. Because if the Bulls have the cap space they'll all visit ('Bron, Wade, Bosh etc.). None of them would pass up the chance to be worshipped by each city as they visit. To grab all of the sports headlines for a month across the country. To be wined and dined. Their agents won't let them. And they'll either use us to get what they really want or be legitimately interested. The only way the Bulls will get that opportunity, barring a miraculous trade, is by renouncing Tyrus.
The worst case scenario is that Tyrus signs a 3 year 25 million dollar deal with OKC and becomes another brilliant move-notch on Sam Presti's belt, while the Bulls get spurned by everyone. (And move-notch is a word in this context.) As long as the Bulls show me that their plan is to win as many games above all else, they will have done the best that they could have to increase the odds in their favor. The season will have been a success. It's like when I'm playing blackjack: If The dealer is showing a 10, I will feel better when I lose after the person to the right of me hits on 16, than I will when I win & he/she stayed. We played the odds, and in the long run if we continue to play like that there will be more good outcomes than bad ones. The intangible factor of luck will come as it may.
That being said: it better work. That's the only caveat.