On the eve of Ben Gordon's free agency

via 1.bp.blogspot.com

(Actually, it's minutes away as I type this.)

We've seen several reports trickle out over the past few weeks about the Pistons interest in Ben Gordon. The latest being Chris Broussard throwing out the $10-11m offer from Detroit, though maintaining that the Bulls and Gordon's mutual interest will keep Ben a Bull.

It'll be very interesting to see how fast things play out from both Detroit's and the Bulls' perspective. Things have changed for the Pistons in the past 24 hours: Michael Curry has been fired (and that was rumored to be in part to placate incumbent SG Rip Hamilton), and Carlos Boozer will not opt out of his contract with the Jazz (they could still trade for him, however). Will they be agressive and target Gordon immediately? Does Curry's firing mean a dedication to Hamilton, a well-paid player at the same position as Gordon? Will they wait and see what the Bulls do first?

And what exactly will the Bulls do? We've all read that they want Ben back, but it's a contract offer that truly talks. They haven't made any cost-saving trades to free up money to sign him under the tax. They apparently have not even talked to him since the end of the season. 

When free agency begins, the Bulls can choose to pursue Gordon, or stick with the 'wait and see on the market' approach that lasted all through last summer. Except this time, Gordon does not have to wait. Which is especially bad from the Bulls standpoint, as they love 'process' (which seems to consist of a lot of waiting). I can certainly see a scenario where Detroit's offer is made (or OKC?), and Gordon immediately takes it.

Broussard maintains in his report that the Bulls need to come 'anywhere close' to an opposing team's offer for Ben to stay, as he ultimately wants to return to Chicago. Maybe he would give the Bulls the tiebreaker (I have to believe the money has to be fairly close, however) in order to stay with the only team he's known. The previous two summers of negotiations have been acrimonious, but both the Bulls and Gordon were fairly professional when the games began: the Bulls started Gordon more than at any time in his career, and he responed with a very good season.

But it's only a 'tie' to break if the Bulls actually make an offer. If Gar Paxdorf can't get its story straight, I don't see the incentive for Gordon to wait on them. Last time he waited the Bulls pulled their offer.

So I won't believe for a second that the Bulls 'really wanted' Ben Gordon back (and if I'm not being clear: they should want him back) if they tell us Gordon never gave them the chance to match. The Bulls lost that right by failing to sign him up to this point. It's possible that previous offers Ben rejected will never come again, and he'll lose the negotiation. If there is no Detroit offer, and with no options Ben comes back for a more modest contract, the Bulls make out very well. But if Gordon gets that offer from Detroit, even if it's less than what he once turned down: Gordon loses, and the Bulls lose. And since we're Bulls fans, we lose too.

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