I'm not going to recap the injury again. We know what happened. And i'm as devastated as anybody about losing our chance at banner number seven this season, as well as the likelihood that LeMiami wins it all. But I can't stop thinking that this seems like it ended far more than a title push in 2012. When Derrick Rose landed wrong, it may well have destroyed the Chicago Bulls as we know them.
I've been thinking about this over and over, and I'd like to know what you all think. I believe our days as a title contender could be over if the Org breaks up the Bulls, and I believe that is what they're going to do.
1) Coach Thibs' future is in question. This could go in many ways. Maybe the org ignores what happened in the playoffs, or they don't fault Thibs for what happened and he is signed to a long term deal. But maybe the Org either does blame Thibs for what happened or sees this as a way of saving money. The Org could easily pick up his option for the coming season, and negotiate an extension in bad faith, throwing the 2012 playoffs in his face and lowballing him. Thibs would reject the offer and leave. The Org sees it as a win-win: either they keep him cheap, or they don't have to pay and can spin it as "the 2012 playoffs were unacceptable".
2) Boozer could be amnestied and the bench mob could be broken up. I believe there is an extremely large chance that the vast majority of our team is not on the roster next year because of one thing: the luxury tax. The Org can now use the 2012 playoffs as an excuse to continue dodging the luxury tax. JR said he'd pay for a contender, but he wouldn't even keep Mike James on the roster unless he had to simply because it brought them CLOSER to the tax (not actually paying it). If he wouldn't even go that far for what one week ago was arguably the championship favorite, I see very little chance that he ponies up the cash to keep what next year is likely to be a fringe playoff team at best (remember, Rose and maybe Deng are missing some, if not most, of the regular season).
It seems entirely plausible, if not likely, that Gibson, Asik, Brewer, Watson, Korver, and Lucas are all off the squad next season. All are free agents. There have been reports earlier in the year (not gonna dig them up but they were posted here), that the Cavaliers plan to offer Asik a relatively gigantic contract that JR likely won't match. Gibson, Korver, Brewer, Watson, and Lucas will all likely receive raises, especially Gibson, and if the Bulls even signed ONE of them to a larger contract, they hit the tax. I really think they'll all be gone. And I think that's a shame.
I also think that it's likely Boozer is amnestied because of the tax. And I don't think this is a good thing. Even if Boozer and the bench mob are gone, the Bulls will still have Rose, Noah, Deng, Butler, and Hamilton under contract (along with possible rookies, although they also have salaries so I'd bet they draft-and-stash again). Three of those guys have big deals, and the Bulls can likely only sign just-above-mid-level type guys to fill out the roster and still stay out of the tax. Even if they let Boozer, Watson, Brewer, Scalabrine, Asik, James and Lucas walk and Gibson and Korver said they'd take a discount to stay...unless that discount was just about the minimum it puts the Bulls, with Rose's new deal, in tax territory.
So why do I disagree with all of this? Everybody seems to want Boozer, Brewer, Watson, Lucas, and others the hell off the roster. I think this is a gigantic mistake. for the following reasons:
1) Depth that works in the regular season still matters. The Miami Heat aren't going anywhere, and there is a very real chance they'll be significantly better. The Bulls, if not next year then the years after, need every advantage possible against that juggernaut, including home court. We saw how injuries can plague a team, and if not for our depth all the way down, the Bulls wouldn't have had the #1 seed in the last two seasons. Yes, it didn't end up coming into the equation anyway. But it damn well would have had Rose not gone down.
2) Everybody says the roster needs a shake up because it has been exposed. Exposed as what? A team that lost the reigning MVP. He was named most valuable for a reason. The Chicago Bulls-every player that makes up this roster, and every play designed by the coaches-are built to run through and around Derrick Rose. Right now they are running through and around nothing. I don't think the Bulls, as designed, put too much pressure on Derrick Rose. Stars have won with less. And while we didn't see it much, in the games that did feature the entire roster healthy, we saw what this team can do. When Rose plays, the players on the roster aren't ineffective like they have been this series. Derrick Rose makes them better. They all have roles, and they all fit together like a puzzle. And when Rose plays and the rest of the guys are in their roles, they do, I believe, provide enough help for Rose. Remember in those few games that we got to see Rip and Rose together, how good it looked?
You can say "you're right, they are a puzzle. And we've now seen that when one of the pieces falls out, especially the most important piece, the rest don't fit together anymore." and you'd be right. But I believe that when all the pieces ARE in place and healthy, the final result is the best team in the NBA, and one that can win multiple championships.
3) Amnestying Boozer is an awful idea. Losing Boozer does nothing but help JR's bottom line. We don't get that cap space back and it doesn't even really help us keep the bench mob together because Rose's contract kicks in next year. And the most important part: there is no better option available, and there CERTAINLY is no option available at a JR pricepoint. There just isn't. For this move to be worth it, the Bulls would need to find somebody who can at least do what Boozer does at a cheaper price but ideally a guy who does more than Boozer does...at a cheaper price. Could it be Taj? Would the Bulls be willing to pay him starter money? Is there another player at Boozer's level as a player and person/teammate out there who would be willing to choose us over the likes of New York and the warm weather cities? I don't see one. Amnestying a guy because he doesn't do enough an replacing him with somebody who does less is really, really stupid. Amnestying a guy because he isn't good enough and replacing him with a guy who is worse is even dumber.
The bottom line is that we've seen, albeit for shot periods of time, what this team can do when everybody is doing the very specific job they were brought here for and everybody is healthy. And that team looked damn good enough to beat Miami possibly in less than seven games and win a championship. I think it's a real shame that, in all very likelihood, we'll never see that team again.
Maybe you're saying "ok, so i get what you mean by how they all fit together like a puzzle and all that...but what if Rose goes down again? Or other important players do? We've learned this playoffs that we need EVERYBODY in their VERY SPECIFIC roles to win a title". If you're thinking that, I agree with you. My argument is: what's the better idea? Amnesty Boozer, get rid of the bench and rebuild? The salary cap wouldn't allow it even if JR did decide to pay the tax. We have bird rights to guys now and they can be re-signed. Or maybe you're thinking that we need another star alongside Rose? Who the hell would that be? Is Dwight Howard the answer? Even if he was, the only thing he never changed his mind on was not wanting Chicago. Beyond that who? The current Knicks and the Carter/Kidd Nets, and countless other teams have proved that if you go the multiple star route, you can't do it with two top 20's. You need two top 5's, or at least a 5 and a ten. Look at Jordan and Pippen, Shaq and Kobe, even teams that got close but didn't go all the way: Wade and James, Stockton and Malone. I don't see an available top 30 guy, let alone a top 5.
I believe that the only way the Bulls could be successful in this is with as little roster reconstruction as possible. But unfortunately, it looks like a major shake up is coming. It looks like this could-have-been-incredible ten year run of Bulls/Heat ECF is coming to a very, very abrupt end, and we could be on the fast track to basketball hell.