Gar Forman: Making "basketball decisions" since 2009 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
August is usually a pretty brutal month for NBA news. It's around this time that we get plenty of arbitrary lists like ESPN's #NBArank, which can provide some silly entertainment, but ultimately means absolutely nothing. I will say though that it can be rather hilarious watching people get upset about which bums are ranked higher than other bums.
Something I've done to combat the dearth of NBA news and to keep myself entertained is keep a close eye on the steady stream of articles coming from the content farm that is Bleacher Report. I can usually count on multiple Bulls-related posts to be pumped out per day, with some (if not most) of them being mind-numbingly off base. I don't mean to completely bash B/R, because that site does employ a good number of high quality writers, but a lot of the stuff is just brutal.
And I enjoy the hell out of it. As 670 The Score's Dan Bernstein likes to say, it's "fun bad." Just today, I stumbled across pieces that called Nate Robinson the "perfect" 6th man, blamed Derrick Rose for some of Carlos Boozer's problems(second time I've seen that written on that site in a matter of days) and said Josh Smith was the "perfect player to help the Bulls' championship hopes remain alive." There are plenty of gems in these links, so if you want to have a laugh, I suggest you take a gander.
Most recently, I found a link on Twitter to what I figured was just another goofy, kool-aid drinking Bulls B/R article. I mean, the title of the piece is "Stay Strong, Chicago Bulls Fans: The Front Office Has Your Back," so I went into it with pretty low expectations. And by that I mean I was fully prepared to laugh my butt off.
Well, there was plenty of that, as I read through the typical "Bulls aren't cheap, they're smart" argument and that Gar Forman cleverly retooled/upgraded the bench while maintaining flexibility (which is a complete falsehood because they can't even add a minimum free agent right now). But what sets this piece apart from the usual B/R drivel is that apparently the author (Brett Ballantini, a former CSNChicago.com employee who has done some nice work in the past) has direct access to Forman, which is somewhat interesting, as it could certainly explain the very pro-organization slant.
The evidence for this "insider access" comes during the discussion of Taj Gibson's impending contract situation:
Taj Gibson is the big question mark on the horizon--it was never Asik. And if the Bulls were to break cheap on Gibson, the admitted fourth piece of the young Bulls corp, criticism is warranted.
But the Bulls have made no indication that Gibson will walk; quite the contrary in fact. Forman told me directly that the key goal for him this fall is to lock up Gibson, and failing that, to secure him long-term after 2012-13, when the young hop-frog is still merely a restricted free agent.
In short, Gibson isn't going anywhere. The savings garnered in paring bench salary - particularly in not matching the overblown, $25 million deal the Houston Rockets extended Asik and then surely regretted - was a crucial step toward comfortably accommodating the fourth foundation piece in Gibson.
Gibson himself will likely grab at a deal in the four-year, $36 million range, which is well within the short-and long-term budget of the team. Worst case, Gibson breaks against his nature and holds out for a heftier package. In that case, Forman will still have flexibility aplenty, either by making Boozer an amnesty case (and eating $32.1 million when the power forward has come off a strong, full season isn't wise fiscally or competitively) or using the looming savings when the similarly overpaid Deng's deal expires to dip into luxury tax penalties for just one season.
The fact that Forman is making Gibson a priority isn't really news, but it's somewhat foolish to assume that Taj will remain a Bull just because Gar said so. Forman said similar things about Asik before being blindsided by the Rockets' offer and letting the big Turk walk for nothing. Those comments also make the line that Asik was never a big question mark completely irrelevant. Otherwise, Forman was lying to us.
Something else that's rather humorous here is the notion that Gibson would be going "against his nature" by wanting more than a four-year, $36 million deal. While I would certainly consider that a fair number for Gibson's services, it would not shock me if he wanted a bit more. Considering that Taj is already 27 years old, this may be his only chance to really cash in. So it wouldn't be all that surprising if he asked for more, because he could probably get more as a RFA. And I'm not sure how wanting as much money as possible is going against one's nature. Also, what evidence is there that the Bulls would be willing to break the bank for Gibson AND pay Boozer to go away as Mr. Ballantini suggests? He's obviously more privy to Forman's thinking than I, but that's a scenario I'll have to see to believe.
The Bulls' front office may actually have a decent plan to improve their title hopes over the next few years, but I can't lie and say that I'm encouraged by what's been done recently. Opportunities have been missed and flexibility has been lost, which is why it makes me chuckle whenever I see these articles that refuse to criticize anything the organization has done this summer. I guess having access to Forman changes things, but it shouldn't make the organization immune to criticism. The sky isn't falling (yet), but not everything is rosy either.