Training camp starts Monday, and the season about a month from that. And at this current stalemate status of the negotiation, the only thing Gordon can do is wait and hope that the Bulls budge.
I'm curious to see how the Bulls will approach the issue of Gordon potentially missing camp and preseason. Will they try and get him to sign the qualifying offer or the deal before camp starts? We all remember how 'distractions' were a convenient(and possibly true) excuse for the bad start to last season. In a recent Pax interview, he stressed the importance of everyone feeling good and on the same page heading into the season.
But looking at it from Ben Gordon's position, while the Bulls' rumored 6/$59 offer is ultimately still 59 million guaranteed dollars, the first year figure of that rumored deal is only $1.4m than what he'd make on the qualifying offer. So it's not that much risk in that first season to take the QO, with the obvious caveat that he secures a significant long-term deal in the next offseason.
But is that likely? With the combination of some mid-market free agent teams as well as a relatively poor free agent class, I think it's a better possibility that others would suggest.
Recently Chad Ford looked ahead an offseason to the 2009 free-agent class, and determined the following teams with enough cap room to get Ben what he wants: Thunder, Grizzlies, Blazers, Heat, Pacers, and potentially the Bobcats and Timberwolves. Some have more room than others, but I'm keeping in mind that teams looking to get under the cap can always find ways to shave a few million here and there over the next 12 months. (note: the Bulls apparently haven't realized this re: the luxury tax)
Sam Smith recently pooped on the idea that this means there will be a market for Ben.
Admittedly, it’s not a great free agent class next summer, though Carlos Boozer and Hedo Turkoglu could be there. The teams most likely to be $10 million or more under the cap to sign someone unrestricted likely figure to be from among Memphis (not spending money), Oklahoma City (probably not with the big relocation fee due), Portland (got guards), Miami (going for Boozer, we hear), Indiana and maybe Minnesota. So if you are spending, you lock in Ben Gordon and pass on a chance for Wade or Bosh? LeBron is going to New York or New Jersey, as we know.
LeBron may be likely headed to New York or New Jersey in 2010, but that doesn't mean Wade or Bosh (or Joe Johnson or Amare Stoudamire) are going to Memphis, Oklahoma City, Indiana or Minnesota (let alone leaving their current teams in the first place). Portland is now a likely hot destination due to the roster, but they can't sit on their 2009 cap space as in the next summer the raises due to some of that young talent wipes it out. The only team I'd consider bowing out of the 2009 class for 2010 is Miami, though if I were them I'd try and get real good real quick to make sure that Wade doesn't leave. Memphis is likely out due to needing a big man with some kind of foundation in place with Conley-Mayo-Gay (and as Sam says, they're just plain cheap).
But for teams like Oklahoma City (Sam, they have to spend some money), Indiana, Minnesota, and Portland, Ben Gordon may be the prize free agent to target. He's good, but not at the level where he's going to command a max salary, he'll be 26, and he'll be both literally an unrestricted free agent as well as unrestricted in terms of not holding any loyalty towards remaining a Bull. (can't you picture a scenario where Reinsdorf tells the media he's disappointed that Ben didn't let him match an offer?).
There's literally nobody else with that unique combination of both potential desirability and attainability on the market. If Boozer jumps at all it'll be to Miami, and the rest are either old, or restricted.
Now, obviously Gordon can't feel too secure in passing on the guaranteed money now in the mere speculation that he could get it back in a year. There's risk of injury, and both the roster glut and lack of a contract working against his role on the Bulls for next season.
But, for one, the Bulls aren't going to submarine their season just to screw Gordon out of a future contract. There may be a 'glut', but he's the best of the glut. He'll get minutes, even if Vinny finds the superstition stick in Skiles' old desk that keeps Gordon on the bench to begin games.
And from a less tangible but also important standpoint, what we've learned about Ben Gordon (through leaked reports, anyway), is that he thinks very highly of himself and what his status should be in the league. Whether it winds up ultimately costing him money or not, it also could be the deciding factor that has him giving up $59m to take the qualifying offer. A lot of us think it's crazy, and I wouldn't personally take the chance at losing out on that money. But the confident and driven mentality that keeps Ben Gordon in the gym every day also may have him believing that he'll have a great season and get his money, whether it's from the Bulls or not.