Don't worry. I'm not going to do what everyone thinks I'm going to do...and just flip out.
I'm kidding, of course. Lets rant:
First, this is not a Detroit Pistons or a Ben Gordon blog. I can't dedicate much (now...this may be Blog-A-Ben for a few weeks) as to how the Pistons are better off after giving the former Bulls guard a 5 year, ~$55m contract, or how Gordon can be more successful (for himself and team-wise) there.
He sure did quite well for himself financially, and doesn't look so 'stupid' for turning down previous offers.
This is about the Bulls, the team we're unforunately obligated (in however weird way we justify it) to root for. How they completely bungled how to handle a young and very good player, to an unprecendented level.
And I mean unprecedented: last summer Ben Gordon was the best player (under the current rookie salary rules) ever to take the Qualifying Offer. And he's now the best player to walk from the organization that drafted him, 5 years ago.
I'm writing this before the Bulls and others spin (or at least before I read it) the logistics of his departure, but I've been fearing for months that it'd be a situation like this where Gordon took an offer quickly and there'd be no matching 'process' for the Bulls to undergo. The Bulls earned no right for Gordon to let them do so.
Or maybe he did give the Bulls a chance to match and they chose not to. It's certainly a rich deal, but an offer the Bulls should've made themselves.
Even if this contract, in a vacuum, is overpaying Gordon, this is what the Bulls risked by not signing him the previous two seasons. They talk all the time about the benefits of signing early extensions to hedge against injury (hello, Luol Deng!) or poor play (Kurt!). Well it goes the other way too: if the team doesn't get the extensions done early, they risk getting outbid. And apparently Ben Gordon is worth $11m a season, as it only takes one team to make it truth. And this isn't a true market where the Bulls can just go out and pay for a replacement. The Bulls knew this was a risk, and still lowballed (if you look at his negotiations in relation to Deng, Hinrich, and Noc) Gordon last summer, and then pulled the offer after Gordon accepted it.
(Read that last sentence again in case you feel your anger subsiding, that should do the trick to get it back.)
The fact that their payroll was already careerning towards the luxury tax line is a result of mistakes from the past. The Ben Wallace signing still lingers on this team in the form of dead money. Luol Deng received a bit more than he deserved, and that was when healthy. Kirk Hinrich became an overpaid backup the second the Bulls won the lottery. But that doesn't mean they have to try and rectify those mistakes by letting Gordon go. They have over $25m in expiring contracts (Miller/Thomas/James) coming off the books at the end of the year. That's one season of paying the luxury tax, after a decade of record profits fueled by sellout crowds watching rookie contracts.
Gordon's contract is for his prime seasons. There is a fairly high floor as to how he'll perform during that time. Say he's really a $9m player in terms of production. He's then overpaid a bit. He'd be on a Bulls team with other guys who are likely overpaid a bit under that standard. But on the court it's a lot of talent. And that's how you win a title, by having the best team. Not by having the least overpaid players.
All indications were that the basketball people in the Organization wanted to keep Gordon. It was the guy signing the checks who wasn't so sure. So what Jerry Reinsdorf's team (I should say his investment. The White Sox are his team) gets for 'not overpaying' Ben Gordon is...being worse. Not having a player to trade in a future move for a frontcourt star. Not having a player remaining after they package multiple players for that star. Let him go with nothing to show for themselves. No matter how they compensate with the current group it won't be as good as if they kept everybody.
And I can't see them doing anything the rest of this offseason if it means going over the tax, as then why not just keep Ben Gordon? What this non-move means is that the Bulls do not care about winning. Not this year. Likely not for several years. They are far away from contention, and it's simply amazing that they think they're in any position to let talent walk, let alone their best player of the past 5 years. They're signalling that they're content to take one shot in Derrick Rose's prime, which means we can't really give a care about anyone else on the roster. Maybe Luol Deng? Joakim Noah? They're already starting to do with Tyrus Thomas what happened with Gordon years ago. Everyone else is going to be gone by the time this team is going for a title. Not winning one, or competing for one, but merely having a plan to try and go for one.
(And they certainly do not have the coach (lowest paid in the league, mind you) that will get them any closer to that level. They don't even have a coach who can properly run the team to the level where we even know if their young players are good enough to keep.)
Why shouldn't I just wait for 2010 if this team clearly is? The Bulls can feel free to laugh back at me, since clearly I'm not so smart either after putting down a deposit for next year's (partial, please.) season tickets.
And if 2010 is the plan, really go for it. Deal Hinrich now for expirings. Tell us that this is a 'transition' (nicer way to say 'rebuilding' or 'going cheap, you suckers!'), talk a big game and wait for the full-boat free agents to come. This is a team that just told the league they do not like spending money on their best players. That's always an attractive quality in a franchise that's courting free agents. Just give me a minute while I get Benny and the Luvabulls before we head to the airport and greet the lucky fellas.
Wait, not a minute, a whole goddamned year.