Friend of the program Doug Thonus of ChicagoNow is in Vegas, and got some one-on-one time with Bulls GM Gar Forman.
Doug paraphrases the chat instead of giving a straight Q&A. And while it's weird that he frames it within his own thoughts (as if those matter relative to what the GM is saying) there are some intersting bits:
We talked significantly about the salary cap, and how the Bulls work with it. He couldn't tell me how much money the Bulls saved on Tim Thomas's buyout, but he did confirm that the Bulls saved enough money to keep Aaron Gray on the qualifying offer to stay under the tax.
He also told me that there isn't a hard limit at the luxury tax barrier and that Jerry Reinsdorf has never set a limit at that spot. He said the Bulls could go into the tax, but reiterated that they would need to do so with purpose. A star player, a team ready to contend, something that would make paying the tax logical for the long term health of the franchise.
(emphasis mine, as that's actual news)
Maybe there's no hard limit from Reinsdorf, but he merely says 'no' everytime he's asked if they can go into the tax?
I wonder if it'd require a star player being available AND the team being ready contend to go into the tax, not just either-or. It's been established (as much as these things can be) that the Bulls wouldn't trade for Pau Gasol while going into the luxury tax (using the retired PJ Brown like Dallas did with Keith Van Horn). And if it's contention we're waiting for, I'd say the Bulls were indeed a team ready to contend right now if they held on to everyone and made a upgrade trade that would put them in the tax. As in, instead of taking a step back to take two forward, just keep going forward.
That'd be likely paying the tax for a single season for "the long term health of the franchise" (I assume being really good helps that?), which I'd consider logical, but that's simply my judgement (and no need to go into it yet again, I guess).
If it takes the Bulls to be right on the cusp of something special without that other star, and then a star being available, for the Bulls to go in the tax...well that might as well be a hard limit. And then Forman has to be pretty perfect from here on out.
Then there's this. (If 'Gordon' is a dirty word for you by now I suggest skipping to the end):
We spoke about Ben Gordon, and he asked me to whom I would prefer: Ben Gordon or Kirk Hinrich. I said it would depend. To me, on a value contract, Ben Gordon was better, but if it was going to cost 12 million to keep Ben Gordon as it likely would have this year, that I liked Kirk Hinrich.
I also mentioned how I felt neither was a great long term fit next to Rose, but Hinrich's contract ended the year Rose required a big extension which worked better from a cap management perspective than Ben Gordon on a five or six year deal.
Gar raised the question about losing Ben Gordon for nothing and made the following points. First, the team gained flexibility in 2010. If you've been reading anything I've written for the past few years then you know how much I value that as an asset. They also made the Miller/Salmons trade knowing that doing so might cost them the flexibility to resign Ben.
Again, why should I care what Doug said in the conversation when he's talking to the GM? It makes it harder what Forman is actually saying here regarding Gordon and Hinrich. I can only guess that by simply raising the question (possible follow up: um, Gar, I'm asking you?) Forman is saying it was one or the other.
Unlike Doug, to me it doesn't 'depend', Gordon's the guy. And however you feel about them on the court, it certainly shouldn't depend on their contract. That is unless the Bulls really are setting a hard tax limit (oh, of course they are...). Gordon will make pretty much exactly the same as Hinrich next season, so Doug advocates keeping Hinrich because it'd help the Bulls stay under the tax for the end of the 2012-13 season. What the hell?
Gar did explicitly mention flexibility in 2010 as a benefit to Gordon walking, which would indicate a plan, but I wonder how much he values that flexibility. Would he be willing to do the proposed Boozer deal for more flexibility? We know he's alright with lowering his amount of tradeable expiring contracts (some flexibility lost, if not a lot) for this coming trade deadline after buying out Tim Thomas. So it's tough to say how serious they are about 2010 unless some more 2010 money is moved, since they're cutting it very close in terms of getting a max free agent.
I commend Doug (seriously) for getting the access and getting some good interaction with Gar. Did bloggers proud. And at least Forman seems more genial than rumor-hating press recluse John Paxson. I cannot claim I would've done a better job with the same time, though it's possible my question of "How do you feel about your so-called top priority to the offseason being a complete failure, or were you just full of it when you said that you wanted to re-sign Gordon?" would've ended the interview fairly quickly.