Relief. That's what I felt last when I saw that the Bulls and Taj Gibson came to an agreement on a new four-year contract extension.
When I read all the pessimistic reports prior to the win over the Kings, my Bulls angst heading into the year began to rise and I ultimately feared the worse. I feared that Gibson would have a breakout season and that he was destined to get a crazy offer next summer from some boneheaded team desperate to throw some cash around. I feared the Bulls would screw this situation up like they did the Omer Asik one, although the rules in the CBA didn't help them much in that case (not that that's a legit excuse John Paxson).
So I, and the Bulls, were certainly delighted to hear that Gibson caved from his initial demands in order to stay in Chicago rather than look to make bank in some "hellhole." And Gibson did cave, because as the Sun Times' Joe Cowley notes, the guaranteed money never changed, but "some of the language in the deal did."
That language was likely in the form of the incentives that could potentially bring the $32 million deal up to $38 million if met (note: Nick Friedell has reported the deal as $34 million guaranteed and $39 with incentives, but I haven't seen that anywhere else). Who knows if we'll ever find out what those incentives are, or if Gibson actually hits them, but nevertheless, I'd consider this a fair deal for all involved. When these negotiations started, I figured the Bulls would start at around $7-8 million and perhaps work their way up to the $9 million range. That's pretty much what happened, and since Gibson did in fact cave somewhat, I don't know how you can't call the Bulls winners here.
The media, both local and national, seem to agree. I truly wasn't all that interested in the local reaction, because I figured most if not all of that would be overwhelmingly positive. I will say though that Sam Smith's marriage analogy made me chuckle.
The national angle was what I was really curious to see, especially because Gibson's deal came among a flurry of deadline deals that included the likes of James Harden, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and DeMar DeRozan. Just because of the timing, it's easy to compare the deals to see who got the best value.
And almost universally, the Bulls got rave reviews for the deal they struck with Gibson. Matt already highlighted SI.com's Rob Mahoney's love fest, but there were several other national writers tossing bouquets at the Bulls.
NBA blogger extraordinaire Matt Moore had this to say for CBS Sports:
To put this in perspective, Gibson, who is one of the truly great defenders in this game and who often finishes games because of his energy and defense, will make less than DeMar Derozan who signed a four-year, $40 million extension earlier on Tuesday.
Moore praised the Bulls' "draconian" negotiating tactics, and also called them the "best negotiating team" in the league right now. Hey, you can't win so many financial championships without being shrewd negotiators.
Next, we have Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer (I guess he could be considered local media because he's a Bulls guy, but he writes for a national site so whatever). Dwyer was a bit miffed at the timing of the deal, calling it "tacky and wrong" to ask a player to sign such an important contract within hours of an actual game. That's an understandable sentiment, although I think it actually worked in the Bulls' favor in this case.
As for the deal itself, here's the love:
As stated, the deal is fantastic for both sides. The Bulls will get an All-Defensive Team-worthy starting big forward that won't even make eight figures a year; and make no mistake - the Bulls will use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer next summer to save money, and make Gibson their starting forward. That's incredible value for a player in Gibson that, at age 27, is just entering his prime.
Dwyer also throws out a sweet Antonio Davis/P.J. Brown reference, but I'd prefer to focus on the assertion that the Bulls will amnesty Boozer next summer. While it's something that I think most of us want to see happen, the vibe coming from the local beat has been that the Bulls won't actually wield the amnesty ax until the summer of 2014.
That wouldn't be surprising for a couple of reasons. One, the Bulls do still value Boozer as a solid scorer and rebounder, and they may prefer to keep this core together for one more go-round with a healthy Derrick Rose next season. The second, of course, has to do with the finances. Will the Bulls really want to pay Gibson starters money as well as pay Boozer to take a hike? I'm not so sure.
Interestingly, Ira Winderman (yes, the Heat guy) shared Dwyer's sentiment in his piece for NBC's ProBasketballTalk.com. While simultaneously praising the Gibson deal in comparison to most of the other extensions, Winderman too claimed that Boozer would be a goner next summer:
And that's something hard to say with just about every other rookie-scale extension negotiated outside of Gibson, and perhaps Ty Lawson.
Even if Gibson hits his incentives and reaches $38 million over four seasons, he already has proven to be worth considerably more than Carlos Boozer (which is why Boozer will be amnestied after this season and Gibson will receive a role commensurate with his new deal).
The writing is probably on the wall for Boozer, whether the amnesty comes next summer or in 2014. However, Booze put on a good show in the locker room yesterday, with plenty of joyous screaming for the world to hear. When he wasn't yelling for Gibson to buy steaks (Gibsons on Gibson?! HA!), he was screaming the rather odd nickname of "Taji-woo-woo" or "Tajy-wu" or something.
Speaking of odd, Joakim Noah somehow brought the afterlife into the conversation (via ESPN Chicago):
"That's my young boy," Noah said. "He's my rookie. When you're somebody's rookie, he's my rookie in this life, in the next life, in the next life after that and the afterlife. I'm very happy."
Hilariously, Noah and Gibson are the same age.
Oddities aside, this was a damn good deal for both sides. The Bulls got Gibson to cave and Gibson has a pretty fair deal that gives him security for the next four years. Now if he can just work on that jump shot.