Many Bulls fans scoffed when Gar Forman tossed bouquets at Pau Gasol and called him a "core" piece of the organization at the trade deadline, and with the Bulls taking a dump all over this season, it's looking more and more like Gasol won't be back with the team after he opts out of his contract this summer.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added to this whole conversation with an interesting piece on Friday night that suggested the Bulls may have renewed interest in bringing back Joakim Noah, and it also painted a picture of a front office that may not exactly be on the same page (FWIW, Joe Cowley reported on a potential FO rift earlier this year). Or at the very least, they weren't on the same page when it came/comes to the Noah/Gasol issue.
Just take a look at this:
Though front-office meetings have yet to finalize the Bulls' Plan A for this offseason, there is strong internal desire to re-sign Noah on a short-term deal. Noah long has been a favorite player and ambassador of Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Executive vice president John Paxson drafted Noah, and their bond is genuine.
So apparently Jerry and Pax are big fans of Noah. And here's this glowing review of the Pau non-trade:
The Bulls passed on an opportunity to try to finalize moving Gasol to the Kings at the February trade deadline. General manager Gar Forman, who won the internal debate to keep Gasol, called the All-Star center "part of our core." Gasol said then the Bulls "for sure" are the leading candidates for his free agency services.
Gasol placed a qualifier on that claim, saying how the Bulls fared over the final 30 games would play a factor in his decision, which will come after he exercises his player option for free agency.
The Bulls are 12-15 since...
...Hoiberg appreciates Gasol's willingness to play through his swollen right knee issues down this season's stretch, something he conveyed to Gasol when the two dined last week in Indianapolis.
But losing Gasol for nothing in free agency could make the decision to keep him to try for one last playoff run shortsighted.
So not only do we hear that Jerry and Pax are big fans of Noah, but that Gar was the big proponent of keeping Pau around for what will ultimately be an ill-fated run to the postseason. The Pacers suck and got walloped by a Raptors team resting Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll and Luis Scola, but it'd take a whole lot of silliness for the Bulls to actually sneak into the playoffs. That's not going to happen, nor do I want it to happen. But I digress.
KC also suggests that the decision of Fred Hoiberg (Gar's pet) to start Nikola Mirotic over Noah (which Fred basically lied about) was not only an effort to implement his offensive vision, but also a way to "placate" Gasol. There's been plenty of speculation that Gasol was basically guaranteed a starting spot when he signed in Chicago, and this would seem to imply that the Bulls have gone out of their way to appease the veteran big man.
And this leads back to the question of whether or not Noah would actually want to re-sign back in Chicago after this debacle. Another tidbit Johnson reports is this:
But Hoiberg had started to play Noah more before his first shoulder injury in December. And Noah remains invested enough in the team to question Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose for their silence at the April 3 team meeting, according to several people present.
First off, cool leadering Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. Way to step up. Especially disappointing for Butler, who tried to proclaim himself a leader this season but instead botched that in probably the worst way imaginable. I'm still a fan of Butler, but he's really got to shape up this offseason. I'm just going to #BlameWahlberg.
As for Noah, the implication here is perhaps he still cares enough about this team that he'd be willing to re-sign in Chicago. But for how much? This will be his last "big" contract, and I have major doubts about him taking a "hometown discount" after what's transpired this season. There will be plenty of teams with money to spend this summer, and it wouldn't be surprising if he got an offer that's way too rich for the Bulls' blood (KC says they'd be interested in a "short-term deal"). And if it comes to that, Chicago can't really afford to match a huge offer given its own standing and Noah's decline, even considering what he still can bring to the team in terms of defense and leadership.
The Bulls are in line to retool this offseason, and they could have close to $30 million in cap space by just letting their free agents walk while also dumping Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell. Using some of that cap space on Noah could be fine at the right price, but they should really be looking to get younger and more athletic, and Jo could easily price himself out of the Bulls' range.
This whole thing could easily just be the Bulls trying to save face by showing this renewed "interest" in a fan favorite in Noah, but at the very least, I'm kind of intrigued by the possible front-office drama that may be at play here. Paxson has a job for life, but could Gar potentially be on the outs? I don't expect anything drastic, but you never know.