5 New Year's Resolutions for the Chicago Bulls
Since the laws that govern time and space won’t let the Chicago Bulls turn back the clock on what has been a disastrous start to the 2013-14 NBA season, they must use the spirit of the new year to muster up the resolve to turn things around.
This team is still searching for an identity since Derrick Rose went out for another campaign.
Part of that may be due to how the team was assembled over the summer.
In an interview with Sam Smith on the team’s NBA.com blog, general manager Gar Forman stated that this current crop was specifically tailored for the return of their superstar—as opposed to last season, when the assumption was that Rose would not be playing at all.
Granted, the core of this team has dealt with this adversity before, but a slew of Bulls have not.
But it doesn’t pay to dwell on the past; these players have to snap out of their funk and get back to the hard-nosed basketball for which they’re known and feared.
This team has winning pieces in place, and by sticking to these five New Year’s resolutions, happy days can return.
Note: All statistics accurate as of December 26, 2013.
1. Retain D.J. Augustin
Now that Kirk Hinrich is back in the lineup, the Bulls have a capable duo at the point guard position.
As the team moves forward in its inevitable rebuilding phase, it should look to keep Augustin as the primary reserve to Rose. He is younger and healthier than Hinrich, and since he is at a point in his career where he still has to prove himself, he may be considerably cheaper.
ShamSports.com lists Hinrich’s current salary at more than $4 million. While the site hasn’t updated itself with Augustin’s addition to the roster, HoopsWorld.com reports that his salary is at $650,000 nonguaranteed.
Barring some major inflation from the free-agent market or outrageous demands during re-signing negotiations, Chicago could retain the six-year veteran for a league minimum $1.1 million, via CBAFAQ.com.
Locking up Augustin would keep the Bulls’ backcourt young and allow the guards to grow and contend together for many seasons to come.
It’s one of the first moves that they can make to ensure continued success.
2. Sign Another Center
Without question, Joakim Noah is the energy catalyst and cultural leader of the Bulls, but his health can be iffy at times.
Plantar fasciitis has plagued the emotive big man for a while, and the team is woefully shorthanded at the center position when he is out.
While Nazr Mohammed is a capable substitution and Taj Gibson can play the middle at times, the strain can become too much when they are the only two available to perform.
Looking at the remaining free-agent centers and forward-centers may not inspire much awe, but we’re talking third string here.
The would-be player's primary responsibility would be to steal an extra two or three additional minutes of rest for Noah.
In the cases when the team’s starter has to sit out a game or more, Chicago would still have two centers to fill in, leaving Gibson to play his natural role of power forward.
With Chicago just outside of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the playoffs are still a possibility for this club.
A well-rested Noah could be the difference between challenging for a series win or going home quietly after five games.
3. Keep Playing Tony Snell
Tony Snell has probably done the near impossible and cracked Tom Thibodeau’s player rotation as a rookie.
Injuries forced the head coach to rely on the newbie more than he has any other first-year player in the past, but Snell has made the most of the opportunity.
The former University of New Mexico standout has been another shining example of the Bulls front office finding late-round gold in the draft.
A lot of things are unclear about the Bulls’ future: Snell is not one of them.
Despite some rookie hiccups every now and then, he has shown that he has all the tools to be a meaningful contributor for years to come.
Snell’s emergence gives the front office hope going forward. He should remain a regular part of the rotation.
4. Be Careful with Nikola Mirotic
The anticipation of Nikola Mirotic’s arrival can probably only be matched by the eagerness with which Bulls fans await Rose’s second comeback.
It seems like the summer of 2014 is the first real shot that Chicago has to try and reel in its European catch.
In an article that was posted to ESPNChicago.com in April, general manager Gar Forman explained the reasoning behind the long wait:
"You're slotted in the first round, and I think the slot for No. 24 is $1.3 or $1.4 million," Forman said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Well, he makes a lot more money than that right now over at Real Madrid. So the way the CBA is written is after three years then you're no longer slotted. Then you can use whether it's exception room or cap room in order to pay a guy.
"So there's no possibility this summer because next year will be his third year. But after next year, the summer of 2014, then we'll be able to start some negotiations as far as a buyout possibly with Real Madrid or negotiate with him to come over here."
OK, the time hurdle has been cleared, allowing for Chicago to begin serious negotiations; however, the team must be careful when navigating this process.
While Mirotic has a lot to gain by coming to the NBA and playing alongside Rose, he also has a lot to lose.
He is well-established with Real Madrid and probably has a lot of personal ties with the club and city. Considering that it will take nothing less than the mid-level exception to ensure that his pay is comparable, Mirotic is not hurting for cash either.
So, how does management convince the Euro star to cut ties with all he has known professionally and start anew thousands of miles away?
Maybe the challenge of playing on the world’s premier basketball stage will be enough.
Being teammates with Rose would also be sweet.
The team has a positive, supportive culture with a commitment to winning.
And Chicago is a global city with plenty to offer to even the most well-traveled individual.
Who knows if that will be sufficient?
One thing is for sure: Forman and John Paxson have their work cut out for them. This is not an enviable task—prudence will be the key here.
5. Explore Trade Options
Luol Deng has been the team’s highest-valued trade asset for a while now.
The team’s current state of disarray coupled with the fact that Deng is in a contract year adds fuel to the fire that the 10-year veteran should be flipped for something that fills a definite need.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com has quelled that speculation with his article, which states that the team is not entertaining offers for Deng and remains hopeful that it can re-sign him in the summer of 2014.
Maybe this talk is just damage control to placate a reportedly disgruntled Rose, who, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, does not want to play through a rebuilding phase.
Rumors and hearsay aside, the Bulls should not shun any offers, as they could prove to be a great way to retool for the foreseeable future.
In addition to Deng, Chicago has a lot of attractive assets that could be used to acquire the talent needed to keep the team in championship contention.
As it relates to the two-time Sudanese All-Star, Snell and Jimmy Butler already have the skill sets to fill the void that would be left with Deng’s departure.
It’s no mystery that player swaps have not been a part of the team’s operating procedures in the Thibodeau era, but it is clear that losing Rose for a second time has discombobulated this squad.
This is a crisis that is redolent with opportunity, and if there’s a chance that a trade could help improve the Bulls' chances of winning a title, it should be done.
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