Where does one start when speaking of the Chicago Bulls' long and difficult offseason work?
The Bulls have put themselves in a spot to be the "the talk of the town" with as many decisions as they have to make. The Bulls will be looking for a new head coach, and relieving a log jam in the guard position, all while attempting to re-sign the two leading scorers for the bulls in the '07-'08 season, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng.
Most noteable candidates for the head coaching positions include Rick Carlisle, Jeff Van Gundy, and Tom Thibodeau, who is currently the Celtics assistant coach. Other names have been thrown in and out of the hat, so don't be surprised if the position went to someone of a lesser known status. While some Bulls fans have expressed interest in acquiring Larry Brown, it does not seem that John Paxson has the same amount of interest.
Former head coach Scott Skiles was fired from the organization after enduring a disappointing 9-16 record. Jim Boylan, an assistant coach to Skiles for three-and-a-half years took over the reigns, in an attempt to bring the Bulls back to greatness.
Unfortunately, injuries to Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, and Drew Gooden made it nearly impossible to turn the team around. However, even with the key injuries sustained, Jim Boylan was able to squeeze away with a record of 24-32. Considering that other teams in the past, after losing key players, had completely nose-dived, Jim Boylan's record does not seem as bad when taking a second look.
In the '07-'08 season, the Bulls did make headlines nationwide when they were involved in a three-team trade with the Seattle Super Sonics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The trade involved sending Joe Smith and Ben Wallace to the Cavaliers, while acquiring from them Larry Hughes, who lead the NBA in steals with 2.9 in the '04-'05 season, Drew Gooden, Shannon Brown, and Cedric Simmons. The trade did not seem to make an immediate impact, as the Bulls never managed more than a meager two-game win streak.
As for the overflow at the Guard position, trades, or possibly cuts, seem very realistic in the future offseason. As of now, the Bulls are holding on to seven guards. Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon, Thabo Sefolosha, Larry Hughes, Shannon Brown, and Jameson Curry. The guard that "sticks out like a sore thumb" would be Ben Gordon, who turned down a $50-million contract extension for five years in the last offseason.
Amazingly enough, Ben Gordon was still the Bulls' leading scorer with 18.6 points per game, while coming off the bench for a better part of the season. The possibilities are endless when considering Gordon's future, but sources say the early word is to look for Gordon to re-join the team next year, while signing a $6.4-million contract for one year, and then becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Of all the guards on the Bulls' roster, the one that seems to possess the most potential is Thabo Sefolosha. While standing at 6'7", he gives the Bulls options when faced with other tall All-Stars such as Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady, who all stand at 6'6" or taller.
During the course of the season, Thabo was thrust into the lineup when injuries plagued Kirk Hinrich. During his stint as a starter, he averaged 11.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, while averaging only 4.3, 2.8, and 1.6 per game when coming off the bench.
Sefolosha is entering his third season as a bull, and with the upcoming overhaul in the guard position, it appears Thabo may have the opportunity to mature into a full-time starter in the upcoming '08-'09 season.
Now comes the time for this columnist to express his ideas on the upcoming offseason drudgery for the Bulls.
As for the coaching position, the best candidate that possesses the most potential is Tom Thibodeau. Tom is coming from a winning franchise in the Boston Celtics, and quite possibly NBA Champions. Thibodeau will be entering his 19th year as a coach next season, and his resume is impeccable. Out of his 18 years in the NBA as a coach, his teams ranked in the top 10 in team defense for 14 of those years. Most notably is his current season, where he laid witness to Kevin Garnett being honored as defensive player of the year.
John Paxson, as many know, is defense oriented and insists on having a team built around a defensive scheme, which is why Tom Thibodeau is such a great fit.
The guard position overload is a problem that must be dealt with, and although some hearts may break for fans and players alike, trades and cuts are an ugly monster that every GM has to face. After a meeting with Paxson, Ben Gordon was commented on saying "I didn't get any indication from Pax that I wasn't in the plans," which leads many to believe he will be back for another season.
Perhaps it is time to part with Ben Gordon. Offering a trade including Ben Gordon, Cedric Simmons, and Demetrius Nichols, could warrant interest from such teams as the Milwaukee Bucks, who coincidentally have an overload in the center position, a position that the Bulls are currently scarce at.
One thing is for certain, changes must be made. The key ingredient to a successful turn-around is great coaching. However, coaches are limited in one key aspect of the game, they can only teach the players how to play, they can not play for them.
The Chicago Bulls' coaches and players must find within themselves the strength to rise above the slumps, the skids, and the all-around negativity that seems to engulf them year after year. But fear not Chicagoans, we will say it now...we will say it every year..."this is the year of the Bulls".