After what feels like a never-ending string of speculation from the moment the NBA lockout concluded, the Chicago Bulls have finally ended the Carlos Boozer era.
The Bulls officially used their amnesty provision on the former All-Star forward on Tuesday, a move that should carve out enough cap space for Chicago to make additional moves this offseason:
ESPN's Marc Stein reports what teams could possibly add Boozer:
Boozer thanked the Bulls organization for the past four years:
Boozer, 32, was heading into the final season of a five-year, $75 million contract he signed with the Bulls in 2010. Put into the most recent collective bargaining agreement to help owners avoid onerous luxury-tax charges, the amnesty provision allows teams to release one player who was signed before the previous CBA expired and have his cap number wiped away.
Chicago nets $16.8 million in savings on its cap by waiving Boozer. There are only nine teams remaining that have not taken advantage of the amnesty provision, and as ESPN.com's Marc Stein pointed out, the Thunder are the only franchise that could realistically make such a move.
Teams that use the amnesty are still forced to pay that player's salary; it just does not count for tax purposes. The Bulls can, however, reap some savings if Boozer is claimed off waivers.
Teams will have 48 hours in which they can blindly bid on picking up part of Boozer's salary. The team that bids the highest total—thus clearing the most money off the Bulls' books—will be awarded Boozer. Should he clear waivers, he will be able to double-dip.
A two-time All-Star and former All-NBA selection, Boozer's reputation has regressed from potential building block to looming albatross. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last season, both his lowest totals since his rookie season. Boozer also shot a career-low 45.6 percent from the field.
The offensive downturn, combined with his typical defensive struggles, caused coach Tom Thibodeau to bench Boozer for most fourth quarters. With Taj Gibson more than earning his stripes as a backup and looking to move into the starting lineup next season, Boozer's departure has long seemed inevitable.
Only few were sure how it would happen.
The amnesty provision was always the cleanest way, but it wasn't the instant fixer that most publicly thought. Subtracting Boozer from the books only left around $9 million under the salary cap, not enough when Chicago was making a push for the Carmelo Anthonys of the world.
Throughout the month, the Bulls instead held on to Boozer with designs on adding him to a sign-and-trade deal. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported on July 3 that management informed Boozer that the amnesty provision was in play but not a sure thing.
A sign-and-trade was always the first plan because it would eliminate the responsibility for his salary entirely, create an easy match with someone like Anthony and allow the Bulls to stay under the salary cap. Anthony's re-signing with the Knicks, followed by Chicago's addition of Pau Gasol, all but guaranteed Boozer would go out via the amnesty.
The Bulls have Spanish forward Nikola Mirotic coming stateside next season. Mirotic, who signed a three-year, $17-million deal, will help give Chicago one of the NBA's most loaded frontcourts. With Joakim Noah, Gibson, Gasol and Mirotic, Thibodeau should have an above-average contributor on the floor at all times.
That depth should prove a major boost as the season goes along. Thibodeau has had to ride his starters hard the last couple of years. Though Derrick Rose's injuries forced his hand a little bit, it's also because the front office failed to provide adequate depth.
The Bulls still have to figure out who is playing behind Rose and Jimmy Butler, but they've found solid contributions on the margins before.
Even though ownership can't be happy about swallowing Boozer's contract, Chicago has to strike now.
The top of the East is weakened following LeBron James' Miami departure, and the Bulls are arguably now the favorite by default. Subtracting Boozer and adding whatever pieces they could with his leftover cash became their only option once the Anthony situation worked itself out.
We'll see if they spent it wisely.
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