Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ben Gordon-Bulls Breakup

Bad news for the Chicago Bulls organization.

Ben Gordon, who led the team in scoring for four years now, has signed a 5-year, $55 million offer from division rivals, the Detroit Pistons.

The Bulls were an up-and-coming team with a bright future. Despite having a core that had not yet hit its prime, and a rookie franchise player/point guard and head coach, this team snuck into the Eastern Conference playoffs as the seventh seed and gave the defending champion Boston Celtics a scare. They had the rookie of the year, and one who is envisioned by many to be a perennial all-star someday soon, in Derrick Rose. They had a frontline of second-year Joakim Noah and third-year Tyrus Thomas. This was a team that was looking forward to the return of starting forward Luol Deng, who missed the end of the regular season and the playoffs. They had two draft picks in 2009 draft, too.

Now, the future doesn't look much of anything. Not that this team is going to stink next season, no. It's just that, you're not really sure where the franchise is headed at the moment. Sure, they're bringing back a solid group with Rose, Noah, Thomas, Deng, Kirk Hinrich, John Salmons, Brad Miller and maybe #16 pick James Johnson. That's not a bad team. But it doesn't have the same kick without the pintsized 20-point scorer, Gordon.

To be fair, Bulls fans should've seen this coming. We endured two, three years of negotiations with Gordon, when he turned down offers of $50 and $54 million the previous two offseasons. We heard the rumors that the Pistons made an $11 million promise to Ben. We knew we could keep him if really wanted to; Gordon stated he wanted to remain a Bull. But we also knew the price had to be right, and the price the organization wanted and the price Gordon wanted would be far apart.

Now, resigning Gordon would've meant compromising some flexibility in 2010. Only time will tell whether the Bulls did the right thing by not overcommitting to Gordon. Rashard Lewis was overpaid, too, but look where that brought the Orlando Magic.

If there was a plan behind this - if keeping Gordon meant giving up on a solid plan that the organization was working towards, then I can live with this decision. Say, a plan to trade for Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire and have the flexibility to resign them and add another free agent next year. But if the plan is to let Ben walk and see if this current roster can win without him, then this would be a very sad loss.

Thing is, only time will tell. Much like the seemingly sound Billups-for-Iverson trade of Joe Dumars, we can only really judge this in retrospect. If Rose and Amare take the team to the playoffs, we'll look back on this day with kindness. But man, this is going to suck if this turns out to be a step back for the Bulls; not after the strides it took last season.

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