Chicago's big challenge
Offseason decisions put Bulls in a tough spot in 2012-13 and beyond
The Chicago Bulls managed to avoid the headlines for most of the summer, falling into a kind of irrelevance while the other top teams in the NBA fattened up. The only news conference the team had all summer came in late July, when a small group of local media showed up at the team's suburban headquarters. The occasion was the official introductions of newly signed guards Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli.
The presser happened to fall on the same day Chicago decided against matching the offer sheet former backup center Omer Asik signed with the Houston Rockets. General manager Gar Forman, on hand for the niceties, wasn't talking about Asik, whose departure constituted the only real news of the day, or anything else, really. It made for an awkward experience.
The decision not to match on Asik was the climax of the Bulls' offseason. Everything that led it up to it was a consequence of Asik's restricted free agency; everything else can be best qualified as fallout. All for a second-round pick who averaged 2.9 points per game in his two seasons with the Bulls, yet was extremely valuable.
"Omer is very, very important to us," Forman told the Bulls' official website in mid-June. "We see him as a key piece of our team moving forward."
That was one of just a couple of statements Forman made this summer that will serve as fodder for anyone who wants to criticize the Bulls' long-term plan. The other potential foot-in-mouth comment was directly related to his praise for Asik:
"Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions."
Forman's intentions were noble. He was trying to emphasize that the Bulls' business operations -- which, of course, are headed up by owner Jerry Reinsdorf -- would not be undercutting the basketball side of the operation. In a league governed by a strict collective bargaining agreement, it was an exceedingly silly thing to say. Of course the basketball decisions are also financial ones.
In most respects, Forman, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and the rest of the Bulls' front office were facing a difficult summer regardless of the fate of Asik. You can argue that no team faced a thornier set of decisions.Everything was thrown into flux by Derrick Rose's crumpled knee. Had the Bulls' window of contention closed? What should be done about the summer's contract decisions pending for several players? When would Rose be back, and how effective would he be? The uncertainty of those questions muddled the possible answers about everything else.
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