In his latest piece for the Chicago Tribune, K.C. Johnson recalls a statement Bulls GM Gar Forman made less than a month ago, on draft night: "Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions." Based on the Bulls' moves so far this offseason, particularly with the team on the verge of losing Omer Asik and getting nothing in return, it's hard to argue that finances haven't been strongly considered, as Johnson writes. Here are a few Bulls-related updates from his column:
Earlier today, it was reported that the Bulls are expected to pass on matching the three-year, $25.1MM offer sheet that Omer Asik signed with Rockets. Houston managed to land the restricted free agent with a gameplan eerily similar to the one they used to ink Jeremy Lin. While the Bulls made it known publicly that they planned on matching any offer, it turns out that the hefty, backloaded deal was too rich for their blood.
Are the Bulls making a mistake by letting the 7'0" center walk? Mark Potash of the Chicago Tribune certainly doesn't think so. Potash writes that the $15MM cap hit that Asik would carry in the final year of the contract would loom over the team and simply wouldn't be worth it for a player who is as offensively challenged as Asik. While the Turkish big man shines in the low post defensively, he averaged just 3.1 PPG in 14.7 minutes per contest which would translate to 7.6 PPG per 36 minutes. Of course, it's hard to imagine Asik seeing that much playing time as he is firmly entrenched as a member of the club's second unit.
Still, even Potash admits that Asik's presence will be missed when the Bulls go head-to-head with the Heat. And while the Bulls found a suitable backup in Nazr Mohammed, it's hard to imagine the club getting similar output from him. It's your turn to weigh in - are the Bulls making a mistake in letting Asik go?
Derrick Rose's road to recovery appears to be progressing along nicely according to his brother Reggie, who says that the Bulls superstar is "way ahead of schedule." Rose is now walking without a brace and is currently in California enjoying a quiet retreat from Chicago in the meantime (Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago has the report). Here's what else we've heard out of Chicago tonight, including more on Omer Asik, thoughts on Dwight Howard, and a returning Bull..
As busy as the Nets have been so far this month, we haven't heard much out of majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov. That changed today, however, as Prokhorov released an official statement discussing the team's offseason:
"I'm thrilled with the way our team has come together. My congratulations and appreciation go out to general manager Billy King, assistant general manager Bobby Marks and head coach Avery Johnson for their tenacity, nerve and heart throughout this process. With the re-signing of Deron Williams and the trade for Joe Johnson, we go into our new home led by an All-Star backcourt and with every hope of a great season for the Brooklyn Nets. I can't wait until opening night."
While Prokhorov starts counting down the days until opening night, we'll round up the rest of the morning's odds and ends right here:
9:38pm: A compelling reason the Rockets, Warriors and Hawks may take on Howard without knowing whether he'll re-sign is the possibility of flipping him to the Nets, says Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter links). The Rockets' continued pursuit of Howard has no bearing on their offer sheet to Omer Asik, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune hears (Twitter link).
3:55pm: While the Magic appear to be putting Howard talks on the backburner for now, a source tells Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that Orlando would listen if the Nets (and presumably any other team) came forward with new proposals.
3:44pm: While Hennigan refused to share the specifics of the conversation he had with Howard today, both Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld and Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM.com hear that the GM told Howard: "Sorry, we tried" (Twitter links). Based on Hennigan's comments and various reports, it's clear Howard won't be dealt to the Nets, at least until January 15th. The star center could still be dealt this offseason, though the Magic GM acknowledged that D12 could open the season in Orlando.
3:13pm: Speaking to the media this afternoon, Hennigan said it's "not accurate" that the Magic have suspended trade talks, adding that the team is leaving every door open. However, the Magic GM seemed to at least acknowledge that a deal with the Nets looks very unlikely. He also said he spoke to Howard earlier today, though he declined to share the specifics (all four Twitter links).
2:46pm: The Magic have informed Dwight Howard that they are suspending trade talks involving him, reports Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM.com (via Twitter). According to Rudolph, GM Rob Hennigan told Howard that the team tried to make a deal, but didn't find one that Hennigan and the front office felt met the Magic's needs (Twitter link). The club will now focus on finding its new head coach.
If the Magic are done exploring a Howard trade for the time being, it almost certainly removes the Nets from the equation. Brooklyn is said to be closing in on a new contract for Brook Lopez, which would mean the center, who is the Nets' primary trade chip, couldn't be moved until at least January 15th.
The Magic were also reportedly in talks with the Lakers, Rockets, and Hawks, and it's not clear if or when the club will re-open discussions on Howard. As Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel points out (via Twitter), despite the bad blood between Howard and the Magic, Orlando would still love to have him back for next season.
Restricted free agents that have agreed to sign offer sheets with new teams can begin doing so as soon as 11:00pm CST tonight. When a player officially signs an offer sheet, his old team has a three-day window to decide whether or not to match it and bring him back.
When a player formally signs an offer sheet, it means only two options are in play for him: He either ends up on the team whose offer he signed, or returns to his old club. Sign-and-trades are no longer an option. So, for restricted free agents like Eric Gordon and Nicolas Batum, who seem to prefer to change teams, it may be worthwhile to explore sign-and-trade possibilities once more before locking into those offer sheets and putting their futures in the hands of the Hornets and Trail Blazers, respectively.
Here are a few restricted free agents that reportedly agreed to sign offer sheets whose situations are worth keeping an eye on:Roy Hibbert
Current team: Hornets
Agreed to sign with: Suns
Terms: Four years, Maximum salary
It seems Gordon's clear preference is to play with the Suns. After agreeing to the team's offer sheet, he released a statement indicating that "Phoenix is where my heart is now," and later told the Times Picayune that if the Hornets match the offer, he'll play in New Orleans, but won't be happy about it. It's a tough spot for the Hornets, who clearly don't want to lose the primary piece of last year's Chris Paul trade, but also probably don't want an unhappy player in New Orleans long-term. Maybe these two teams could negotiate a sign-and-trade, but I'd expect the Hornets to simply match the Suns' offer sheet and hope Gordon warms to New Orleans. John Reid of the Times Picayune confirmed today that New Orleans is expected to match the offer.
Current team: Trail Blazers
Agreed to sign with: Timberwolves
Terms: Four years, $45MM
While Batum, like Gordon, appears to want to move on from his current team, it seems Batum's agent Bouna Ndiaye is pushing that stance more than the player himself, as his comments over the weekend suggested. Still, Batum told David Aldridge of TNT today that Minnesota is where he wants to be. Batum also mentioned, interestingly, that the two teams are working on a possible sign-and-trade deal. According to one earlier report, the T-Wolves pitched a sign-and-trade deal involving Derrick Williams, but the Blazers weren't interested in a trade involving the younger, more affordable Williams. I wouldn't be surprised if Portland reconsiders that stance before all is said and done -- a sign-and-trade that sends Batum to Minnesota and Williams to Portland could be a win-win for the involved teams and players alike.
Current team: Knicks
Agreed to sign with: Rockets
Terms: Four years, $28.8MM (fourth-year team option)
We've already heard that the Knicks, predictably, are expected to match this offer sheet. Another team could have more pressure on New York with a more significant third-year raise and a guaranteed fourth year, so the Knicks will get off relatively easy when they match this offer.
Current team: Bulls
Agreed to sign with: Rockets
Terms: Three years, $25.1MM
Here's a trickier case. The Bulls have said all year that they don't want to lose Asik and that they expect to match any offer for him, but Daryl Morey and the Rockets are making it difficult with a third-year salary of nearly $15MM. Still, I think there's a good chance the Bulls match this offer sheet. Asik's first- and second-year salaries are in the $5MM range, which is manageable, and allows the Bulls a couple seasons to figure out how to clear long-term salary off their books for 2014/15. This decision could easily go either way though.
Current team: Knicks
Agreed to sign with: Raptors
Terms: Three years, $19MM
When Fields and the Raptors agreed to this offer sheet, it seemed like a savvy tactical move to block the Knicks from making a sign-and-trade deal for Steve Nash. Now, with Nash headed to Los Angeles, it just looks like an overpay. The Knicks are unlikely to match this one, so the Raptors are likely stuck with Fields, but that's not the end of the world for Toronto. Fields just turned 24, and while he experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in 2011/12, he still has the makings of a solid, if slightly overpriced, rotation player.
In case you missed it amidst tonight's flurry of free agent rumors, the Bulls are making Kirk Hinrich their top free agent target, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Johnson has more in a full report, adding that Hinrich will command most, if not all, of the team's $3MM mini mid-level exception. Hinrich may not be altogether exciting for Bulls fans, but they haven't stopped their pursuit of others, including Brandon Roy, and GM Gar Forman left open the possibility the team could match the Rockets' backloaded offer for Omer Asik, which will be officially tendered on July 11th. "I'm not going to talk about any type of negotiation or anything contractually until we see something," the GM said. "We've made it clear we value Omer and it's been our goal that Omer would stay with the Bulls." Johnson has more out of Chicago, and we've got the highlights here:
With the Trail Blazers heavily courting Roy Hibbert and expecting to sign him to a maximum-salary offer sheet as soon as they can, the Pacers are exploring contingency plans. According to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star (via Twitter), Indiana has reached out to Bulls restricted free agent Omer Asik.
Wells cautions that the Pacers' interest in Asik doesn't mean the team won't match the Blazers' offer to Hibbert. GM Kevin Pritchard and president Donnie Walsh are simply doing their homework, according to Wells. Asik is also drawing interest from the Rockets, who may be preparing an offer that starts at $8MM.
It's past midnight on the East Coast, and that means teams may negotiate with free agents from other clubs, as the NBA's offseason gets under way in earnest. Players can't officially sign contracts until July 11, and trades can't be made official until that date either. That doesn't mean there won't be plenty of talk and agreements in principle between now and then, and if this evening is any indication, we're in for a busy couple of weeks ahead. There are several bits of news rolling in on free agents as July begins, so we'll round up what we're hearing around the late-night rumor mill here.