Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sam weighs in

While he is nowhere to be found in the Trib lately, My Man Sam(tm) wraps the Bulls quiet offseason in a neat little package for

Since it's been all Duhon all the time this week, might as well highlight that part:

The Toronto Raptors extended Duhon a $9.3 million, three-year offer, which the Bulls say they'll match next week.

Part of the reason, of course, is that Duhon was the starting point guard. And no team likes to let the notion get out that they won't keep their players, which could Clipperize a team and leave them open season for raiding clubs. The Bulls have insisted they'd match on all their restricted free agents, meaning Duhon, Curry and Chandler.

I'd let Duhon go. This, however, doesn't matter much, as I make very few decisions for the Bulls. Don't get me wrong. Duhon is a nice player to have on your team: tough minded, a leader, defense-oriented. But the longer he's around the Bulls, the longer Kirk Hinrich has to play out of position at shooting guard and Ben Gordon remains on the bench. Plus, signing Duhon under the new labor agreement leaves the team without much flexibility.

It's the so-called Gilbert Arenas rule. He was a second-round pick whom the Warriors had to let go because they couldn't get under the salary cap to pay him. Now second-round picks who become free agents can be paid by using the team's salary cap exception. If the Bulls match, they'll have less than half their exception left.

That would take them out of the bidding for three guys who could really help them: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who'd be an ideal fit with Chandler at center; Brian Grant, who was released by the Lakers in the "amnesty" provision, also would work alongside Chandler as a post defender and rebounder; and perhaps even Chicagoan Michael Finley, if he is released by the Mavs under the same provision. He always wanted to play for his hometown team and he'd be a perfect big guard to play alongside Hinrich.

But the Bulls say they intend to keep their young core together, which is sound, patient thinking -- something we in the media tend to abhor. Maintaining the youth movement, they'd like to bring back clutch shooter Jannero Pargo for next season and sign Eddie Basden from Charlotte, a big guard who was Conference USA's best defender. For veteran help, they'll also talk to Adrian Griffin and Othella Harrington. Still, one gets the sense the Bulls are essentially standing pat while several teams upgrade in the East -- which suggests they are taking a step back this season, after their 24-win turnaround.

But even if 2005-06 goes south a bit for the Bulls, it figures to be just a minor blip, since the team could be well under the salary cap after the season with Antonio Davis, Eddie Robinson and Eric Piatkowski coming off the books.

This is all great stuff, and a lot of it has been iterated in the comments of my previous post.

The rest of the column focuses on Chandler and Curry. Surprisingly, Sam doesn't offer Curry to half the league.