Since the end of their second championship run in 1998, the Chicago Bulls haven’t quite lived up to the hype of being a champion. The closest they have been to getting to the title was losing to the Miami Heat back in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, 4 games to 1.
In the span of the last 16 seasons, the Bulls seem to let big name superstars slip through their fingers and grab just “consolation prizes” through free agency.
During the seasons from 1998-2003, the Bulls have had the opportunities to lure in such players as Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan. Both said no to Chicago. McGrady went on to Orlando and played for a slew of franchises. Duncan went on to win 4 more titles with the San Antonio Spurs. The Bulls went after free agents like Fred Hoiberg, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller, Eddie Robinson, and believe it or not…Scottie Pippen. Clearly, ALL CONSOLATION PRIZES. At the same time, those teams were horrific which included that 13-37 strike-shortened season back in 1999.
From 2003-2010, the Bulls signed 1 free agent…Ben Wallace, believe it or not, a consolation prize. Wallace, of course was the backbone of those Detroit Pistons’ teams that won 2 Eastern Conference titles and captured the 2004 NBA Finals. He signed a 4-year deal with the Bulls and never lived up to that deal, being dealt after just 1 and a half seasons with Chicago. So much for that idea.
It was very easy and widely known about the 2010 free agent class that came out (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Carmelo, etc). Plus, Chicago already had Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah from draft picks, yet now were looking for a key free agent to add to their possible contention at a title.
As the reports and rumors were coming out that summer, the Bulls looked like they could have gained their piece. But none of the big names signed their name on a contract with Chicago. The Big 3 (as its famously known) assembled in Miami, thanks to LeBron. The Bulls however took…the man on the left of the photo, Carlos Boozer, aka yet another consolation prize.
Boozer, who was coming off a stellar year with the Utah Jazz, SEEMED like the solid piece that the Bulls needed. In his 1st season with Chicago, he helped them get to a 62-20 mark and the best record in the East. His numbers were solid but not the same as he was in Utah. He wasn’t a vital part of Chicago’s defensive scheme orchestrated by head coach Tom Thibodeau. He was a main liability, getting punked by other power forwards in the league, good AND bad. In this past season, he averaged under 14 points and 8 rebounds a night and hardly ever played in the 4th quarter of ballgames. Again, he was a defensive liability. It also didn’t help Chicago when Rose went down in back-to-back seasons. Nonetheless, Boozer was amnestied after the season and won’t be a part of the Bulls’ future.
Here we are 4 years later and Bulls’ management still can’t seem to lure a major free agent in a huge market. They even couldn’t get ‘Melo (personally I’m glad they didn’t) to play in Chicago. They went out and signed…the guy on the right side of the photo…Pau Gasol from the Lakers. AGAIN, another consolation prize. However, this one could benefit more than it could hurt. This new core could possibly win the East, thanks to LeBron again (going to Cleveland). Yet, it will definitely raise a lot of questions before training camp begins. I’m not going to ask them or answer them now. Stay tuned. Training camps and preseason will come faster than you think.