It was about a week before free agency opened that Carmelo Anthony told the Knicks he would opt out of his contract, and I wrote we might be seeing the earliest the Bulls had ever been used in a contract negotiation.
The Bulls got used then and used now, and the sad fact is that they have to let themselves be used. That’s the way of life now for the people who play in the house that Michael built. They have to make themselves vulnerable to criticism for not getting the big names because not trying is even worse.
The Bulls are the try-hard team. The Bulls are the try-hard franchise. Now they have to try hard to hide the fact that neither the team nor management can close.
Nobody knows the reason that prime free agents would rather play the Bulls than play for them. There probably are a lot of reasons, each as individual as the top players who want nothing to do with signing here.
The weather is a popular reason, and that will only become more acute. Winters are extreme, so why would anyone with a brain want to live here when there are warmer cities all over the place, and what’s more, you’re not required to play defense in a lot of them.
That’s another possible reason that the best players don’t sign with the Bulls. Defense. The Bulls play it. All of them. Or they sit in the fourth quarters. Isn’t that right, Carlos Boozer?
Tom Thibodeau works his players hard. It starts with defense because the Bulls have no offense because nobody who’s a shooter wants to cover anybody, so they don’t come here, and there’s your vicious circle.
For some players who don’t sign with the Bulls, it’s the Jordan statue in front of the United Center. Yes, it’s stupid, but then, how many NBA players have earned Phi Beta Kappa keys?
For still other players, it’s the tax situation. Play in Florida or Texas, and there are no state taxes. Players measure themselves by their salaries, and they know they get to keep more of it by signing with the Heat, Magic, Mavericks, Rockets and Spurs.
Sometimes it’s the money. period. The Bulls didn’t have enough available this summer. Derrick Rose takes up 30 percent of the salary cap. Anthony was looking at a massive haircut.
The Bulls, then, look like the same try-hard team with some different faces, none of whom seems life-changing. The East remains weak. That helps. The Bulls might find a little more offense. That helps too. I'm still not seeing a championship team.
But there is some good news: only two more summers until the Bulls can get used by Kevin Durant.