Chicago Sun-Times

June 2010 Archives

If LeBron James decides to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, most observers believe a sign-and-trade would be the likely way it would happen.

That way, James could sign a six-year, $127 million deal instead of a five-year, $97 million deal. Under the rules of a collective bargaining agreement, teams can re-sign their own free agent to an additional year and offer bigger raises (10.5 percent instead of eight percent) after each year.

Why would the Cavaliers, or any team in that position, reward a departing player by enabling him to earn roughly an extra $30 million? Well, the main reason is it allows a team to get something in return instead of losing a player for nothing.

But according to an ESPN report, the Cavaliers don't intend to do a sign-and-trade with James. If he decides to leave, the report says Cleveland management will simply let him walk, leaving that extra cash on the table.

That's not good for James' bank account, but it's good news for the Bulls. Instead of surrendering assets to the Cavaliers in a trade, they can simply sign James outright. It also would eliminate any team - like the Dallas Mavericks - that doesn't have the necessary room under the salary cap to offer a maximum contract.

Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a radio interview on Monday that he would be willing to work out a sign-and-trade if center/power forward Chris Bosh decides to leave.

Again, that is good news for the Bulls. They can get roughly $33 million under the cap, which is not enough to sign two players to maximum contracts. But the Bulls can still sign both James and Bosh if they can work out a sign-and-trade with Toronto.

The Raptors, no doubt, would ask for center Joakim Noah in a deal for Bosh, but the Bulls wouldn't agree to that. With no real bargaining strength, Toronto probably would settle for a deal involving power forward Taj Gibson and a first-round draft pick.

Small forward Luol Deng is another possibility, but the Raptors probably would pass because Deng has four years and more than $50 million left on his contract.

Bulls essentially confirm Hinrich deal

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After the selection of Kevin Seraphin, a 6-10 power forward from France, with the 17th pick of the first round, Bulls general manager Gar Forman released a statement and essentially confirmed the reported trade that will send Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick to the Washington Wizards.

"This evening we selected Kevin Seraphin with the 17th pick of the NBA draft," Forman said. "At this time, we are currently in discussions to trade our draft rights to Kevin Seraphin. However, we will not be able to complete a trade until after the moratorium period concludes on July 8.

"With that said, we are not at liberty to identify the team we are talking to or reveal any other specifics of potential trades. Therefore, we will have no comment on this selection until we have completed all trade discussions."

The trade was agreed upon Thursday afternoon, but can't be completed until July 8 when the Wizards will have the salary-cap room to take on Hinrich's $9 million salary for next season.

The Bulls will receive a future second-round pick in exchange.

Bulls consider draft-day moves

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The Bulls have the 17th pick in the NBA draft, but they are considering possibly packaging the pick with a player -- Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich -- to clear even more space for the upcoming free-agent spending spree.

The odds of the Bulls actually swinging a deal appear remote because it will be difficult to find a team willing to take on the big contract of Deng or Hinrich, but they will explore all possibilities.

The Bulls have talked with the Los Angeles Clippers about a deal that would send the 17th pick and Deng West for the 8th pick. The Clippers have the cap space to back the deal and they need a small forward, but whether they'd be willing to pull the trigger is the issue.

Even if the Bulls are unable to make a trade, they are well positioned for free agency. They can add two mega free agents -- as long as one of the players is acquired in a sign-and-trade deal.

Bulls to introduce Thibodeau next week

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The Bulls will hold a news conference next Wednesday to officially introduce Tom Thibodeau as the franchise's 18th head coach.

The Bulls decided to hire Thibodeau nearly two weeks ago, but had to wait until the NBA Finals concluded to make it official because Thibodeau remained as an assistant with the Boston Celtics through the completion of the Finals.

The Celtics came up just short, losing 83-79 to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The Thibodeau news conference will be carried live by CSN Chicago.

Izzo staying at MSU good news for Bulls

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With the NBA Finals extended to a Game 7 on Thursday, the Bulls will have to wait a little while longer before naming Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau as their next coach.

But the Bulls did get some good coaching news on Tuesday when Tom Izzo took himself out of the running for the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching vacancy and announced he was staying at Michigan State.

The fact that Izzo took so long to make a decision - he met with the Cavaliers brass last week - shows that he seriously considered making the jump to the NBA.

I believe Izzo would have made the move to Cleveland if he were confident Cavaliers star LeBron James was staying, but the fact that Izzo got no assurances - James declined to meet with him - is a good sign for the Bulls that James is seriously considering opting out of his contract and leaving the only team he's played for in his seven-year career.

Although the Cavaliers still are the favorites in the James sweepstakes, the chances remain high that he'll leave and the Bulls are his best option if he wants to jump to another team.

The free-agent period begins on July 1, but look for James to take his time before making a decision. It should make for an exciting recruiting period - and the Bulls will be right in the mix.

LeBron to make free-agent tour

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Anyone who expected LeBron James to announce on July 1 where he will play next season better think again. Things could drag for a while.

According to multiple media reports, James plans to make a tour when the free-agent period begins where he will visit the prospective cities and let them wine and dine him, so to speak.

The tour is expected to begin in New York with the Knicks followed by a short trip across the Hudson River to visit with the New Jersey Nets. From there, it's on to Chicago for a meeting with the Bulls. Other possible stops are Miami and Los Angeles (Clippers).

Regardless of how many stops are made, the tour will conclude in Cleveland where the Cavaliers will get an opportunity to make their pitch to keep James exactly where he is.

Whatever happens, it's a certainty the tour will become a spectacle.

Thibodeau rejects Hornets offer

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According to NBA sources, Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau informed the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday that he won't accept the team's head coaching job.

To reject a solid offer, Thibodeau must be confident he's in line for another head job. There's been speculation he might be the choice of the Celtics if Doc Rivers decides to step aside after the season. Rivers often has talked about wanting to spend more time with his family.

There's also the possibility that Thibodeau is confident he'll get the Bulls' job. Now that New Orleans is out of the picture, the Bulls can wait until after the NBA Finals to have a sit down with Thibodeau.

NBA Finals preview

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POINT GUARD -- Rajon Rondo has emerged as one of the best point guards in the NBA and is a major reason the Boston Celtics were able to upset the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. Los Angeles Lakers veteran Derek Fisher is a clutch performer and an emotional leader, but he'll be hard-pressed to stay in front of Rondo.
Edge: Celtics

SHOOTING GUARD -- Containing the Lakers' Kobe Bryant will be a team effort, but the Celtics don't like to double team, so the task of checking Bryant will fall mainly on Ray Allen. We'll see if the effort he'll have to give on the defensive end will affect Allen's offense.
Edge: Lakers

SMALL FORWARD -- To win the series, the Celtics will need Paul Pierce to be a big-time scorer. The reason the Lakers brought in Ron Artest is for such a situation. Let's see if he's up to the task.
Edge: Celtics

POWER FORWARD -- For much of the regular season, Kevin Garnett was limited by a sore knee, but regained his form in the playoffs. The Celtics will need a healthy Garnett to contend with the Lakers' Pau Gasol, who is a much better player now than when the teams met in the Finals two years ago.
Edge: Lakers

CENTER -- The Celtics' Kendrick Perkins is an emotional player, but he'll have to keep things in check because he's one technical foul away from a one-game suspension. The Lakers don't know how much they can get from Andrew Bynum, who has a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Edge: Celtics

BENCH -- With Bynum's iffy status, the Lakers really need Lamar Odom to be a force off the bench and look for Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown to get shots at Rondo. Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis and Tony Allen will be keys off the bench for the Celtics.
Edge: Even

COACH -- Doc Rivers has done a great job off the court getting the Celtics to play with a championship swagger despite their regular-season problems. But no coach does a better job of getting the best out of his players than Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Edge: Lakers

PREDICTION -- This is an evenly matched series with battle-tested performers on both sides. The difference will be the Lakers' home-court advantage.
Lakers in seven

LeBron to appear on 'Larry King Live'

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Free-agent-to-be LeBron James will make his first public comments in weeks when he appears on CNN's "Larry King Live" this week. The interview was expected to be taped on Tuesday and will air Friday night.

James hasn't made any public comments since the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics last month, fueling speculation that he will leave the Cavaliers.

It's doubtful James will make news during the interview -- he certainly won't say whether he'll leave Cleveland -- but he could provide some insight into what he's thinking right now.

Whatever happens, getting the interview with James figures to be a ratings coup for "Larry King Live."

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