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Is it time for the Bulls to make a Deal? Should this be the One?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 15
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
So you think it’s easy to be an NBA general manager. I know, I know. I do it all the time. But I also get frustrated emails condemning John Paxson and demanding someone else. No one ever says exactly who. But why sweat the details.
OK, here’s a good one, and just what do you do?
The Bulls looked very good Wednesday night in Toronto, moving the ball, unselfish, hustling on defense, getting 33 assists on 40 baskets, running and being active. A lot of it had to do with the return of Kirk Hinrich, as someone finally could get Derrick Rose off the floor and not have the team grind to a halt and also allow Rose to move off the ball and make some plays.
So what also happens Wednesday night: Portland point guard Steve Blake, who has been one of the major parts of their first half solid play, suffers a separated shoulder in Portland’s blowout loss in Philadelphia. Blake always was something of a stopgap, though he has been very good this season. And the Trailblazers, particularly general manager Kevin Pritchard, a star guard at the U. of Kansas, also has been a big fan of Hinrich, who somewhat later was a star guard at the U. of Kansas.
The Bulls and Trailblazers have danced around a deal involving Hinrich for some time, though there’s never been anything even remotely close.
So wouldn’t this be the time for Portland to make a move as they contemplate whether to start rookie Jerryd Bayless or Sergio Rodriquez? And Portland is a team with loads of young players and a chance for the Bulls to begin making moves toward building that nucleus around Rose.
Though Hinrich has looked awfully good, allowed the Bulls to get Larry Hughes off the floor and injected some missing spirit back into the Bulls. Even enabled coach Vinny Del Negro Wednesday to yank Ben Gordon after some defensive miscues knowing Hinrich was available.
The question that has been hanging over the Bulls has been whether they can move forward with plans to pursue free agents with Hinrich making $10 million, essentially as a backup. That’s too costly for a team without enough defined starters. Yet, Hinrich can be insurance if the team loses Gordon as a free agent or decides to let him go. Can Hinrich be a starting shooting guard alongside Rose? All good questions.
Pritchard Wednesday told the Portland Oregonian: “As of right now, I do (want to stand pat). No question. We don’t want to rush to judgment on our players. I don’t want to make a mistake giving up on a player when you don’t know how good they can be. I’m not a big proponent of in-season trades. Plus, I want some consistency in our franchise. I want this group to grow together. And I lean more to giving guys opportunities to show what they can do.”
Of course, that means basically nothing since general managers hardly reveal their plans to newspapers.
I have no doubt the Trailblazers would love to get Hinrich, who is an upgrade from Blake and would be a nice fit with Brandon Roy as Hinrich also plays off the ball and is a good defender. Hinrich could help fill out a young team that Pritchard has said is a few years away. Why not do it now?
But would it be too much of a risk at this time for the Bulls?
You figure the deals would look something like this if the teams decided to move: Hinrich for Bayless, who would be protection for the loss of Gordon and who really isn’t a point guard but a scorer, Channing Frye, a young big man rarely used in Portland and Ike Diogu, almost never used. Diogu is one of those undersized tough forwards in the mold of guys who have done well lately like Carl Landry, Brandon Bass and Paul Millsap.
The Trailblazers have a ridiculous excess of young players with Martell Webster still to return and Rodriguez rarely playing. Diogu and Frye have expiring contracts and Bayless is a rookie, so they Bulls could clear cap room for free agency and get a look at some young bigs. Maybe you go for Blake, even though he is out, as he’d be an ideal inexpensive backup for Rose. And Portland has some low, extra first round picks you might get.
Perhaps you expand the deal to include Larry Hughes and get Raef LaFrentz, whose contract expires after this season, freeing up salary cap space as well. Maybe you involve Joel Pryzbilla, who doesn’t figure to be part of that Portland future, but is a tough big man who can give you some physical presence.
I’ve got to assume Pritchard will be talking with the Bulls among several teams. Earl Watson? He’s in trade talk every month. But you figure Pritchard would love to get the fellow Kansas kid on his side. If you are the Bulls, can you afford to let Hinrich go knowing the effort and unselfishness he brings? And you are not necessarily getting back players of equal ability, but pieces for the future as well as potential payroll flexibility.
Not as easy as it seems.