Let the Gordon/Hinrich Debate Begin


May 3

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BOSTON–Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 33 points, though shooting just seven of 23 from the field in the Bulls 109-99 Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics Saturday in this NBA playoff opener.

Kirk Hinrich finished with 16 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter as the Bulls tried to rally for the comeback win and actually got within three with 5:39 left when Hinrich hit Gordon for a pullup three to tie which was blocked by Paul Pierce. The Bulls never were closer than five after that.

Gordon is a an unrestricted free agent while Hinrich has three years left on a five-year $47.5 million contract. It ends after the 2011-12 season. It’s likely, though not certain, that only one of them will return to the team the next season. That’s because with Derrick Rose the starting point guard for the future, it’s questionable whether the team’s salary structure could support a new deal for Gordon and Hinrich’s contract. John Salmons has just one year left on his contract at about $5.5 million. He has an opt-out after next season he’s likely to take and the Bulls figure to want to bring him back. It seems unlikely they could satisfy all three with finances and playing situations.

“I really don’t know (what will happen),” said Gordon. “I’m just going to have to wait and see what my options are. See what the Bulls want to do and go from there. I’d like to be here. I wanted to be here the last two summers, too, and it didn’t happen. So you never know.”

Gordon turned down a five-year $50 million offer before the 2007-08 season when both he and Luol Deng were seeking bigger deals. Deng accepted a $71 million, six-year extension (though much was deferred) before this season. Gordon rejected an estimated $54 million, six-year offer before this season. Gordon said he later had changed his mind, though the Bulls had pulled the offer by then.

“I think this team has a lot of potential,” said Gordon. “If the whole team is back it will give us a full year to really gel and we’ll continue get better and we’ll have a way better season than we did this year. My goal is I want to win. That’s what’s going to be my motivating factor. There’s the business side, though.

“I think we’re a lot better now,” Gordon said. “We really got a boost when those two guys (Brad Miler and John Salmons) came. I think they fit in perfectly with what we’re trying to do here. If we have Luol back and helping us we’ll definitely be one of the best teams in the East.

“It’s up to my agent now,” said Gordon. “I can’t do anything until July 1. Just got to see what happens from here.”

Asked about the bitter negotiations the past two summers, Gordon said:

“At the end of the day, it’s a business. I’m able to put my feelings aside. If there’s animosity the organization needs to be able to do the same thing. This is not kids in the playground arguing. This is a business. They need to sit down and figure something about. If there’s nothing to figure out, just move on and do something else.”

As for Hinrich, he’s heard plenty of trade rumors and said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen this summer. I’d love to play my whole career with Chicago. I grew up a Bulls fan. I love it here. I absolutely love the town. But I don’t know if that’s realistic. We’ll see what happens.”

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