Ben Gordon to Leave Bulls for Pistons


Jul 1

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Ben Gordon looks like he’ll get his money. But it seems unlikely he’ll see the playoffs for some time to come.

The Detroit Pistons Wednesday agreed to show Ben the money with a contract estimated at five years for $55 million, sources throughout the NBA and Detroit said. One source said it is slightly above that figure. The Pistons also got an agreement on a five year deal estimated from $35 million to $40 million from former Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva.

The Pistons by Wednesday afternoon had posted pictures of Gordon and Villanueva on their official team web site even though there is a moratorium on signings until July 8.

But NBA insiders were scratching their heads over the huge deals after the Pistons off loaded two much bigger talents, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, to make a splash in free agency.

The Pistons, who also are without a coach after firing Michael Curry and are said to be leaning toward hiring assistant John Kuester, now have a backcourt with the 6-1 Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton and perimeter type forwards in Tayshaun Prince and Villanueva.

Kuester is now considered the lead candidate and perhaps former Piston Bill Laimbeer. Former Bulls and Pistons coach Doug Collins was rumored as a candidate. Collins said Wednesday night, “I am not a candidate for the job.” Collins said he talked to Pistons GM Joe Dumars, but told Dumars he was not interested. Dumars had been pursuing Collins for weeks even though Michael Curry still was coach. Collins said contrary to reports he never contacted the Pistons or sought the job, but Dumars made several attempts to hire him. Former Mavs coach Avery Johnson also is said to be a candidate and has spoken with the Pistons. But sources close to Johnson say Johnson is uncertain about the situation.

The Pistons might have a chance to retain forward Antonio McDyess. But their front court is decimated with only Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiell and Walter Hermann.

The team makeup apparently is scaring off the bigger name coaches, though Collins declined to comment on the team personnel.

I would love to have seen the Bulls bring back Gordon. Apparently, Gordon just agreed to an offer from the Pistons without any negotiations with the Bulls. The Bulls, essentially, did not have a chance to match any offer if they had wanted to.

But you’d have to say a starting five of Derrick Rose, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah trumps whatever curious lineup the Pistons can muster, especially with the career under achieving Villanueva, who was recently released by the Bucks. And that’s a Bulls team that figures to have a fight for the playoffs.

OK, you say, if that’s the case why not go for Gordon and get into the luxury tax (which would have cost the Bulls more than $20 million in salary and penalties to match Gordon’s Detroit offer)? In addition to the hideous cost, the Bulls then—even if they could offload an expiring deal to move back under the tax line next season—would have been out of the running for a top free agent after next season.

Look, who knows if Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson or Dirk Nowitzki or Amar’e Stoudemire or even LeBron James would have any interest in the Bulls. But don’t you at least owe yourself the chance to find out? With Gordon back with this Bulls team, is that a championship level team? Isn’t this about trying to get there and not just winning 40-plus games?

I know Deng was out injured. But this was a .500 Bulls team out in the first round of the playoffs against a team without its best player. I have huge regard for Gordon. I wrote Monday he’s a unique talent whom I’d like try to keep. But you need to get much better, get another star. We know he’s not that.

But good for him.

He took a chance rejecting the Bulls contract offers of $50 million for five years in 2007 and $54 million for six years in 2008. Gordon said he did, finally, change his mind after initially rejecting the 2008 offer after it was pulled off the table and the Bulls declined to reinstate the offer.

That probably was the unofficial beginning of the end.

Gordon said he wanted to return to the Bulls. The Bulls said they wanted to bring Gordon back. Though it hardly seemed likely given the previous situations.

Gordon was a pro during his time with the Bulls. Though he complained at times of not wanting to be a sixth man, he remained professional and didn’t allow it affect his playing. Unless the Pistons trade Hamilton or Prince, Gordon looks like a sixth man in Detroit. After all, one of the big issues with former coach Curry was when he benched Hamilton for Allen Iverson and began to lose the team. And if Gordon starts with Stuckey, that’s an awfully small backcourt with a backup of another small guard, Will Bynum.

Pistons insiders say the team now is regarding Gordon as a sixth man given the current roster.

Gordon practiced often on his shooting, though remained mostly a loner around the team. At times when I’d travel with the team or stay at their hotel, I’d see the entire team leave on one bus from the hotel to the arena and then Ben the only player on the second bus with the broadcasters. Still, he was a popular and well liked teammate.

He had his shortcomings as a player, notably his lack of defense (hardly a great sin given what you see around the NBA) and tendency to monopolize the ball on offense. But he made big shots at big times and never retreated from the moment, not a common quality in the NBA.

Ben said his priority is winning. Look, it’s really having someone show him the money. There’s nothing wrong with that. I suspect most, if not all, of us would do the same. I know pro athletes generally always do that.

Plus, Ben was out of options. If he didn’t get a deal from the Pistons, he probably didn’t have one and would have had to sign a short term deal and probably go back in free agency again next summer. How many years can you challenge fate and win? Ben won. He got paid. A lot. Good for him. He’s done being a winner on the court. The Pistons are now locked in with long term deals for multiple players without having one star. It doesn’t work in the NBA. The Pistons are destined to fight to be around .500 for many years.

The Bulls, essentially, began to head in a new direction with the trade for John Salmons and Brad Miller. Salmons makes $5.5 million this season. He can opt out of his contract after next season. But as a “Bird” free agent, the Bulls can pay him the most and likely will after they exhaust their options in free agency when they have a chance to add a player at a maximum salary or close to that. And the Bulls should have a good nucleus in place to attract someone with Rose, Salmons, Deng, Noah and Kirk Hinrich. Perhaps one of the rookies shows something. It would have been nice to have Gordon as well. But then you wouldn’t have the money to be a player. At this point which would you rather do?

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