Talking points for the Bulls' pitch
July, 1, 2010
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com
When the Bulls sit down with LeBron James and unleash their recruiting pitch, each member of their traveling party -- Jerry Reinsdorf, Gar Forman, John Paxson and Tom Thibodeau -- has an important role to play. Each man must say all the right things and has to be able to convince the two-time MVP that Chicago is the right place for him to be. Let's take a look at a few talking points they must hit during their meeting ...
Jerry Reinsdorf: The Bulls' owner has developed a reputation nationally over the years as somewhat of a penny pincher. Whether that's a deserved moniker or not is a discussion for another time. As it pertains to this pitch, he's gone on record as saying that he would go into the luxury tax if it made sense. Well, nothing makes more sense than possibly adding the reigning two-time MVP and a player of his choosing. Reinsdorf must reassure James that he will do whatever it takes to help him win multiple rings. He has to tell him that he will go far into the tax to re-sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah when they become free agents, and he has to reassure him that he will spend enough money to surround him with the auxiliary pieces off the bench that title contenders are made out of.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJerry Reinsdorf will get a turn to pitch LeBron James on joining the Bulls.
After the basketball potion of the conversation is finished, Reinsdorf has to sell James on the idea that he can help the 25 year-old become the business force he's always dreamed of being. Reinsdorf has plenty of contacts in the business world and he must lay them out for James, much the same way new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov certainly will when he brings in Jay-Z for his face-to-face meeting with James.
Gar Forman and John Paxson: Both men have been part of the recruiting game before. Forman spent years recruiting kids in college, while Paxson was part of the Bulls' stealthy pitch to Kobe Bryant back in 2004. They need lay out their plan as to how they will build a title contender around LeBron. Sure, Rose, Noah, Deng and Gibson are in place, but who is the second free agent going to be? What happens if Chris Bosh decides to sign somewhere else? What is the backup plan? How are the Bulls going to fill up the rest of the bench? There's little doubt that Forman and Paxson have done their due diligence on all these scenarios, but they've got to lay out a clear plan of all the different possibilities. They have to make it clear from the outset how much of a say James will have in personnel decisions, if at all, and they have to make sure he is comfortable with whatever decision that may be.
Tom Thibodeau: The new coach has developed a reputation around the league as being one of the most well prepared assistants that there is. But as we all know, being an assistant and being the head man are two completely different things. Thibodeau must project an image towards James that makes the All Star believe that he can help push him over the hump and get him a title, much the same way Phil Jackson did for Michael Jordan. Thibodeau, a basketball lifer, must demonstrate to James that he has enough knowledge of the game to be able to break down LeBron's game and make him even better than he is now.
Thibodeau also has to be able to show James that he knows to make all the pieces fit. What kind of system does he plan to run? How would a team with James and Rose work exactly? What kind of offensive sets will they run at the end of games and who will be taking the ball up the floor? Rose would definitely be the most talented player James has ever played with, but both players have always seemed to need the ball in order to be successful, what is Thibodeau going to do that would please both guys when the game is on the line?
More than anything else, Reinsdorf, Forman, Pax and Thibodeau must show a completely united front to James. They have to make him believe that the Bulls give him the best chance to win now and in the future, and they have to make him understand that the Chicago braintrust will stand behind him for years to come. Each man knows what's at stake and each man knows that they must deliver in order to land the most prized free agent piece of them all.