- Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist
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A message to Gar Forman: DO NOT TOUCH.
Please don't touch or do anything that would have any significant impact on this team.
We all know that it's almost by nature that general managers make serious changes or drastically "tweak" their teams in the offseason if they don't win their last game, but just once let this team be the exception to that rule. Gar, you've gotta let this one ride.
All you have to do is revisit this: Down by 18 to up by six at the end of the half. Press replay: Down by 18 to up by six at the end of the half. On the road. In an elimination game. With only two players in the starting lineup who were in the starting line up to begin the season. Against the defending (and possibly repeating) world champs.
That, to me, says it all. That, to me, is all you need to know.
That, to me, is why this team needs to stay intact. Not the team that took the floor in the final game of the season, I'm talking about the roster. At least, 12/14ths of it.
The way this team played throughout the playoffs showed everyone something that no one thought was possible. Hell, just as Jonathan Hood said, them "fighting through the overall loss of interest from the city with Derrick Rose not being there" is enough to garner respect due.
Their final 12-game run proved that if healthy and if given a chance, they can do way more than just compete for an NBA championship.
Gar, they earned the right to not be touched. Give them that for just one more season. Just one. Spend a few dollars to keep Nate and Marco. Maybe try to get someone to back up Noah who can play more minutes during the season than Nazr just so Jo's not worn out by April. Tell "Buckets" the starting two-spot is his. Tell Rip if he can do half of what he did in Game 5 last night coming off the bench for you next season, you'll find an executive position inside the organization for him. Let Taj know you still believe in him, but he's gotta play like he did when his contract was on the line. Add an extra team physician just in case this "bad luck" decides to hang around the team any longer.
In all seriousness, this team has given you -- us! -- a reason to continue this dream disguised as a two-season nightmare. They've earned the right to stay together one more year. They've earned the right to see this whole plan out. Because if/when healthy and all in ... dude!
All I'm saying here -- and I've had this conversation/argument with many people throughout the playoffs who feel you need to take some heed to what Reggie Rose was trying to say -- is that we've only really seen this team fully loaded and at full-strength once in the playoffs. And the same thing happened then that happened now: Miami got them in 5.
But what you have now was a much more difficult team for the Heat to beat than the one that lost in 2011. This squad is so much less one-dimensional.
The Five: Derrick. Jimmy. Noah. Booz. Deng.
The Next: Kirk. Nate. Taj. Rip. Marco.
The Extra: Elena Delle Doone.
The fight, desire, heart, soul, inspiration and pride will not change. It's going nowhere. They may even be hungrier and play harder next year out of some purposely false directed belief that this season was stolen from them; that these playoffs were supposed to be when they shook up the basketball world.
Which they did. But next season, they should have the opportunity to also win more games in that process.
If you know anything about this city (and Gar, I know you do), you know that we covet and love being associated with championships. But more important than that, we love being looked at and associated with teams that represent what we feel as a city represents us, who we are and what we to the core stand for.
What I'm saying is that here, in Chi, we'll take character over championships. All day, every day and twice on Sundays. As Noah said after the loss, "It's always about winning and losing, but I'm really proud of the character of this team." And it has been a long time since we've had a team 1) go out as strong as these Bulls just did and 2) represent who we are so well.
This team gave us all something to remember, hold on to and hope for over the summer. Gar, the least you can do is honor that by letting them stay together.
You said to me at the last game, "If you ever need anything." Well, I'm calling that in. I need you to -- for just one more season -- see what happens. Don't touch this squad, let it be, let it breathe.
I'm asking of you for the moment to not be a GM, just be a fan who witnessed something special and would like the chance to possibly see it again without corporate, medical or physical interruption.
If next year they aren't playing games in June, then tear it up. If another ACL is blown, if another foot gets plantar fasciitis, if another emergency spinal tap is needed, if another calf is severely bruised, if LeBron goes another 120 minutes in a playoff series against you without having a foul called on him, at least you can say that you gave this band of brothers a fair shot at doing something special.
More special than what they just did.
And at the end of the day, as a believer in what we've just seen from them, I think they're entitled to that.
9dMatt Walks, ESPN.com