Monday, July 23, 2012
Bulls bench getting complete overhaul
By Nick Friedell
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls revamped roster is going to take shape this week and it will start when the organization formally declines to match Omer Asik's $25.1 million offer sheet with the Houston Rockets.
The Bulls are expected to sign former Hornets sharpshooter Marco Belinelli.
While there has been no official statement yet from team officials, it's clear from their corresponding moves that they are thinking long term and are struggling to come to grips with taking a $15 million cap hit on Asik, who was the Bulls’ backup center the past two seasons, in the final year of his deal. That's why they have been in contact with veteran center, and Chicago native, Nazr Mohammed.
Declining the Asik offer, which after several weeks of waiting on the Bulls have now seen, and locking up Mohammed isn’t the only change the Bulls will make. Veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich already signed a two-year deal worth just over $6 million Next, the Bulls are expected to sign veteran Marco Belinelli, according to a league source. Multiple reports over the weekend indicated that Belinelli and the Bulls were discussing terms of a deal, and while the terms are still being finalized, the Bulls are expected to sign Belinelli to the bi-annual exception, thus putting them in a hard cap for this season. The Bulls would still have the ability to add minimum salaried players to fill out their bench, but the vaunted Bench Mob, which became such a staple over the team's success over the past two years, would have a completely different look to it.
Taj Gibson will likely be the only returning member of that group. Kyle Korver was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks last week for a trade exception. C.J. Watson was waived and signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Ronnie Brewer was told his option was not being picked up and still has not signed with another team. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported last week that John Lucas III is on the verge of inking a new deal with the Toronto Raptors. Second-year swingman Jimmy Butler is expected to fill Brewer's role and has been performing well in summer league action.
Hinrich is expected to start at point guard while Derrick Rose recovers from knee surgery. Vladmir Radmanovic was signed to a veteran's minimum deal to give the Bulls another shooter at the end of the bench. Rookie Marquis Teague is expected to be given a chance to play early next season with Rose out, depending on what kind of point guard the Bulls can land to fill out the rest of the roster.
While the organization hasn't come out and said they are in a holding pattern for the next couple seasons, it appears they are building towards making a push at the free agency class two summers from now. At that point, Luol Deng's contract comes off the books and Carlos Boozer figures to be amnestied. Those two moves would give the Bulls $30 million of free cap space as the team tries to go after another major star to pair with Rose either via trade or free agency. Aside from Rose, the only other players on the Bulls roster then figure to be Joakim Noah, who signed a five-year, $60 million dollar extension which kicked in last season; Gibson, who is already in the process of discussing an extension with the Bulls which figures to earn him close to $8 million a year; and Butler and Teague, both of whom will still be under rookie contracts. The Bulls could also decide to bring foreign import Nikola Mirotic over to the NBA if both sides feel he is ready, or package some of those assets, along with a Charlotte Bobcats first-round pick from the Tyrus Thomas deal, to acquire another star.
What's clear at this point is that the Bulls roster, one which had so much stability over the past two seasons, is going to look much different than it did a year ago as the team waits for Rose to recover.