Chicago Bulls: Jamal Crawford
“Back to where it all started,” Hill said with a smile.
It’s been a long time and a lot of shots since Crawford was a Chicago Bull. His last season here was 2003-04. Since then he’s made many return trips during his time as a Knick, Warrior, Hawk, Trail Blazer and now as a Clipper.
Not many guys on the Clippers probably remember Crawford’s time as a young gunning guard with the Baby Bulls. He said only graybeards Hill and Chauncey Billups brought it up for this trip.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team,” said Crawford, now an elderly 32 in his 13th NBA season.
CHICAGO -- Here's what we've learned in the past few days as far as the Bulls and potential upgrades to the roster go. Money talks, and most free-agent shooting guards have kept walking.
From the beginning, the Bulls knew it would be a tough sell to get a sought-after option to bite the bullet and accept less money than other teams offered. That has indeed proven to be the case.
On Saturday, another player who has been linked to the Bulls for months as a potential singing, decided to take more money and sign elsewhere. That player would be Jason Richardson, who reportedly decided to take a four-year deal worth $25 million dollars from the Orlando Magic, according to multiple outlets. The deal is expected to be finished by Monday.
The most the Bulls could have offered Richardson was the midlevel exception, which would have worked out to around $20 million over four years. The 30-year-old obviously felt as if this was his last chance to cash in on a big payday. What else could the reasoning be? The Magic are on the verge of losing Dwight Howard and the organization is nowhere near ready to win a championship. Obviously, Richardson isn't alone in wanting to cash in. Same goes for veteran swingman Caron Butler who recently agreed to a three-year, $24 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are an exciting team, but they aren't going to win a title this season. The Bulls are without question much closer to winning a ring, but the players didn't want to take a pay cut to be in Chicago.
Let's be clear: I'm not begrudging these players one bit for deciding to go for the money. An athlete only gets a few chances in his or her career to sign big contracts, so more power to these guys for getting the money when they can. The notion that the Bulls were going to land someone because they were willing to take less money to play in Chicago was always overblown. It's the same reason Jamal Crawford, who as Michael Wilbon pointed out last week, genuinely wants to play in Chicago, hasn't signed on the dotted line with the Bulls. He made almost $11 million last season, and now all of a sudden he's going to start making $5 million? The only way he was coming to the Bulls was if they worked out a sign and trade deal for him, which of course, would also give him more money. It appears that Crawford's chance to come back to Chicago has floated away for now.
That same logic likely will apply to Arron Afflalo and Nick Young. Would the Bulls like to have them? Sure. But their price tags were always going to be higher than the mid-level exception, plus the fact that there was never any guarantee they would end up with the Bulls even if they did sign an offer sheet. Both players are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams can match any offer the Bulls make.
Which brings us to Rip Hamilton, who has suddenly become the odds-on favorite to sign with the Bulls. Hamilton is a guy the Bulls have had interest in for a while and would have surely considered bringing in last season if he had been bought of his contract by the Detroit Pistons. He fills the two-guard need for the Bulls in a lot of areas. He can hit a mid-range jumper, play solid defense when needed and has experience in a championship atmosphere, having won an NBA championship with the Pistons.
So what happens next?
It's expected that it will take Hamilton around 48 hours to clear waivers. Another team could claim him, but that's doubtful given how much money is left on his contract. Once he clears waivers, the Bulls deal is expected to go down soon thereafter, contingent, of course, on whether the Bulls can come to a financial agreement with him. That doesn't figure to be much of an issue, because at age 33, the Bulls aren't expected to sign him to a multi-year deal, probably two at the max.
The question Bulls fans have is: At age 33 just how much gas does Hamilton have left in the tank? Can he revert back to his form in the mid 2000s when he was averaging almost 20 points a game? How much of an upgrade will he be over returning two guards Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer? Will Hamilton help the Bulls get past the Miami Heat if the two teams face off against one another in the Eastern Conference finals? All of these questions will be answered in time, the one answer the Bulls have at the moment is that compared to the other available options, the price was right for Mr. Hamilton.
So which one would be better suited to share the backcourt with Derrick Rose?
"I like Jamal better because Jason is a standing shooter, but Jamal can get his shot off the dribble," Charles Barkley said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Sometimes you don't get wide-open shots. You've got to be able to put the ball down. That's one of the things that hurt Kyle Korver. Teams don't leave him anymore, and he's not athletic enough to get his own shot. He's a great shooter, probably one of the five best shooters in the league because he's open. But he's not quick enough to get his shot off the dribble. That hurts them and it has hurt Jason at times. It hurt him here in Phoenix, and it hurt him in Orlando because he can't get his own shot and break a guy down.
"Jamal Crawford to me is a better fit in Chicago."
Charles Barkley joined "Waddle & Silvy" to discuss the nullified Chris Paul trade, the Bulls' options at shooting guard, Tim Tebow and more.
Well, NBA general managers know it, too. With win-now fanbases and demanding owners, some NBA decision-makers have no choice but to swing for the fences during free agency. Inevitably, they end up striking out from time to time.
It's not easy to stay rational under the gun, and with an accelerated free-agency period, every front office will feel like a pressure cooker. If history serves as a guide, there's bound to be some regretful deals handed out in the coming weeks.
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The answer is simple as far as Tom Thibodeau and his players are concerned. They're starting to play the type of defense that made them so good throughout the regular season.
"I think the edge was there," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "The word that you guys love to use. It was there tonight. Defensively, we had a lot of energy, guys coming in just playing hard."
"I thought our defense was great tonight," Bulls guard Kyle Korver said. "After the first game, when Johnson and Crawford went off on us, it showed us how good we have to be on defense. Even in that game, we were there, they just hit a lot of great shots. They're the type of guys that, once they hit a couple, they can just really get it going. I think we've done a great job of loading up to them, of taking away their strengths, of making other guys take shots that maybe they don't really want to take. And we're going to have to keep doing that."
No extra motivation: Much was made about Crawford's comments after Game 2, in which he said, "If that's their best shot, we're in good shape," but the Bulls didn't seem too concerned about them -- before or after Friday night's game.
"We're not really worried about what anybody else says," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "We're not worried about what the media says. We're just focused on our locker room and what we think of each other and what our coaches think. If we stick together through good times and through hard times, we feel like we'll have a better chance at this thing."
The Toe Show: Carlos Boozer only scored six points and grabbed six rebounds in 22 minutes of action on Friday night, fueling even more speculation that he should sit down -- but the veteran forward continues to say his toe doesn't feel any worse than it did before and he should remain on the court.
"It's about the same," he said after the game. "Just playing through it. Don't worry about my toe, I'm OK. We just care about winning, that's all we want to do."
The last word: "Thibs has preached one game at a time. We are brain-washed. One. Game. At. A. Time. One. Game ... We were in here just focused on Game 3. We did what what we had to do to win. Obviously we had to come back here and get at least one. But we'd like to get both. And now that's we've got Game 3, we can think about Game 4," -Korver, on his team's mindset heading into Game 4.
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