Jon Greenberg Blog: Cleveland Cavaliers
July, 11, 2014
By Jon Greenberg
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIWill LeBron James' decision to return to the Cavs make it easier for Carmelo Anthony to return to the Knicks?Tom Thibodeau rarely cops to focusing on one player or one game.
All wins are equal, he says.
So he probably won't admit that the Chicago Bulls have to build their team in reaction to LeBron James' league-shaking announcement that he's returning to Cleveland.
With James going back to the Central Division, the Bulls have to combat James' presence only four times a year. But those four games will be epic and could very well decide important playoff seeding.
Joakim Noah is getting excited for those playoff trips to Cleveland already.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. The Cavs are a much younger, unproven team than the past four Heat teams, but with a few veteran additions (Mike Miller, maybe Ray Allen), they should be the favorites in the East. David Blatt is a strong coach and Kyrie Irving should be an All-Star second banana. If the Cavs get, say, Kevin Love, as the rumor du jour hints, well, the Bulls are in serious trouble.
So how do the Bulls combat this new threat?
Well, first they're waiting on Carmelo Anthony. By the time you read this, we might know his choice, which is reportedly down to New York and Chicago, a factoid we knew all along.
I know the popular response to James' decision is to say Anthony should sign with the Bulls, because his arrival would leapfrog Miami in the all-important preseason buzz race.
But I'm thinking this decision spurs Anthony to make the decision he's been leaning toward all along: Stay in New York. After all, if James is essentially going at it alone (in terms of veteran SuperFriends) in a place he feels most comfortable, why can't Anthony do the same and hope Phil Jackson draws some All-Star talent in the coming year?
So back to my question: What do the Bulls do? Does adding the Spanish Armada in Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic make the Bulls good, or tough enough to handle the new Cavs? Or do the Bulls need to add more brawn? Thibs would probably say "both." He wants scoring and toughness, and about 80-82 wins.
So who's out there?
Does Lance Stephenson, too wild for Gar Forman's and John Paxson's usual tastes, become a serious target? The blowing-in-LeBron's-ear kerfuffle made Stephenson look like an idiot, but I love the spirit behind it. He's not afraid of anyone, and his arrival -- combined with Noah's popularity in Cleveland -- would ratchet up the rivalry.
Stephenson fits the Bulls, as a player, and as Jeff Van Gundy said on ESPN Chicago 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show Friday, "Tom Thibodeau would play a serial killer if it meant he could win games."
I've resisted touting Lance as an option, because I just don't see the BoringBulls front office going for him, and he'll take up most of their salary-cap space, but maybe now they should get aggressive and mix it up. Taj Gibson and Noah, fellow New Yorkers, could mentor him. Thibs would love Stephenson's defense.
Or how about good ol' Luol Deng? I haven't given his "return" much credence, after being disrespected (in his eyes) by the Bulls' take-it-or-leave-it offer last season. But he's had experience, and some success, going shoulder-to-shoulder with James.
People will talk about Dwyane Wade having a homecoming, but I don't see it. If he needs another full-season maintenance program, it's not worth it.
Is backup center a luxury anymore for the Bulls? The Cavs don't have much size as currently constituted, and the Bulls need to plan for their weaknesses. Hey, maybe the wild Aussie rookie Cameron Bairstow really will play this season!
One thing is for sure, LeBron James in Cleveland changes the complexion of the league and gives the Bulls a lot to think about in the coming days, weeks, months and years.
It's good to have you back in the Midwest, LeBron.