Ben Gordon Tells the Bulls Where They Can Go
Going to Europe makes sense for Ben Gordon. I don’t just say that because it’s become so fashionable for restricted free agents to take themselves out of the market in a year when there’s little salary cap space open, either.
As ESPN reported early this morning, Ben Gordon proclaimed that he’d played his last game as a Chicago Bull. They could trade him or he could go to Europe. By the sound of it, he’s just so fed up with what gives the face of rinky-dink organization, he just wants out. If you look back, Gordon’s always had a bad relationship with the Bulls. Coach Scott Skiles, not exactly a player relations guru, inserted and extracted Gordon from the starting line-up like a yo-yo. Inexpensive temporary replacement, I mean interim coach, Jim Boylan also wasn’t enough of a Gordon fan to start him. Yes, the Bulls were all talking about how important defense was to the team identity (of course, Michael Jordan is the team identity, but…) and Gordon is a pure scorer better suited to a west coast running team, so this might just have been a bad marriage.
To make matters worse, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Bulls GM John Paxson isn’t handling the negotiations, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is, with the help of player personnel director Gar Forman. It’s well publicized that Gordon felt jerked around by the extension offer last season, amid the rumors he was being traded for Kobe Bryant. If he’s still feeling like the Bulls are trying to lowball him into a multi-year deal because nobody outside the Grizzlies has salary cap space, he’s now going to feel that the owner is jerking him around. If that’s who he’s talking to, there’s hardly any way he couldn’t. Let’s not forget what happened when Reinsdorf got involved in the coaching search. Mike D’Antonio bolted for the Knicks almost immediately after talking to Reinsdorf. Then there’s the whole Doug Collins non-hire debacle. Reinsdorf in negotiations is more of a wildcard than Mark Cuban talking to a referee.
As Gordon notes in that interview/announcement, the number of players in the backcourt for the Bulls keeps getting bigger. This is a major reason why Gordon can’t sign a qualifying offer.
As the Bulls crashed and burned, Gordon didn’t have a particularly good year. Better than a lot of people, but not what he’s capable of. With a player revolt against two coaches (and management handled the coaching situation poorly) along side trade rumors that went on for months (again, a situation management handled poorly), you can see why that happened, but it doesn’t make it alright. It also hurts in negotiations.
However, if Gordon signs a 1-year qualifying offer, what incentive do the Bulls have to play him? Oh, prior to the trade deadline, you might want to showcase him for a trade. Get something out of him. But if he isn’t traded by deadline, you know he’s not coming back. Do you play him or do you allot more minutes towards developing Thabo Sefolosha? If you’re not in the play-off hunt, it will be development minutes every time, and who knows if the Bulls will be in the post-season?
The Bulls have Gordon riding pine at the end of the season, that’s two down years and he’s in real trouble when unrestricted free agency comes around. Period.
From Gordon’s perspective, either find a team that wants him and do a sign and trade deal or leave the country. Get the contract and get someplace that shows him some love. Or he goes to Europe for a year and paid a decent chunk of change by someone that he knows will play him, then comes back as a free agent in a year when more teams have cap space.
Now perhaps this is all negotiation and posturing, but I doubt it. It makes sense for Gordon to take this stance, since his negotiations have been futile for close to a year. It makes sense that the Bulls would initially attempt to base their offer on what this year’s no-cap-space market would be (if you completely ignore that, you get Allan Houston’s contract and look what that did to the Knicks). It doesn’t make sense for this to get so acrimonious, but it definitely has. This isn’t the year to dare a player to go to Europe.
Watch for some kind of trade or Gordon to watch National Lampoon’s European Vacation on the plane to his next gig.