By John Schmeelk
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I wrote words yesterday that were designed to comfort Oklahoma City fans that were distraught their team was heading back to Dallas trailing three games to one. The team is in great position to not only be back next year, but be much improved. The Bulls have no such hope.
Bulls GM Gar Forman very well might have doomed the Bulls to bridesmaid status to the Heat for the foreseeable future, and it all comes back to his work in the offseason. Once the Chicago pipe-dream of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh fell by the wayside, they decided to use their cap space on Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Kurt Thomas, Omer Asik, Keith Bogans and trade for Ronnie Brewer. That's virtually the same amount of money the Knicks used to acquire Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Roger Mason and Timofey Mozgov. You tell me which team got the better bang for their buck.
The one clear thing that anyone can take out of this series is that the Bulls simply don't have enough offensive firepower to stay with a team like Miami. Every one of those players, except for Kurt Thomas, has been in the Bulls rotation this series. In fact, the Bulls underachieving offense can be traced back to those players acquired by Forman in the offseason. Asik has a chance to get better but the other players in the group are never going to develop into much more than what they already are. It's also important to remember that Chicago traded Kirk Hinrich on draft night just to free up money that would eventually be used to sign some of these players. Wouldn't he look good in a Bulls uniform in this series? He would spread the floor and help Derrick Rose on both ends of the floor more than any of these other players.
Much like the Knicks, Chicago arranged their offseason to have room for two near max deals, hoping to bring in two stars to put around Derrick Rose. It didn't work, and Bulls wound up with an underachieving Carlos Boozer and a bunch of below average role players. Even worse, with Joakim Noah's new contract, and Derrick Rose's inevitable new deal, they will be capped out for the foreseeable future with little hope for improvement. It shows that while it is important to get cap space, it is even more important to use it properly. The Bulls set themselves up wonderfully, but completely whiffed on their execution. Now they are trapped with very little flexibility moving forward.
The worst thing a franchise can do is overpay mediocre players. Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer made about $10 million combined this year. Worth it? Carlos Boozer made $16M? I can't even ask the question, it's so laughable. Even funnier is the fact Forman was given the Co-Executive of the Year award with Pat Riley for his work this offseason. So the man that had about $30 million to put winning players around the league MVP and came up with this sad sack of underachievers deserves an award? Hilarious!
In fact, Forman can be blamed for the Bulls failings this series as much as the coach and the players. He had a brutal offseason, missing a true opportunity to turn the Bulls into a juggernaut. It's an opportunity he might never have again while Derrick Rose is on the team. Now Chicago will have to figure out how to win a title with Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer as their second and third best players. Good luck. Bulls fans have some frustrating years ahead of them (50 wins and no titles), and they only have one man to thank – Gar Forman!
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I implored both Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau to adjust their games the last couple days, and we saw some changes from both in Game 4, but it just wasn't enough. It's quite possible that no matter what adjustments they made, the Bulls supporting cast is too feeble and the Heat defense too good to score in the 90's. Once again, the Bulls were staring 85 points in the face at the end of regulation. It's impossible to win that way. They couldn't find shots in the final two minutes when the Heat switched LeBron James onto Derrick Rose. It was ugly.
This should be a good learning experience for both superstar and coach. Rose has already figured out he will have to expand his game and figure out how to be effective when teams collapse on his penetration and don't let him get to the basket. He can do this with a midrange jumper or distributing better. Tom Thibodeau should realize he could fall into the Mike Brown and Jeff Van Gundy traps, two great defensive coaches that simply weren't innovative enough on the offensive end to squeeze enough out of their teams to win championships. It will be a tough road for both men considering the sub-par pieces around Rose, but they'll be a contender most years, with the Heat standing between them and a Championship. It will be a fun rivalry to watch.
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In terms of Dallas and Oklahoma City tonight, I think the Thunder will come out with a lot of energy, but once the Mavericks settle in, the Thunder will slowly fade away. I have no doubt Dirk Nowitzki has talked to his team about blowing large series leads, and the importance of putting talented teams like the Thunder away as early as possible. The Mavericks will do that tonight in Game Five.
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