CHICAGO – ‘Twas the night before free agency, and the excitement here is a bit dull.
That’s not the case everywhere. Rumors are stirring as NBA players without a team are scurrying across the country looking for their next team. It draws a lot of talk on social media as the chance for a team to gain or lose a fortune hangs in the balance at 12 A.M. EST.
Here in Chicago, the excitement is tempered.
Dating back to the early post-Jordan years the Bulls have rarely been a player in the free agent market. There have been attempts to lure free agents to Chicago (Tracy McGrady in 2000, LeBron James in 2010) and occasional success (Pau Gasol in 2014). Mostly there are underwhelming signings (Ron Mercer 2000, Ben Wallace 2007) or minor signings that build the team up slowly.
Don’t expect much to be different this year as general manager Gar Forman plans to look inward before take a peak out as he tries to “retool” the Bulls after the team missed the playoffs last season.
“The first thing we will want to do is talk to our own free agents,” said Forman-and that’s slim pickings at the moment.
Joakim Noah is all but gone to New York per a number of reports surfacing before the beginning of free agency. Pau Gasol has opted out of his $7.7 million dollar player option and almost certainly won’t return.
That’s leaves guards Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore as current players left to decide whether to sign or now.
The latter is the most interesting for Bulls fans. Moore, a native of East Chicago, saw a jump in his production during the 2015-2016 season as he started 22 games for the Bulls and provided some scoring punch when Jimmy Butler was out with a knee injury.
Most of that was in February when Moore average 13.1 points per game in just under 32 minutes of action-both his highest totals of the season.
“He’s a guy that has grown in our program and we think very highly of,” said Forman, mentioning Moore specifically when talking about retaining the team’s own free agents.
There is one variable: The possibility of a salary cap approaching or exceeding $100 million. That could free up the Bulls to spend a little more money if they wish to try to make a surprise move on a free agent.
While the team’s current “retool” position would still make that unlikely, Forman wouldn’t completely rule out a surprise.
“I don’t know if anybody knows what to expect with a spike in the cap,” said Forman. “I think it’s going to be a pretty fluid period. With that said, we like the group that we have put together and I think we are headed in the direction we talked about the other day as far as beginning to get younger, more athletic and retool this roster to a certain extend.”
So again, Bulls fans, don’t hold your breath when 11:59 PM turns to Midnight on this July 1st.