When was the last time the Chicago Bulls had an every-time-down scorer, someone through which the offense could flow -- perhaps not a player integral enough to touch the ball every time down, but enough of a threat to remain present in the corner of every defender's eye, no matter the situation?
When was the last time the Bulls possessed a player with punishing -- forget "punishing," I'd stoop so low as "noteworthy" -- offensive capability? Hell, when was the last time a Bull commanded a double-team? When was the last time an opposing coach was forced to focus his entire defensive gameplan around stopping a single Bulls player? Hmm?
How about the last time you could call a Bull anything more than a complimentary offensive player?
Think about it. And I don't mean the cliché; I mean really think about it. Like, take a second if you need it. Go 'head, I'll wait.
A while, right? It's fine if you couldn't put your finger on it, though; what with offenses run through Luol Deng, Eddy Curry and Jalen Rose clouding your memory like some awful, suffocating nightmare, I'll let your memory's hesitation slide. Call it a mulligan.
It's been a decade, actually. The answer is 1998, and the guy wore #23 -- you may have heard of him.
Consider a few things: (A) It's been pretty damn long since the Bulls last caressed the Larry O'Brien trophy; last they did it, a player of aforementioned offensive capability led the way. (Read: the last time we won, we had an offensive stud! Coincidence? Hardly.) (B) The recent Baby Bulls era came to an abrupt, screeching halt and never proceeded past the playoffs' second round due wholly to the utter lack of a consistent, every-time-down, 25-a-night scorer. (C) Last month, the Bulls defied karma, all sorts of odds and the ever-spiteful basketball gods to finagle the #1 pick in this upcoming Thursday's draft.
Now that you've considered, allow me to pose a question: If I assured you all of the above were true, and that a scorer still hot-to-the-touch from one of the more impressive seasons yet witnessed by the college basketball world was readily available for the Bulls at the first pick, and that he'd solve nearly every problem plaguing the team since their last championship, AND it appeared as though the Bulls were about to pass on him ... how quickly would you dismiss me as raving lunatic? An instant? Half? You'd have to think I was a few fries short of the ol' Happy Meal; you'd just have to. It's too far-fetched, you'd say; no organization would dip so far into the depths of stupidity; no organization could leave such a hanging breaker un-whalloped ... or at least you'd hope so.
But, at a certain point, you begin to realize your fervent hoping does little to alter a situation's likely horrific reality. There he stands, the 6-9 (6-8, 6-7, 6-10, whatever) behemoth from Kansas State, potential a-plenty, ready and willing to bring the Bulls back to relevance ... and it appears as though he'll be donning a different uniform.
Talk about a botched layup.
You'd really, really like to think Bulls' brass would be looking B-Easy Thursday night, but common sense is hardly John Paxson's modus operandi. While I've come to accept this unfortunate reality as an unavoidable truth -- sort of my own little death and taxes, really -- by no stretch of the most flexible imagination will I cease my trademark pre-emptive bitching, especially not so with such a pivotal do-or-most-certainly-die situation rapidly approaching.
Fear not, Bulls' faithful! Whether or not all hope has been lost, I will never cease complaining!
The big w-h-y: Beasley and not Rose
I've heard all about Derrick Rose. He's the next Deron Williams -- maybe even Jason Kidd. He's going to be the next top-flight point guard in a league going the way of top flight point guards. He's once in a generation. He's Chris Paul in '05 all over again.
Fantastic. Kid should be an all-star in a few years.
I've heard all about his athleticsm. Hell, scratch "heard," I've seen it. He can out-leap even the lankiest of athletic forwards; blow past and rattle the ankles even the quickest of defenders; hit eye-popping floaters and fell even the tallest of trees in the lane; sink even the most difficult and contested of jumpshots; wiggle a pass through even the most clogged and otherwise invisible of passing lanes.
Sweet. Kid's a stud.
I've heard all about his Chicago roots. He's played his entire life -- save last season -- in the Windy City. He grew up a Bulls fan, cheering on during the dynasty years. He's said he would like nothing better than to bring the team back to that level of play, to be the city's new jump-shootin', oop-tossin', high-flyin' hero. He's a winner.
Good. Kid's got some heart.
He's said he'll be devastated if the Bulls pass on him.
Devastate him then.
Simply put, Rose's ceiling is about as high as any draft prospect within the realms of my memory. He's been projected as high as Isiah Thomas and as "low" as Chris Paul -- not a bad range, in even the most pessimistic of books. He'd look great in a Chicago uni, would flourish under what will likely be a fast-paced, run n' gun, Del Negro offense, and would take little time in knocking Devin Hester from his comfortable perch as Chicago's most beloved athlete.
All that, and I'm still pullin' for Beasley?
You better believe it, buster.
It's not a matter of Derrick Rose's potential or talent, (that much is for certain). It's not a matter of how badly he'd like to play for his hometown team, (much like, as he's said, Lebron James). It's not a matter of his collegiate, high school and AAU accomplishments, (only a handful of losses at all levels combined, each allegedly moving him near to tears). It's not a matter of the great leadership we've heard so much about. It's not about the fact that he's a centerpiece waiting to happen, either.
No, like many other potential Bulls' transactions, it's simply a matter of John Paxson's incomparably inconceivable inabilities.
Intrigued? Follow along!
Should the Bulls select Beasley -- the more unlikely of the two scenarios, or so it appears at this point -- you can pencil in the Bulls for a playoff spot immediately. In a lean-as-Alexei-Ramirez East (count Boston, Detroit, Orlando, and maybe Toronto as for-sure's) a nine-man rotation of Hinrich (rejuvenated with a new coach and motivated others surrounding him), Gordon and Deng (happily re-signed and finally able to thrive in their ideal roles as complementary players), Beasley (finally, the team's go-to scorer, good for 25 and 12 a night, not to mention a double team to free up Gordon and Hinrich), and Drew Gooden (I'd say a 12 and 8 -- solid enough), a slowly-blossoming Ty Thomas, a better-than-you-think Thabo Sefolosha, Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah off the bench will absolutely compete -- and, the Beasley addition aside, without any sort of necessary retooling or refiguring.
One move, two words from David Stern and the Bulls are on the way back. Isn't that the idea? Back to the playoffs, AQAP? (Or does 5-7 years of losses and rebuilding sound too appealing?)
Now, with Beasley, the Bulls are far from a championship team -- right away, at least. The aforementioned lineup is good for a 5 or 6 seed in the East -- talented enough to compete on a nightly basis, not to mention enough to take pressure of Del Negro as he tests the waters. It's the ideal lineup for the situation in which Paxson's placed the team: far from a white-flag-waving wreck looking ahead to the '09 lotto already, but also, (more importantly, too) a roster mercifully free of cap-crushing veterans (hypoethetically signed in the hopes of winning a championship within a 1-3 year window), allowing the young bucks to sort out the kinks, get some miles on the odometer, and gear up for a run in a handful of years. Sounds good to me!
(After flushing any chance the Bulls had at a championship down the proverbial toilet with the Scott Skiles' firing last December, it's simply astounding Paxson -- with one convenient transaction -- could find his team in a situation referred to as ideal (this soon afterwards) by anyone! And this could be it! Ifs, ands & buts need not apply! What could be better ... er, luckier?)
Seems simple enough, right? Add Beasley, and we're on our way back, right? Ah, but Pax and I hardly see eye-to-eye, and to say we see things rather differently would qualify as one of the grosser understatements ever uttered.
With Rose as the pick, it'll take a good deal of Paxson-orchestrated configuration to bring the Bulls back into the playoff picture.
(If that sentence doesn't frighten you, a re-reading may be in your best interest. Pants wet now? Okay, we're on the same page.)
Should the Bulls select Rose, the Bulls' journey back to relevance will be the responsibility of the same man who (deep breath..) nixed an easy-as-pie Kobe Bryant deal (because Deng and Gordon were untouchable); couldn't pull the trigger on Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol swings; sent the oop-finisher-extraordinaire Tyson Chandler to New Orleans for PJ Brown and JR Smith, (only to send the offensive explosion waiting-to-happen in Smith packing a day later); believed an 18-year old, raw-then, project-now like Ty Thomas to be more worthwhile than the now-flourishing and then-polished LaMarcus Aldridge, and ... y'know, I'll stop there. It hurts, really, more than you know. (And besides, those airballs of transactions should suffice.)
Put simply, I don't trust Paxson to retool the team -- as will be necessary should Rose don a Bulls cap Thursday night. Maybe you do. Maybe you trust the same man that, not long ago, signed Ben Wallace (yep, him -- fiendish hustler and leader extraordinaire) to a 4 year, $52 million deal, trusting him to be the leader and scorer the Bulls so desperately sought. (Now that's foresight!)
Doesn't that seem a little too much like asking the suspected child molester across the street to babysit your cherubic toddler?
Now, the only scenario in which you're a Bulls fan and you're pulling for Rose (distressingly common, I've found) is if you believe the addition of Rose to be enough to bring the Bulls back. Perhaps you believe the team as is -- plus Rose, naturally -- is not in dire need of massive reconstruction. Perhaps you think a lineup of Rose/Gordon/Deng/Gooden and Noah (oh, the offense!) will suffice.
I'd love to disagree. With Rose...
1) Kirk Hinrich will have to be dealt. The backcourt's too small for them both. In an unsurprising development, it appears as though the market isn't exactly starving for an adequate defensive guard coming off a career-worst offensive year due $11 million next season. If Rose is taken, Kirk and his handful of years as team captain and fan favorite will be sent packing, and little will be recieved in return. Now, does Rose make up for that? Short term, perhaps; long term, certainly. But the potential changes don't stop there ...
2) Ben Gordon and Luol Deng will have to resume their roles as scorers; roles in which they've floundered miserably over the course of their relatively disappointing (remember, these are top 10 draft picks) careers. Both claim streakiness among their chief assets, and both are certainly prone to the occasional 30-point outing, but, please, remember the past few seasons: neither can sustain the scoring outbursts or remain hot long enough to support the team in the midst of scoring struggles -- both of which a go-to guy should be more than capable. With Gordon and Deng shouldering the scoring load (Rose will spring for a big night once in a while, too) the team will struggle to stay afloat. Disagree? Trust Gordon and Deng? Cool, my common sense and I will be over here, and you can go watch some gametapes from the past two seasons, mmkay? Sounds good.
3) Without Beasley occupying the power forward slot, Paxson will have to swing for a post ... again. Hey, maybe the Ben Wallace, PJ Brown and Joe Smith experiments were hits in your book, and the thought of another aging veteran starting at the 5 on opening night gives you butterflies like nobody's business, but there are those of us with a decent number of brain cells, not to mention a slightly more acute sense of the absurd. Seriously, those three inconceivable busts, and now the mere thought of more? It's been made rather clear: Pax is at his worst when it comes to piecing together a bumbling frontcourt -- you're going to trust him now, after he's swung and missed thrice?
As stated earlier, it's not a matter of Rose's talent, his potential number of all-star appearances, his likely stabilizing effect on a rather unstable team, or the manner in which he'll storm Chicago -- you'll see more Rose jerseys in a year than Hester, Fukudome and Konerko (the most popular, by my count) combined. It's not a matter of Rose being more talented than Beasley, either.
Simply put, if Rose is taken, it's on Paxson (Paxson!) to place pieces around him and to give Del Negro a chance to eventually succeed. Conversely, with Beasley, the team is on its way back in a heartbeat; the players finally allowed to relax in their preferred roles (complementary ones) as Beasley shoulders the load and leads the team back to the playoffs and to respectability. I believe Beasley to be capable of that -- his lone thoroughly magnificent season at the college level should be enough indication for you, as well.
It's a matter of John Paxson -- always has been, (and as long as he's making the moves), always will be.
Back to the start
After desperately (and fruitlessly) searching for a consistent scoring presence the past few seasons, you'd think -- with an absolute stud falling directly into his lap -- Paxson could finally get one right. Unfortunately, it appears as though this gimme putt will rim out in a fashion rather similar to those before it.
All signs indicate Rose, and, at this point, should David Stern announce anything other than "...a point guard from the University of Memphis..." I'll be Cubs-break-the-curse type shocked. Unbelievably pleased and online buying my #30 Beasley jersey in a heartbeat, but shocked all the same.
Rose may very well want to play here more than anything else in the world. He may very well have said he'll be devastated if the Bulls bypass him in favor of another. He may very well revitalize a depressed fanbase and serve as the face of a franchise missing one since MJ left town.
Great. Super. Dandy.
John Paxson can make his pick; can have his franchise's new face.
I, along with the rest of Chicago's somewhat basketball-savvy fans, will moan and roll our eyes -- knowing full well we had the ball on a tee and whiffed helplessly. By the time anyone realizes the true nature of John Paxson's most recent horrifying blunder, Beasley, the scorer we've longed for since God-only-remembers-when, will be an all-star in Miami; on the receiving end of Flash Wade oops and sickening dimes, not to mention making appearances the nightly highlight reel.
It's at that point you'll hear a rather large groan from somewhere in the midwest, -- in the vicinity of Lake Michigan.
In case there's still hope: basketball gods, have mercy!
Otherwise, here's to the '09 Lottery!