Bulls should save the core and not deal for Dwight Howard
By RICK TELANDER email@example.com February 2, 2012 9:04PM
Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee
Updated: March 4, 2012 8:19AM
Why are we all so nervous about the Bulls?
They’re in a tight battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings and for the best record in the NBA.
But the desperation talk about the Bulls needing to break everything up and deal for disgruntled and possibly available Magic center Dwight Howard — shedding Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, C.J. Watson and/or Omer Asik or Taj Gibson in the process — is scary chatter, no matter how you frame it.
This current Bulls team has weaknesses, for sure. And no doubt the Bulls will have to get past the three-star Miami Heat to reach the NBA Finals. And a championship, you recall, is all reigning MVP Derrick Rose says he wants.
But the Bulls narrowly lost to the Heat in the conference finals last season, and narrowly lost to them last Sunday, down in Miami, without Deng and Watson, in a game that Rose might have blown by missing two late free throws.
So is that enough to scare us into nuclear mode?
We’ll get to see Rose and the muscular Howard, clearly the best center in the league, together when they start for the East in the All-Star Game.
But no matter how many alley-oops they connect on or how many monster picks Howard sets for the driving Rose, that game is just a fun-fest.
Trading the core of the Bulls for Howard is not.
People say the best guard and the best center in the league would make the Bulls unbeatable.
But would it?
Let’s look at some history.
Remember four years ago when the Cavaliers had superstar LeBron James and wanted to get over the hump and win the NBA championship with him? They snagged big names Mo Williams at guard and Antawn Jamison at forward.
And then a year later, they pulled off a bigger deal, signing aging but still-competitive Shaquille O’Neal, figuring Shaq could rest until the playoffs and then unleash his mass on Howard and the Magic, the team that had beaten the Cavs in the playoffs the year before.
Trouble was, the Cavs wouldn’t play the Magic in 2008. The Magic was eliminated by the Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Cavs were ousted in that same round by the Celtics, who would win it all.
Yes, the Celtics reached the top with suddenness by adding two great players, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, to go with established star Paul Pierce.
But the Heat, even with their much-celebrated signing of the Three Amigos — James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh — haven’t won a title yet.
On the home front, the Bulls of the late-1980s kept losing to the Pistons late in the playoffs. Did they freak and make a huge trade?
No, in 1990 they added role players Cliff Levingston and Scott Williams to a veteran core of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, Craig Hodges, Will Perdue, and Stacey King. That season the Bulls crushed the Pistons, 4-0, in the conference finals and blew out the Lakers, 4-1, to win their first crown, which would be followed by two more.
After two non-title winning years, the 1995 Bulls gave up no one from their nucleus while signing madman/rebounding fool Dennis Rodman and then won three more titles in a row.
It’s dangerous to fool with dynamite. But, yes, sometimes it’s necessary.
And yet these Bulls are 9-1 at home, and coach Tom Thibodeau was just named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for both December and January.
It’s the constant injuries and bizarre road trips that maybe have us scared the most.
The entire Bulls team has never been healthy enough to play a game together at the United Center.
Even Rose’s big toe is cause for worry. His turf toe seems fine now, but arthritis can follow such an injury, meaning anti-inflammatory shots and ultimately surgery somewhere down the line.
The Bulls without Rose? Don’t even ponder.
And maybe the Magic doesn’t want the Howard deal, doesn’t want to take on contracts like those of Deng and Noah.
A lot of the enticing talk coming out of Orlando is likely agent-posturing. Howard wouldn’t mind playing with Rose. Duh! Who would mind playing with him?
This lock-out shortened season is more like a baseball season, with games constantly, and that has unnerved us.
Maybe teams just want to make it to the playoffs rested and recovered, record be damned.
So add Dwight Howard?
I wouldn’t mess with that.