Bulls fans could be thrilled by new ‘Decision’ from LeBron James
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org February 2, 2013 1:42AM
Derrick Rose and LeBron James as Bulls teammates? Maybe, if James uses an early-termination clause to leave the Heat. | Rob Hart~Sun Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:31AM
Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and LeBron James. Meet the NBA’s next ‘‘Big Three,’’ coming to an arena near you after next season.
Far-fetched? Not really.
James has the power to become a free agent in 2014 by exercising the early-termination clause in his contract with the Miami Heat. There’s a fairytale ending floating around that James would return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom he shunned with ‘‘The Decision’’ in 2010, to try to finally deliver a championship to a city starved of one. But considering the venom Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert spewed toward James in his departure, good luck with that.
James would be 29 after next season and looking to add to a legacy as the best all-around player ever to step onto an NBA court. So what better place to take over than the house that Michael Jordan built?
The Bulls could amnesty Carlos Boozer after the next season, Luol Deng comes off the books and is a free agent, and Kirk Hinrich’s deal is over. That leaves Rose making $18.8 million, Noah at $13.1 million and Taj Gibson at $8 million, with team options for Jimmy Butler ($2.1 million) and Marquis Teague ($2.023 million). They’d be the only players under contracts.
Picture a starting five of Rose and James in the backcourt with Gibson, Noah and Butler up front — and still enough salary to build a bench with one-year deals, as general manager Gar Forman did last offseason and likely will do again in the coming offseason.
Chicago was at least in the discussion for James before he chose Miami, but at the time he was ringless. Playing under the shadow of Jordan without jewelry might have been too much pressure. Now, James has one championship and could have more by next summer.
The parking lot outside the United Center could use another statue — one that’s about 2 inches taller and with more all-around skill.
†Which player returns to the court first, Rose or the Indiana Pacers’ Danny Granger? Smart money is on Granger.
†Kobe Bryant is now trying to share the ball and make players around him better? All those years of being selfish as a poor man’s Jordan, and now he’s trying to emulate James.
Player of the week
David Lee, Golden State Warriors forward. After becoming the first Warriors All-Star since 1997, Lee put together quite the week, averaging 18.7 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists over a three-game winning streak.
Team of the week
San Antonio Spurs. The roster is old enough to star in ‘‘Cocoon III: Where the Heck is My Walker?’’ but all coach Gregg Popovich does with this group is win. The Spurs entered the weekend winners of nine straight and had an easy schedule until a trip to Brooklyn on Feb. 10.
The big five
1. Heat. 2. Oklahoma City Thunder. 3. Spurs. 4. Los Angeles Clippers. 5. Bulls.
0Points scored by Nets forward Reggie Evans against the Heat on Wednesday after Evans dismissed the Heat’s championship last year because of a shortened season and dismissed James as being no different from Nets forwards Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche.
Key games for the week
of Feb. 4-10
Bulls at Pacers, 6 p.m. Monday. No Derrick Rose, an improving Pacers roster . . . this was the year the Pacers were supposed to surpass the Bulls. Not yet.
Clippers at Heat, 7 p.m. Friday. We’ll see how ‘‘Lob City’’ measures up against the defending champs.
Los Angeles Lakers at Heat, 2:30 p.m. next Sunday. Bryant’s reign is over. Long live James.