The Madness Of Jerry Reinsdorf

Jerry Reinsdorf

Last week, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf discussed several topics regarding the team in an interview with Chicago Sun-Times Reporter Brian Hanley.

However, there was one topic that particularly piqued my interest and that was the subject of Ben Gordon leaving “The Chi” for “Detroit Rock City”. Reinsdorf said that Ben “didn’t fit” anymore and that he wasn’t going to get a whole lot of playing time in a guard rotation with Rose, Hinrich and John Salmons. I read that comment and spent the better part of five minutes just sitting in a state of stunned disbelief.

Not taking anything away from Derrick Rose, but Ben Gordon was the best player the Bulls had last season without question. We all saw the way BG literally put the team on his back in the epic first round playoff matchup with the Boston Celtics and took the defending champs to 7 games. So how does a guy who does that not fit anymore? How do you rationalize taking minutes from a guy who’s lead your team in scoring the last four years and giving them to Hinrich and Salmons who are good players, but can’t hold a candle to what Gordon does offensively? Yes he’s lacking in size and defensive ability, but he makes up for it in the way he can get you buckets at a very high rate.

If Reinsdorf is rationalizing that moving Ben instead of committing to him long term is due to the much anticipated upcoming free agent class of 2010, then I understand that completely. Especially when the prospect of bringing Dwyane Wade back to Chicago to play alongside Derrick Rose is out there. But there’s no guarantee in that. The thought of it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but the reality is that it may not happen. I know that owners can’t publicly comment on what their future plans are, but Reinsdorf should’ve said something more along these lines instead of just making a blanket statement that the teams best player (arguably) just doesn’t fit anymore.

There was one thing in the Reinsdorf interview that did give me a little comfort. He said he doesn’t mind paying the NBA luxury tax as long as it makes sense to do so. I take that to mean he’d be willing to pay a premium for a marquee player like a Dwyane Wade next summer and then pay a premium the following year to keep Derrick Rose in a Bulls uniform. I’m OK with that.

Still, this is the same guy that signed off on the dismantling of a dynasty. The same guy that traded away Elton Brand and Ron Artest. The same guy that nixed deals that would’ve brought Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol to Chicago so it’s hard to tell if he’s just blowing smoke or actually serious about making the Bulls a contender again. It’s long been said in the Chicago sports world that Reinsdorf cares more about the White Sox than the Bulls. In 2005 when the Sox won the World Series, he went on record as saying that championship meant more to him than the six championships he’s won as owner of the Bulls. So even though the White Sox are struggling right now, if the Bulls happen to get worse instead of better over the next two years, you can consider me a believer.

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Ben Gordon Signs With The Pistons

ben_gordonOK, I’ve been wrong before. It’s not often I don’t get basketball related things right, but it happens sometimes. I remember when I thought that Tayshaun Prince was going to be a bust in the league. Rip Hamilton too. Both of those guys turned out to be decent pros don’t you think? Well, I have another one to add to the list as I thought there was no way on earth Ben Gordon would get the same kind of money he turned down in Chicago. Wrong again.

I wrote an article called “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Gordon” where I basically said BG was stupid for turning down $50+ million dollar contract offers from the Chicago Bulls two summers in a row and he would never see another deal like that again. But Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons proved me wrong as they offered him a 5 year, $55 million dollar deal.

As a life-long, die hard Bulls fan it pains me to see a guy who was no doubt the only real scoring threat we had leave. What hurts worse than that is seeing him go to the Pistons who I’ve hated since they days of the “Bad Boys” beating up on my beloved Bulls. At first I blamed management for not trying harder to get a deal done with him. But now that he just signed for virtually the exact same money that he was offered here in Chicago (the Bulls offered 5 years, $50 million), there’s no doubt in my mind that BG has a very big axe to grind with management and he signed with the Pistons — a divison rival — just so he could stick it to his old squad four times a year.

Still, my basketball mind says this signing leaves more questions than answers. The biggest one being how long is Ben Gordon going to be happy with coming off the bench if the Pistons don’t plan on moving Rip Hamilton? BG was very unhappy coming off the bench in Chicago even though he was much more productive in that scenario. He’s always maintained that he feels he’s a starter in this league. I can’t knock his professionalism because even when he was unhappy in his role, he didn’t quit on the Bulls and he came to play every night. That’s why he was a fan favorite. Still, when you have a player sulking or complaining about their role it undoubtedly has an effect on team chemistry.

Chicago Bulls fans have a history of still cheering and rooting for guys even after they leave town as long as they played hard while they were here and represented the name on the front of the uniform with pride and passion. Had Ben Gordon gone anywhere else besides Detroit, he would still be loved here in the city. Now, this “Natural Born Killer” just became “Public Enemy #1”.

The Rose That Grew From Chicago Concrete

Last Wednesday, the media had a field day with the story alleging that Derrick Rose never actually took the SATD Rose 3 himself. It was also alleged that the University of Memphis provided extra benefits to his older brother Reggie in the form of travel on the teams charter plane and hotel accommodations to the tune of $2,260.Read More

The very next day after this story broke, both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune reported that during Rose’s final semester of high school at Simeon Career Academy, someone with access to his transcripts changed a D grade to a C and submitted the bogus transcript to colleges. The grade was then changed back to a D a month later. This same fraud also occurred with three of Rose’s high school teammates.

Shocking? Hardly. Surprising? Not in the least. But to those enamored with the NBA’s recently crowned ROY, this story was very disheartening. But in order to understand my lack of “shock and awe” that a lot of people seem to have felt, I’ll need to give you a Chicago basketball history lesson so that you can get a very clear picture of Derrick Rose’s importance to the city in general and to the south side in particular. I’ve told this story before, but it’s definitely worth telling again.

Have you ever heard of Ben Wilson? If you’re not a hoop head or you grew up outside of Chicago then chances are you probably haven’t. But before Derrick Rose and Simeon became synonymous, there was “Benji”. He was the one who put Simeon on the basketball map and was the original pride of the south side. He was 6’8″ with all around skills that had never been seen in someone his size before. Sound familiar? Former high school teammate and Orlando Magic star Nick Anderson called him Magic Johnson with a jump shot. He led Simeon to the state championship in 1984 as a junior, the first in school history. The summer before his senior season he went to the Nike All-American camp unranked. He came back the #1 player in the country, the first ever from Chicago. 

On November 20, 1984 one day before the start of his senior season, he was shot outside of Simeon on his lunch break and passed away at St. Bernard hospital a few hours later. He was 17 years old. In his honor, the top spot of the ’84-’85 player rankings was left blank. The school also retired his jersey and later renamed its gymnasium after him.

21 years later, enter Derrick Rose. He was from south side. Just like Benji. As part of Simeon tradition, he wore #25. Just like Benji. He wasn’t the #1 ranked player in the country, but scouts had him ranked as the #1 point guard. We’ll take that. He led Simeon to a state title during his senior year, something most people feel that Benji would’ve done.  And just like Derrick Rose was the #1 pick in the draft, had Benji gone to the University of Illinois as planned, his name probably would’ve been the first one David Stern called on draft day too. Two people couldn’t have lived more parallel lives.

For over twenty years a black cloud hung over the south side because of Benji’s death. Promise and greatness both senselessly taken away. A legacy left unfulfilled. Everyone around here knows the story of Ben Wilson, and Derrick Rose represented what could’ve been. What should’ve been. So it wasn’t just his brothers Reggie, Dwayne and Allen who could see that he was travelling in the exact same lane and wanted to protect him. This was bigger than family. This was community. Everyone at Simeon from the students to the teachers, his coaches, everybody in the Englewood neighborhood where he grew up, the entire city of Chicago and especially the southside wanted to protect him. We all wanted to see him make it.

So if it took someone getting a fake id and posing as Derrick in order for him to get a qualifying score on his SAT, so be it. If it took someone inside of Simeon with access to his grades and a password to change a D into a C, so be it. If it took his brother Reggie moving to Memphis to watch over him 24/7, so be it. He was one of us and we all had a vested interest in his success. 

It’s so easy to judge if you don’t know the story. Without knowing the story it’s impossible to understand what was at stake. You can’t accuse Derrick and Reggie of wrongdoing without accusing us all. We were all like Malcolm peering out that window doing whatever it took to protect one of our own. Derrick Rose was going to make it. He had to make it. By any means necessary.

New Derrick Rose Adidas Spot

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Gordon

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Now that the season has ended for the Chicago Bulls I’m left wondering how many times Ben Gordon has thought about the $50 million dollars that he turned down…twice! With his career here in Chicago possibly over due to contract disputes with management, it’s hard to imagine that over the course of this past season that he hasn’t thought about all that money he said no to at least once. My guess is by now he’s probably thought about it oh, I’d say at least 50 million times already! Here’s why.

I truly believe — and have seen with my own eyes — that Ben Gordon has just as much confidence in himself and his abilities at the two guard spot as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. He’s led the Bulls in scoring 4 of his 5 years in Chicago and when a guy does that, when contract time rolls around he’s usually rewarded with a deal that makes him the team’s highest paid player. Gordon however is the unfortunate exception to that rule. The highest paid player on the Bulls is Luol Deng, the second highest is Kirk Hinrich. Ben Gordon wants to be paid more than both of those guys. And in all fairness, based on his regular season numbers over the years and especially with his performance in the playoffs this year against the Boston Celtics, he should be the highest paid player on the team. But he’s got quite a few things working against him that’s probably going to prevent that from happening on the Bulls or any other team in the league if he does decide to leave the “City of Wind” this summer.

First are his problems on the court. He’s an undersized two guard that’s a liability defensively. Sure he can give a guy 30 on any given night, but he’ll also give up 30 (or more) on any given night. Also, outside of Chicago I don’t think there’s another team in the league that sees him as their starting two guard for the next 5 or 6 years. Most GM’s feel he has more value coming off the bench as a sixth man but he’s made it very clear during his time with the Bulls that he feels he’s a starter in the league and he’s not happy with coming off the bench. Secondly are his problems off the court. The main thing working against him right now is the coveted free agent class of 2010. With the big prize being LeBron James and teams also coveting guys like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudamire, Yao Ming & Dirk Nowitzki, it’s unfathomable to think that a team would be willing to throw big bucks at a guy like Ben Gordon. Especially if it means taking themselves out of the race for one of the guys that I just mentioned. Then there’s the issue of the luxury tax which is the main reason why the Bulls didn’t offer him the same money as Luol Deng. Sure he’s a great scorer, but if you’re the GM of an NBA team would you be willing to cross over into the luxury tax threshold to sign him? I don’t think so.

I openly blasted him on this blog and called him the dumbest athlete in professional sports for turning down the Bulls first offer of 5 years, $50 million and then their second offer of 6 years, $58 million. Even Gilbert Arenas said on his blog that when a team offers that kind of money you should take it. I also said that his next contract wasn’t going to be anywhere near the two deals the Bulls offered and that was just based on his value as a player. Then the recession hit! Now teams are cutting back any way that they can and the NBA in February secured a $200 million loan to help offset operating losses for half of its 30 teams. All of these things spell disaster for Ben Gordon receiving the kind of payday he was hoping for this summer.

So what’s next for the pride of Mt. Vernon, NY? I guess we’ll find out in a few months, but the one lesson that we can all learn from this and the one that Ben Gordon is going to unfortunately have to learn the hard way is this. Unless your agent is Jerry Maguire, the “Show Me The Money” tactic only works in the movies.

Bulls Go Down In Game 7 (And I Didn’t Even Watch!!)

Bulls Celtics Basketball

You ever have the feeling where if you would’ve watched your favorite team play they would’ve won the game instead of losing it? Well, that’s exactly how I feel about the Bulls losing to the Celtics tonight. Why didn’t I watch the finale of arguably the greatest 1st round playoff series ever? Because I was sleeping. Yep, that’s right…sleeping!! Last night I went to a Nike Air Yeezy release party at SuccezZ which is an upscale clothing and sneaker boutique in downtown Chicago owned by my man Bobby Simmons of the New Jersey Nets and LaVell “V-Dot” Sykes. The atmosphere was cool, there were sneakerheads galore, the DJ was nice and the bartenders were great!! The event went into the wee hours of the morning and needless to say, I got home pretty late. Then I had to get right back up to catch the 10am showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine with my 4yr old son. The movie was very cool by the way and everybody should go see it. So going on about 3 hours of sleep I had a massive Gyro a couple of hours before the game and I decided to take a nap before tip-off. 7hrs later I find myself blogging about how I missed the whole thing!! I didn’t even set my DVR because I didn’t expect to sleep through it.

It’s all good though…I caught the highlights of it. The Bulls played a pretty good game but I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think they had a chance to pull it out; especially not in Boston. They gave it all they had, but being a young team playing game 7 on the road against the defending champs wasn’t exactly a recipe for victory. Plus, I think the way the series had gone up to that point — and all of the drama of it — took a toll on my squad that they just weren’t mature enough yet to know how to overcome. Win or lose, it was a heck of a run by Chicago and I’m satisfied because the whole world saw how they left it all on the court and that’s what you want to see from any team. It makes me proud to be a Bulls fan, and I think this series helped us pick up more fans in the process. Sure if the Celtics would’ve had KG maybe the series would’ve been different, but they didn’t and the “Baby Bulls” took it to the champs and gave them everything they could ever ask for in a  7 game series. The Orlando Magic should send the Bulls thank you cards and free passes to Disney or something!

Still, I wish they would’ve won. I should’ve watched. Bulls fans can blame me.

Bulls Force Game 7 In Another Epic Against The Celtics!!

bulls-game-6

You’d think by me being a Bulls fan I would’ve blogged about this series already right? Well here it is! Game 6 last night in Chicago is by far the best NBA playoff game I’ve ever seen in my life. Another certified ESPN instant classic. This series is arguably the best in the history of the NBA playoffs. There are so many story lines in this series it’s not even funny. There have been 106 lead changes, 65 ties, 7 OT’s which is an NBA record and with the exception of game 3 which was a blowout, the other 5 games have been decided by 3pts or less; also an NBA record. That’s absolutely unreal!! Game 7 is Saturday night and I’m so pumped up I can hardly type! You know what, screw it! Just watch the highlights…I can’t do it.