Posted Jan 11 2012 11:03AM
The Bulls swung through Atlanta last weekend, got punched in the gut by the Hawks and then Derrick Rose said exactly what you thought he'd say:
"We've grown a lot together. We're all on the same page. The chemistry is there. I like our team."
Really, what's not to like? Even in the aftermath of the biggest embarrassment of the season, Rose knows he's blessed with a championship contender and a terrific coach who puts a premium on defense.
And yet ... should the Bulls gamble and rent Dwight Howard anyway?
As the Howard drama drags on, with Orlando GM Otis Smith acknowledging the All-Star center still wants to be traded, the wild card is Chicago. That's because the Bulls weren't on Howard's wish list -- only the Lakers, Mavericks and Nets -- but have plenty to offer for Howard. It'd be an interesting move by the Bulls, who already own one of the best records in the league and look fairly strong without Howard. Every player knows his role and all the pieces seem to fit. An argument can be made they really don't need him to go far.
The Bulls would be giving up a starter or two just for the sole purpose of taking a run at the title this season with a franchise big man who can become a free agent this summer. Then they'd have to deal with the repercussions later. They'd have to replace Joakim Noah and Luol Deng or Taj Gibson and another rotation player who'd likely be surrendered to Orlando. All the chemistry they worked hard to create would be gone. They'd possibly take a step backward.
So given all that, the best course of action is ... to place a call to Orlando and try to hammer out a deal. Yes, even with no guarantee of Howard re-signing with them, this is a chance the Bulls can't resist, for the simple reason it takes stars to win a championship (yes, the Mavericks and Pistons were exceptions). And last we looked, the Heat, Thunder, Spurs and even the Lakers have the Bulls outnumbered.
Yes, if Orlando is willing, you take a shot at teaming Howard with Rose and forming the most lethal big man-little man combo in basketball. You bring the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to a guy like Tom Thibodeau, who'd know what to do with Howard. You bring Howard to Chicago and watch folks start shivering in Miami. You do it for those reasons and a few others.
For starters, Rose and Howard would get along fine. Rose is the reigning MVP but doesn't act like one, doesn't carry himself like one, in terms of ego. He already signed his big contract, so money won't be an agenda, and Rose feels secure in his own skin anyway. This is important, because Howard is the opposite. Not in a selfish sense, but his personality and presence is larger than life and can overwhelm a locker room. Some stars couldn't deal with that, but Rose could.
Also, the Bulls wouldn't need to totally strip their roster to get Howard. Orlando would have no interest in Carlos Boozer's contract, which is fine, since Boozer might become a better player next to Howard. If Chicago could hold onto Deng, who also has a contract that might frighten the Magic, all the better.
Finally, Howard could discover the Bulls are worth an extended look and decide to sign long-term. He'd have the large market he wants, a passionate fan base and the chance to play next to Rose for a decade. He can't say the same for Kobe Bryant.
Even if Howard said no thanks, the Bulls would have time to rebuild around Rose, who's only 23. They could amnesty Boozer next summer if it meant attracting a free agent or clearing room for a trade. Who wouldn't want to be Rose's teammate?
You won't hear any of the Bulls clamoring for Howard. Certainly not Rose. He didn't lobby for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade two summers ago. That's not to say some of the Bulls wouldn't want Howard. As a group, though, they're happy with the status quo. Why not?
"This is a good team," Deng said. "There's no telling how far we can go."
A Howard-Rose tandem isn't up to them, anyway. This is all about the Magic and whether they think it's in their best interest to keep Howard for the season and then dare him to turn down their money, which will be more than Howard can make elsewhere.
Howard won't be traded before the All-Star Game, which is in Orlando, because the Magic would've done it already. Would the March trade deadline be cutting it too close for the Bulls -- or any team -- to develop a bond with Howard in time for the playoffs? Maybe.
But you don't get many chances to put the best big man and small man together. The Bulls saw Rose wear down from in the 2011 playoffs. You think he can take LeBron and Wade again by himself in the fourth quarter?
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