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Chris Bosh sign-and-trade possibilities seemingly endless

Sam Smith had long believed the Bulls’ prime free agency target was Chris Bosh, though that was when the Bulls doubted they would have a chance for LeBron James. That has changed now, as many are speculating the Bulls have a good chance to attract James.
Sam Smith at Bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Chris Bosh

How much can you give up in a sign-and-trade? Say you could get Bosh. Could you afford to give up Hinrich, Gibson, Deng and your No. 1 and take back, say, Marcus Banks? The Raptors did have some previous talks with the Warriors, who have several interesting pieces. Though Bosh apparently had no interest in going there. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

NBA sudden death overtime? First basket wins? Nah, nothing like that, but one of the more interesting concepts to be raised with teams during the Chicago combine last week was a proposal the league is considering of lowering the time in overtime to three minutes from the current five.

There was some suggestion the extra time is too long and unnecessary and there is too much additional strain on the players. Heck, if not for that overtime Portland game in February and the minutes issue that developed with Joakim Noah, maybe Vinny Del Negro still would be coaching. Or not.

There also was speculation that other leagues have been experimenting with overtime changes to make the game more exciting. It’s certainly worked well with the NHL. It didn’t sound like it was imminent, but it does raise some intriguing possibilities.

Bosh makes a list

-- ESPN.com reported Chris Bosh has given the list of teams he would prefer if he leaves Toronto as a free agent—Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami. Big surprise there. Had anyone been speculating about Milwaukee and Minnesota? Though I do believe Bosh has given them the names of those teams. Then Bosh and his agent said that’s nonsense and there is no such list, that why six weeks before free agency should Bosh limit his options? That, of course, makes sense. But the great challenge of free agency will be whom do you believe? In this case, I think it’s safer to go with the media report. The choices are no surprise around the NBA, and the same issue arises.

Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo has been talking all season about being able to get whole or close with a sign-and-trade as Bosh wants the full, six-year $126 million deal. The problem with that kind of list is no team but the Lakers seems to have the elements of a sign-and-trade Toronto would want since the Raptors have plenty of perimeter players and need a center. The Bulls, by the way, have Joakim Noah off limits in any sign-and-trade, probably even for LeBron James. Which is another issue with all the top free agents, as it was in the improbable Kobe Bryant trade stuff a few years back. Bryant did ask the Lakers to trade him to the Bulls. The Lakers basically were waiting him out. Kobe wasn’t so impatient and had his agent sending proposals to the Bulls. There was this urban legend the deal fell through—though there never was one—because the Bulls wouldn’t part with Luol Deng. It was that Kobe wanted certain players to remain with the team so he wouldn’t be going to a worse team than the Lakers then. One was Deng. Though the Lakers never seriously considered what the Bulls had, they did make some serious inquiries of the Pistons, whom they’d recently lost to. Kobe, you wouldn’t be surprised, had no intention of waiving his no trade to go to Detroit.

Though that raises the question now. How much can you give up in a sign-and-trade? Say you could get Bosh. Could you afford to give up Hinrich, Gibson, Deng and your No. 1 and take back, say, Marcus Banks? The Raptors did have some previous talks with the Warriors, who have several interesting pieces. Though Bosh apparently had no interest in going there.

More on free agency

-- Miami has been speculated all season as the likely landing spot for Bosh to join Dwyane Wade. Now there’s equal speculation that it’s the destination for Amar’e Stoudemire, who came back huge in Game 3 in the Suns win over the Lakers Sunday. Plus, there’s this big confab coming of the 2008 Olympians and how they can play together if they choose to and where that might be. Meanwhile, I’ve long believed the Bulls’ prime free agency target was Bosh, though that was when the Bulls doubted they’d have a chance for LeBron James. That’s changed now, as many are speculating the Bulls have a good chance to attract James. Everywhere Bulls executives went last week at the draft combine, rival executives were joking they had LeBron in the fold already.

President Barack Obama chimed in over the weekend suggesting the Bulls would be a god fit in an interview with TNT’s Marv Albert to be played Tuesday. Of course, the Knicks have practically openly courted James and Bosh, though being David Stern’s home team in New York, they never get tampering hand slaps. They are renowned for their celebrity recruiting appeals with onetime tennis star John McEnroe already offering James free lessons. Then there are the Lakers, the league’s most talented team and home to the world’s most celebrities. So such a “list” is hardly a stretch.

The so-called X-factor is the Lakers. The Raptors most want to deal with the Lakers if they cannot resign Bosh because they then could get Bosh out of the East and they could get a center, their greatest need, Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol. The Lakers have to be considered the favorite to win the title, so would they break up the team with a chance to three-peat? The talk about the Lakers is they would have done it—if they do win again—basically with Bynum. Kobe Bryant long has been no fan of Bynum’s. Bynum certainly is a risk with all his injuries, but he is a rare, legitimate center. Toronto has made no secret if it does a sign-and-trade it most wants a center so they can play Andrea Bargnani at “stretch” power forward. That would seem to eliminate the Bulls.

-- Here’s a good way for the Bulls to make a deal with Toronto to get Bosh. Some of the teams with free agents have privately been saying they would be better off doing a sign-and-trade that doesn’t get them a player. Here’s how it would work for the Bulls and Raptors. The Bulls could offer several first round picks, perhaps their own picks from 2010 and 2012, the pick they got from Charlotte in 2012 in the Tyrus Thomas deal, which could prove more valuable than many imagined, and maybe purchase a 2010 pick from teams like Minnesota and Memphis, which have three firsts this year. Then the Raptors get Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls take back a longer deal the Raptors don’t want, like Jose Calderon. The Raptors would come out with four firsts, a point guard with a shorter deal, a trade exception worth about $15 million and Taj Gibson. That means Toronto could later get a high salaried player without matching salaries in that trade exception. Bosh gets his max on the sign-and-trade (the trade exception and picks) to the Bulls and the Bulls get Calderon as a backup point and with losing Gibson have a few million left with their cap room to go get a free agent shooting guard, maybe someone like Ray Allen, Anthony Morrow, J.J. Redick, Ronnie Brewer or Kyle Korver.

-- Meanwhile, the most intriguing scenario, executive privilege excluded, remains LeBron to the Lakers. I—and apparently the president—believe the Bulls offer a great chance for LeBron to win. But you can bet the Cavs aren’t going to help LeBron get a better deal with any sign-and-trade to the rival Bulls. The conventional wisdom is if the Lakers win they’d stand pat. But they do have what would seem the best package for the Cavs if they were to lose LeBron, some GM’s I talked with at the draft camp seemed to agree. The Cavs get Bynum and Lamar Odom, the latter going on 31, and then with Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson and Mo Williams the Cavs still have a team that could compete. Here would be the interesting part. If you were LeBron and if winning were your priority—which I always wonder about—wouldn’t you want to be with the Lakers? We all know who LeBron is despite the hype: A supercharged Scottie Pippen. He’s not Michael or Kobe. He’s more likely to want someone else to make the winning shot and get them in position to do so and defend the other team’s top guy, as he did a heck of a job on Paul Pierce in the Cavs losing semifinal. How about this Lakers team? Kobe as Michael, LeBron as Scottie but better, Pau as Cartwright/Longley but way better. Then as the Lakers are over the salary cap, they can use their midlevel to get an inside player, perhaps a free agent like Brendan Haywood. And then you have Fisher and the rest and that team lines up pretty impressively with the ’96 Bulls. That team could legitimately talk about 73 wins. I haven’t heard the Lakers would be interested, but I’ve heard some are down on Bynum and the team probably has gotten the best out of Odom, who has played well at times in these playoffs. They’ll be the team everyone is watching in free agency given their history of bold moves. And could Phil walk away from that?

NBA news and notes

-- It helps to win. Steve Smith on NBA-TV said Doc Rivers is now the league’s best coach, better than Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich or Jerry Sloan. And on the ABC/ESPN broadcast, Rajon Rondo was called the league’s best point guard. In other words, if it just happened and it happened in front of a TV broadcaster, it’s the most important thing ever to happen. … Speaking of Rivers, coaching friends have been saying they believe he’ll take a leave for next season, though if the Celtics win the championship that likely would change. With Doug Collins going to coach the 76ers, TNT is said to be interested in Rivers and/or Steve Kerr. Kerr is in his final season of his contract and while expected to return, this might be a good time to get out on top with questions about whether ownership will pay Amar’e Stoudemire and likely lose him in free agency. … Jeff Van Gundy, who blasted the Bulls for firing Vinny Del Negro, has been pushing for former assistant Tom Thibodeau as Bulls coach among other players. So how does that work if Vinny weren’t fired?

-- OK, I get fining Mark Cuban for tampering as he virtually laid out a game plan for recruiting LeBron James. But Steve Kerr fined $10,000 for making a joke on the Dan Patrick radio show about going to the Suns if LeBron wanted the mid-level exception? This sounds like Stern is becoming the power mad rebel-turned-dictator from Woody Allen’s Bananas as he gains power and demands all subjects change their underwear four times a day, and so he’ll know he demands everyone wear their underwear on the outside. I’m told all team officials now must wash their mouths out with soap. … Once a punk, always, well you know… So it was with Jason Williams after the Magic fell behind the Celtics 3-0 Saturday yelling at reporters to get out of his way while he dressed and having to be separated from getting into a fight with Boston writers. Classy. It’s actually the Magic’s fault as everyone doubted you could get through the playoffs with Williams as your backup point. The irony is the Magic had a chance to upgrade substantially and rejected it. When the Bulls were looking to get farther under the cap in February to have money for a max free agent, one of the possibilities was a deal involving Kirk Hinrich and Brandon Bass. The Bulls would have gotten Bass and an expiring deal to get below with the Magic picking up Hinrich, but the Magic weren’t interested, and they’ve still barely used Bass. Which is a whole other issue as he could have had some success against Glen Davis, who has been killing the Magic. … We don’t get to change MVP votes, and LeBron did deserve it for the regular season. But how about those four first place votes Dwight Howard got from Florida media? I’m glad I picked Kobe No. 2 on my ballot. If there were a playoffs MVP, he’d probably be No. 1 now as LeBron again showed what he’s shown in every playoffs, that he’s not your finisher. He’s Scottie, supersized!

-- It sure sounds like Joe Johnson will be available. Though GM Rick Sund talks about retaining Johnson, board member (ownership remains in litigaton) Michael Gearon offered this observation of NBA misspending: “The biggest problem most teams make is they sign a contract and it ends up being a bad contract. You look at the Miami Heat. Jermaine O’Neal makes $23 million a year (actually his Pacers contract). Is he a player that is worth $23 million a year? I would say probably not. If you look at our team, we’ve assembled a team where we try to stay away from bad contracts.” Johnson is expected to get a max contract from someone, and you figure he’ll want to sign quickly. You could see the Hawks taking Hinrich with a reasonable deal in a sign-and-trade and maybe some draft picks and Taj Gibson and then have cap money left for Bosh, though not with a sign-and-trade. ... The Bulls are believed to have spoken with several coaching candidates at the predraft combine last week, including Lawrence Frank, who was running drills for the camp. Said one who may or may not have been making a pun, “I believe he’s on the short list.”