- Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist
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Not over in terms of not making the playoffs or playing better than .500, but over in the fact that they will not build upon what we saw in them at the end of that seven-game playoff classic against the Boston Celtics this past postseason.
The hope for being one of the elite East teams is what's over. The hope of battling the Orlandos, Clevelands and Bostons for supremacy is over. The hope of playing in the Eastern Conference finals over.
Now, I know you are asking: How does all this connect with Miller? And what in the hell does Portland have to do with what's happening with the immediate future of the Bulls?
Well, if you had been following the Bulls' summer saga, you'd know that to make up for the loss of Ben Gordon, the Bulls set out to do two things: get a player with Gordon's cojones in the clutch and get someone who could make up for the total number of points lost without Gordon in the lineup.
Part one of the plan was executed when the Bulls signed Jannero Pargo to take the shots that no one else on the team has the nerve to take, but it's part two that fell apart like the movie version of "Watchmen." In a three-team deal, the Bulls were supposed to send Kirk Hinrich to the Blazers and Tyrus Thomas to Utah, and in return they were to receive Carlos Boozer.
It was one of those perfect deals. One of those in which all teams would get what they needed and every team could make a "come up" if it were fulfilled. Boozer's numbers (17 points and 10 rebounds per game in his career, closer to 20 and 12 when healthy) would have made him the perfect fill-in-the-gap scorer to compensate for the loss of BG. The Jazz finally would get a young, athletic player to run the floor with Deron Williams and someone to complement newly re-signed Paul Millsap. And the Blazers would get a legit point guard they could build on as a duo in the backcourt with the perennial all-world Brandon Roy. It was as perfect as a deal could get for all three teams involved.
On July 11, according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the deal was shot down. Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard went so far as to say the deal was "not going to happen." But with the knowledge that the Blazers were still in an almost desperate search for a point guard, hope remained that Bulls management would divorce itself from its (justified) love affair with Hinrich.
But somehow, as it seems of all the other major deals the Bulls could have been part of, the deal fell through. Or, better said, it was a deal that never materialized. Or, even better said, it was a deal that probably was bull from the beginning, and the initial information put out that the deal even had legs is now suspect.
With Hinrich-to-Portland as the linchpin to the deal, the minute Miller became the point guard for the Blazers, the pin was pulled, and BOOM! Even two weeks after they said the deal was dead, there was still hope. On July 24, hope lost its audacity.
We've seen this all before. A trade that was supposed to go down to make the Bulls elite. The rumors -- rumors the Bulls never denied or publicly put an end to -- never amounted to a trade for Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol or Jermaine O'Neal. And rumors about Kobe Bryant were very true, but apparently, because of the Bulls' reluctance to part with Luol Deng the trade never materialized.
Now comes the nonmaterialization of Boozer. The one who could have made the city forget (and forgive) all the others that never happened. But just like those before him, Boozer won't be here, either.
Now, in reality, the chances Boozer would come to Chicago were shaky. A stretch. Because above the "need" to hold on to Hinrich now that Gordon is gone lingered the fact that during the offseason of 2004, Boozer pulled back on a $27 million handshake deal with the Cavaliers to go to Utah. At the time, Bulls GM John Paxson's brother Jim was Cleveland's GM. To think that this didn't play some role (even a minute one) in the deal's failure to jump off would be next to ignorant. And no one could blame Paxson if he still held that against Boozer. Blood is thicker than any $50 million contract.
(Worth noting: Boozer and then-agent Rob Pelinka came out of that deal looking like traitors and Boozer more than his agent as a person who cannot be trusted in times of negotiation. This also could be playing a subliminal role in why Boozer hasn't been dealt yet, even to the team he publicly acknowledged is his first choice to sign with, the Miami Heat.)
That said, an issue remains unanswered about how serious the Bulls are in landing someone to fill the void in part two of their scenario. Could they still land Boozer? Impossible is nothing. As long as he remains unsigned, there's always a chance. But "nothing" seems to be a pattern the Bulls have established throughout the years when it comes to landing big-name players (Ben Wallace is the exception, but we all saw how that worked out) who could put the franchise over the hump and back into the contention conversation.
You'd think with the way they ended the season, the Bulls would be eager, aggressive and realistic in their pursuit of someone to replace the 20 points per game in the starting lineup they just lost instead of hoping to do it by committee or by waiting for the 2010 free-agent sweepstakes. Never thought the Bears would be the team showing them how it's supposed to be done.
Before this summer ends, the Bulls need to take a page from the Monsters. They need to go out and make their own version of the Jay Cutler deal become a reality. Because if they don't, Chicago will soon make the Bulls realize -- even if for only next season -- we can smell bull a mile away.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.
The Chicago Bulls' proposed deal for Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer was possibly a fabrication from the very beginning.