Now that the Bulls are next up, it's time to finally speak truth to power moves. Saturday is the day the team meets with Mr. LeBron Raymone James. After that, let the panic game begin. Which is a game the Bulls don't need to play.
So here's a message to Jerry Reinsdorf & Co.: Pull out of the LeBron Sweepstakes now!
Don't get me wrong: Do the meeting as a formality. Be courteous, be sincere. Then afterward, after you shake LBJ's hand and tell him how much you'd love-love to see him in a Bulls uniform for the next six to seven years, get on the plane and immediately start working on the new Plan A.
Don't get me wrong II: I love LeBron probably more than the next man.
But the basketball part of me knows the Bulls need something different. The basketball part of me that understands that true success comes in balance, not stardom, wants to see someone else and not LeBron (or Dwyane Wade) in a Bulls uniform. The basketball part of me knows that all of the effort the organization has expended (dumping contracts and trading players to free up cap space) and all it continues to do to attract James, needs to be saved for another player who (although not necessarily a better player) is a better fit for the Bulls than any other player in the 2010 free-agency madness.
(Note: The same theory applies to Rose and D-Wade.)
Not much. And therein lies the problem. Rose is basically just a smaller version of LeBron. Same style, same explosiveness -- basically they are two prodigious (with Bron probably being the more prodigious of the two) point guards stuck in non-point guard bodies. They both, in order to be who they are and to be as good as they can be on the court, need the ball in their hands. It is an essential part of both of their games, and in truth it's their best quality.
Now, once LeBron gets here, we all know he -- not Rose -- becomes the man. No team is going to invest this deeply into LeBron James to not have him be LeBron James. And that means running the offense through him; that means having him control the flow of an offense; that means him being this generation's Magic Johnson the same way Kobe Bryant has been the Y2K generation's Jordan.
And once/if that happens, we lose a major part of Derrick Rose. It'll be like putting Chris Paul on the same squad with Rajon Rondo. By default, getting James will force Rose to become a fraction of the player he is right now. And a 100 percent LeBron James with a 50 percent Derrick Rose is not going to win multiple rings. Maybe one, but that'll be all.
No disrespect to LeBron, but for the Bulls -- and only for the Bulls -- he's not worth it. Getting him is not worth figuratively losing Derrick Rose in the process.
Not when there's a way to possibly make something even greater happen.
Recent history in the NBA will tell you that it's not defense or depth that necessarily wins championships, it's diversity. The perfect blend of skills placed on the floor, skills that complement one another. Especially when it comes to the two or three superstars on one team that it takes to win multiple rings, or to challenge for them.
Teams that build dynasties are constructed on the platform and premise of finding players who complement each other -- cover for the other superstar's weaknesses. This is how balance is created.
Go further back: Magic and Worthy? (Magic, Worthy and Kareem, for that matter.) Bird and McHale? (Bird, McHale and Parrish, for the same matter.) Stockton and Malone? Jordan and Pippen?
Each player was fundamentally almost the opposite of the other. What one couldn't do, the other could. Together they'd lock like a Taijitu. A symmetrical pattern of completeness. The undefendable force with the unstoppable object.
In theory, LeBron James and Derrick Rose do not yin and yang like that. Their styles and games are too close to one another. Their symmetry is Siamese. But Rose and Melo, that's "supreme ultimate" contrast. The type of contrast that with the right supporting cast can collect chips. Their games complement each other in a way that doesn't mean one loses what he does best. It's perfect as Outkast. Perfect as QTip and Phife, as Treach and Vinnie. Perfect as Run DMC.
Which is why the Bulls, beginning Saturday night (after meeting with the King), need to follow this script:
• Then with the millions left over under the cap -- the money designated for LeBron -- hold off until this time next year and put that same offer in front of Anthony on July 1, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.
• Or, if the most recent information is true about Denver actually looking for a trade of Anthony because the Nuggets are afraid they may lose him for nothing -- the same way the Bulls lost Ben Gordon -- then use that "LeBron money" to sign one of the aforementioned players, and then use a combination of, say, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson's contracts to get Melo in red and black via trade.
Even if the Bulls have to get Bernie Madoff creative with contracts, salaries and incentives to make it happen, that's what they need to do. Because -- if you really think about it -- a lineup that consists of Rose; Stoudemire or Bosh or Boozer; Joakim Noah; James Johnson (or Deng or Gibson if no trade is involved); and Melo is one that could rule the East -- if not the league -- for at least half a decade, regardless of where LeBron signs.
It's just an exercise in extreme patience. Does the Bulls organization or the fan base have the patience to possibly have to wait an extra year for this to happen?
Does anyone have the foresight? Can anyone see past the hysteria? Realize that the game's best player might not be the best player for you?
For two years, everyone has been waiting for this moment to happen. Waiting for the chance to be the winner of The Summer of LeBron. And walk away with the grandest prize. The Bulls have positioned themselves lovely to be major players in this summer's activities. They have as good a chance -- if not better -- as anyone.
But there's a better scenario out there. One that could prove in the end to be smarter and produce better results. It's just a matter of the Bulls recognizing history as opposed to chasing the hype.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.