Van Gundy: Bulls need more than James
Jeff Van Gundy isn't one of them.
The former NBA head coach and current ESPN analyst says he believes that the Bulls will become much better, but not necessarily one of the NBA's elite teams, by adding free agent-to-be James.
"Any team that gets him along with Derrick Rose and [Joakim] Noah, you're going to have a good team," Van Gundy told ESPNChicago.com before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. "A lot depends on how much they have to give up to get him. If it's a sign and trade, what other moves they'd make, but I would not think they would be a championship-caliber team right away. But I think they'll be a top-3 or -4 team."
Van Gundy isn't sure where James will end up once free agency starts July 1.
"I think there's a lot of opinions, but I don't think there's any informed opinions," he said. "So I have no idea, nor does anyone else, except him. He'll make the decision that's best for him, and still, the team that adds him is going to have to play well to win a championship. We've seen the last two years in Cleveland, they have very good teams, but they haven't been able to get it done."
Van Gundy has been rumored as a possible replacement for the recently fired Vinny Del Negro, but Van Gundy's brother, Stan, the head coach of the Orlando Magic, told ESPNChicago.com last week that he would be surprised if Jeff coached at all next season.
When asked specifically about the possibility of interviewing for the Bulls position, Van Gundy responded this way:
"I never really think about it like that," he said. "I just do my job that I have now, and whatever comes down the road, comes down the road. That's really not how I go about things. I always let the teams discuss and say whatever they want -- if they want to comment -- but I stay away from the hypotheticals."
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Whether or not Van Gundy ultimately decides to interview for the job (if an interview is offered), he admits that the Bulls vacancy is one of the best on the market.
"I would say it's a very good job," he said. "If you look at it from the standpoint of they have at least a very good player, however you decide to [describe] Rose. Rose can definitely be the second-best player on a championship team, and Jo Noah, in my opinion, can be the third- or fourth-best player on a championship team. So if they add a guy who can be the best player on a championship team, then they're right there in the mix.
"So certainly, having that cap flexibility, making the playoffs the last two years, so you've gotten to see Rose and Noah in pressure-packed situations. That's a very good job. Chicago the city, Chicago the organization has proven itself to be very good."
As for whether a coach has to be in place to woo a prospective free agent, Van Gundy says that decision lies with the player.
"I think that all depends on the individual," he said. "James already knows how much money he's going to make. So that's not even the question. He keeps saying it's all about championships, so you'd think he'd want to know at least somewhat what [the team] is thinking about as far as a coach, but whether he'd have to have that specific coach in, I really don't know how he's thinking."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.