Gar Forman has even more to smile about this weekend than he thought he would, and that's saying something considering the deal he swung to unload Kirk Hinrich on Thursday night.
Not only did the Bulls create good news for themselves in the LeBron James sweepstakes by clearing out almost enough salary cap space to offer James the chance to play with whomever he chooses (most likely Chris Bosh), now comes word from ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard that James isn't going to embark on the free-agent tour that everyone expected he would. He'll be meeting teams in Ohio and they'll be delivering their plans one by one -- on his turf.
This new development in the LeBronWatch figures to help Forman and the Bulls more than their competition.
All we've heard over the past few days is how teams such as the New York Knicks are ready to wine and dine James whenever he comes to their town. They planned on putting together elaborate dinners and introducing him to celebrities who would tell him how great their particular city is. I never got the sense from anyone within the Bulls' organization that they planned to do the same. They figured that their message to James was simple:
If you come play with us, we'll contend for titles right away.
Sure, they would sell the organization's championship history and they'd sell new head coach Tom Thibodeau's pedigree, but those were all the perfunctory things that would go into any recruiting pitch. The difference is that they didn't need the extravagance that other teams needed to cover up the fact that the players on their rosters just aren't as good as anything the Bulls have to offer. On paper, the Bulls simply have more to offer than any of the other teams they're competing with for James' services.
A quick overview:
Cleveland: Obviously, it's James' hometown team, but the Cavaliers don't have a head coach in place right now and their front office appears to be in disarray after former GM Danny Ferry's departure. The Cavs already proved they don't have the supporting cast to help James win a title, and unlike so many of these other teams, they don't have the cap space right now to add any kind of major difference-maker to go with LeBron.
Miami: The Heat have done literally everything under the sun to free up as much cap space as possible. If someone would take Michael Beasley and his contract off their hands, they would have enough room to possibly re-sign Dwyane Wade, James and Bosh. It's an awesome threesome to be sure, but the point guard would be Mario Chalmers and their bench would consist of more veterans than an armory. Would that team have enough to hold up through an 82-game season and a deep playoff run? The Heat clearly have a lot to offer, but they still have more question marks at the moment than the Bulls do.
New York: OK, so James decides he wants to play for the Knicks and he brings Bosh along with him. But the only other players on that team who have proven anything (and that's not saying much) are Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari? Again, they wouldn't have any space to add anyone else of substance. Donald Trump and Spike Lee would be watching games at the Garden, but who cares because they'll still be getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs every year.
New Jersey: The Nets have a few solid pieces -- Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors (if he turns out to be any good) -- but they only won 12 games last season. Twelve. The new owner seems like an interesting fellow and he can promise James a wealth of different things, but at some point in his team's pitch he would have a hard time avoiding the fact that the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints won more games than his team did last year.
Los Angeles: The Clippers have Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, a healthy Blake Griffin ... so they have a lot to offer. But without the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles to distract LeBron, at some point in their pitch they'll have to concede that, yes, Donald Sterling is still their owner. Now why in the world would anyone want to go play for that guy?
The bottom line for the Bulls is that on paper they have no equal. Their team, and the way it's constructed for the future right now, speaks for itself. Far louder than whatever crazy sales pitch any team could come up with. All that Forman really has to do now during his visit with James is slide over a piece of paper that says this:
Chicago Bulls 2010-2011
There's really nothing else to say. The Bulls' roster and their pitch doesn't need any more style. It has something far more important ... substance.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.