Looks like Chicago, along with New Jersey and the Clippers, will be the big losers from this monstrous free agency period.
With Chris Bosh headed to Miami to join Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James apparently having narrowed his choices down between Cleveland and the Heat, the Bulls no longer look to be in contention to sign a free-agent. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter that the Bulls have moved on from the Big 3 and will "turn their attention" towards other lesser free agents like Carlos Boozer and David Lee among others, as well as pursue trades.
It's going to be a disappointing year for Bulls fans who will wonder what could have been. Dwyane Wade said in an interview on ESPN's SportCenter that he thought heavily about Chicago and that it was a "very difficult " decision. But now the Bulls are moving on with the prospect of only adding a second-tier player to their roster. Granted, the Bulls are a team on the rise having made the playoffs the past two years with a new coach in Tom Thibodeau. But they could have been a favorite to win the title. They moved salary, cleared space specifically to land both James and another max free agent and they will miss on all of them. That's a pretty crushing blow to a franchise that legitimately seemed in the front of the pack going into last weekend.
There were signs, of course. Rumors that the Bulls had moved up their Saturday meeting with James to try and get him to commit to a deal before the end of the day. A risky proposition, and if the rumors were true, one that may have cost them. Bulls management has long thought to be too brusque, too bullish, and may not have put their best foot forward, even with a great market, the lure of playing in Jordan's town, and the best assembled roster of any of the suitors for the Big 3's services.
Losing Wade doubly hurts as his divorce settlement gave even more reason for him to sign with the hometown Bulls. But this is where they are, and they have to go forward.
Boozer and Lee are both good options, though Lee is likely a better value and does more of what they need without Boozer's considerable baggage. They're not elite, but they could help the Bulls to be a better team. At this point, the future of the Bulls will rest squarely on Derrick Rose's shoulders. The team can add other free agents to help out (a significant offer for sharpshooter Anthony Morrow would be a great start), but at the end of the day, Rose will have to ascend to superstardom in order for the Bulls to contend. This is especially taxing considering how the East is now shaping up, with the Celtics making at least one more run, Orlando with a strong core, the Cavaliers possibly returning most of their 60+ win team, and Miami coming on as a contender for the title.
The Bulls may have been the frontrunners at one point, and had a legit shot at returning to the top of the NBA empire. Now they're just another franchise trying to add pieces, fighting for their stake of the middle ground behind the elite, populated by the players they just missed out on.