Thursday, July 2, 2009

An Open Letter to Joe Dumars, the Bulls Front Office & Ben Gordon

By Alex Derickson

I would like to start by saying that I'm glad this three summer long fiasco has come to a close. While I'm not happy with the result, this is not about how I feel, this is about what I've taken from all of this. This is about why I hate being a sports fan.

To Mr. Dumars:

Congratulations. You've exacted your revenge. The Bulls took a Ben from you and you took a Ben from us. The significance however is alarming. They took your best defender. Your anchor. However, they also stole from you an aging player on the decline of his career. They got the last good year our of Ben Wallace but at the same time overpaid for what would end up being a tumultuous tenure with the Chicago Bulls.

You have managed to lure away their best player coming off of his best season. With Ben Gordon you are getting an absolute monster on offense. A man who can score against anyone and is perhaps one of the best one-on-one players in the league. You are getting their best player since Michael. A favorite amongst the fans, the team, and the city of Chicago. I ask you this though, at what price?

Yes we've heard the report of the five year deal at around 11 million annually, but what does this do to the core of your team. A core you already began to dismantle earlier by trading away Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. A trade that on paper, made you a force in the Eastern Conference, but it didn't pan out exactly as planned.

Only a few days ago you relieved Michael Curry of his coaching position, a move rumored to have been done to appease your veteran shooting guard, Richard Hamilton. Hamilton was said to have been upset about former coach Curry moving him to the bench to start Iverson, who as noted earlier, turned out to only be a rental for roughly half the season due to injury and the decision for him not to return this upcoming season. What does this say to Richard and where does this put Ben in your plans? Both players are scorers, neither of which are great on defense. Both do not like coming off the bench and have been public about it. You've replaced an undersized shooting guard with a me first attitude on offense and wants to start (Iverson) with an undersized shooting guard with a me first attitude on offense who wants to start (Gordon). This leaves Hamilton, one of the best at scoring without the ball and one of the best team players in the league, and who was probably pleased with the dismissal of Curry to wonder where he stands. Will the new coach put him on the bench? Is he getting traded?

The most logical explanation is running Ben at the point because of his size. As stated earlier though, Ben wants the ball in his hands, he wants to be the one taking the shots, not the one finding his teammates for scores. Plus, it's well known that you believe in Rodney Stuckey and his ability to run your offense, not to mention the emergence of Will Bynum during the playoffs. The rest of the summer will be interesting to see how you deal with the guard glut you have created for yourself and how the rest of the team gets situated for this season.

Finally, I want to thank you for rejuvenating the Bulls-Pistons rivalry that has lacked for the past two seasons. It may never reach the same heights as it was during the Bad Boys era, but the bar has certainly been raised from the past few years.

To the Bulls Front Office (Jerry Reinsdorf, Jon Paxson, Gar Forman) review what has transpired with the Ben Gordon contract situation..

2007 Offseason: Luol Deng and Ben Gordon are offered contract extensions. Both decline your offers.

2008 Offseason: Luol Deng aggrees to an extension of six years and 71 million dollars guaranteed. Ben Gordon is offered an extension which is initially declined and then accepted only to be told it was no longer available to him. He settles for the one year qualifying offer.

2008-2009 Season: Luol Deng suffers two major injuries, one being season ending. Ben Gordon leads the team in scoring for the fourth straight year, and has his best season since 2006 in which the team won 49 games.

2009 Offseason: Ben Gordon signs five year 55 million dollar deal with division rival Detroit Pistons on the first day of free agency.

Naturally, a lot of people are going to call you out. A lot of people are going to tell you about all the mistakes you made. A lot of people are going to want your jobs for this. I think you guys deserve some slack. Here is why:

You initially offered him an extension two years ago that he turned down. That season statistically he dropped in every category with the rest of the year that year.

You locked up Luol Deng to a long term deal the following year and then continually drug your feet with Gordon. Once you offered him a deal, he felt it wasn't enough money and turned it down. He eventually caved and agreed to your offer and you told him it was no longer available. Essentially, you low balled your best player and he caved and said he would take it only it was your turn to turn him away.

This was your biggest fault right here. Yes, everyone on the team had a terrible 2007-2008 season. At the same time, that gives you no reason to jerk around a player, your best player, they way you did. I understand your faith in Luol Deng, he posted a stat line of 18.8 points and 7 rebounds the previous year. I also understand that his poor follow up season could have been contributed to an injury that caused him to miss 13 games. At the same time though, Gordon also missed 10 games that year due to an injury. You had an opportunity to keep your entire core of players that you worked so long to build for the long term, stay under the dreaded luxury tax, AND add the number one pick in the draft on top of it. You made a huge, glaring, and downright unprofessional error gentleman.

As I said however you deserve some slack. You are human, you do make mistakes, and naturally some players do get overvalued. Teams generally will side with the small forward with a very reliable mid range game who can take it to the hole and also pile up rebounds in the process over the undersized guard who, yes, can score in bunches on whoever he wants whenever he wants but overall has a one dimensional offensive minded game. How were you to know that Deng was going to actually be injury prone? How were you to know that Gordon's low numbers the season prior would only be a fluke. How were you to know that Derrick Rose was going to blossom into the player he became and play so well alongside Gordon and not as well around Deng? This is all intangible, you can't foresee these occurrences.

Gar Forman made it clear when he was introduced as the new General Manager, that bringing back Gordon was the team's top priority. Even during the draft they didn't pick up any guards, or anyone to fill in a void that potentially would be left by Gordon on offense. It was almost as if they expected him to resign with the team, or at least let them get him an offer (I will address this in the next section). As I said earlier though, both parties had their chance to get a long term deal hammered out and both jerked the other around.

Unfortunately, Paxson and Forman work for the biggest penny pinching owner in the league. A man who is known to care more about the money than the legacy of the team in which he owns. Jerry Reinsdorf is a baseball man. He loves his White Sox, the other team he owns. The Bulls are his other team. He doesn't care if the Bulls win as long as they stay amongst the leagues most profitable teams. This has created problems in the past seeing as how all trades, contracts, really anything financially has to go through him before any deals get finalized. I don't blame Paxson. I don't blame Gar Forman. Jerry Reinsdorf is the culprit for being notoriously stingy when it comes to this team.

And finally to you, Mr Gordon:

For four years you've been the team's best player. For four years you have been their offensive spark. For four years you've been the cornerstone of this team, one of the major pieces that were going to lead this team back in the title hunt. You've said that you want to retire a Chicago Bulls. You've said that your dream is to play 15 years in Chicago, to win a few titles with the team. You've been involved in the community and you've given the fans reason to believe that behind you, that one day they'll be back in the finals.

At the same time, you've always said, "it's a business." Little did any of us know exactly how to take that statement. Sure there was always the idea that you would walk to another team this offseason, but at the same time you sounded like you wanted to stay which begs the question, why jet to another team the first day of free agency before they could even give you an offer? It just shows that you never intended to stay and almost as if this entire season was a mutual lie between you and the Bulls management.

You've reminded me that regardless of how you view a situation, that there are always two sides to it. A lot of times you don't hear the whole story and I'm sure that there are a lot of pieces to this situation that we don't know about. Operating under what we do know, what we've heard, and what we've seen, you never had the intention to stay with the team that you said you wanted to retire with. You cared more about the money and took the first deal given to you, even after you said that there was no secret agreement between you and Detroit about going there for a five year 55 million dollar deal which oddly enough, was exactly what you signed for on the first day you could.

You may have wanted to stay in seasons past, but this for you was all about the money. This was all about Ben Gordon.