By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) It’s not fair to Omer Asik that he now becomes the 7-foot-tall, walking symbol of expensive mediocrity.
That is, if multiple recent reports prove true that the Bulls are preparing to match the poison-pill offer sheet extended by the Houston Rockets to the backup center. The three-year deal would pay Asik $5 million in each of the first two years, then balloon to around $15 million for the final season.
That’s too much money for a non-starter who can’t score.
Especially on the 2014-15 books that would still be carrying the contracts of Derrick Rose ($19 million), Joakim Noah ($12 million) and Carlos Boozer ($15 million), it would be impossible to justify. They would be out from under Luol Deng’s deal, and Boozer could be removed via amnesty at some point prior, but there’s still the issue of Taj Gibson, who is likely to receive a similarly eye-popping offer if he becomes a free agent next year. It’s probable that he’ll be an eight-figure player, too, regardless.
Both the Chicago Tribune and the national NBA website SheridanHoops.com are hearing from multiple league sources that the Bulls will indeed match, while other sources have described to WSCR a healthy debate occurring between the offices of Gar Forman and John Paxson, the two-headed decision-making entity.
Paxson has long been the conservative voice, opting for the reliable, familiar and comfortable. He values teamwork, effort, defense and coachability, preferring to rack up regular-season wins and play for a puncher’s chance in the playoffs. None of that actually ever works in the star-driven NBA, of course – it’s a proven recipe for ensuring empty trophy cases –but it seems to be his preferred philosophy.
Forman is said to be developing a greater risk tolerance than his boss, and has emerged as a progressive voice as he has grown more comfortable and empowered as the nominal GM.
These are wild times in the league again, with superstars on the move and super-teams under construction in multifaceted deals with tentacles snaking around numerous teams, affecting many seasons to come.
And it looks like the Bulls are going to choose to punt for two years, delaying any larger remodeling until 2014-15. Rose will return sometime late this winter, probably looking much like his old self, and another gritty band of likable boy scouts will scrap its way to a middle seed and an eventual playoff ouster at the hands of a team with more stars. Then all that will happen again in some fashion in 2013-14.
Even if Rose is repaired and recovered, he still needs more real help. That was made clear even at the peak of his explosiveness.
Kirk Hinrich is not help. Neither was Rip Hamilton.
Matching Asik means nothing but scraps to fill out the rest of the roster, the “Bench Mob” turned Bench Meh. He’s a good defender of the basket, valuable as a shot-changer, and may eventually sharpen his offensive game into something more than fumbling passes and missing free throws, but the reasoning for his retention is curious, at best.
Some say that uncertainty regarding Noah’s badly-sprained ankle could be influencing the desire to keep Asik, which makes no sense in any larger context. What does that have to do with navigating a path to an NBA title based on anything other than the faintest, pie-in-the-sky scenario?
Simply asked, where is this franchise, and what is it trying to do? And when?
Deciding to overpay a one-dimensional backup center in the apparent pursuit of a glass ceiling would be part of a very unsatisfying answer.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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