Kirk Hinrich's likely to play in the Chicago Bulls season opener

Kirk Hinrich refused to speak with the media for the third straight time since injury his groin after practice yesterday, but according to K.C. Johnson's sources, he's likely good for the opener.

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And little concern exists within the organization that his strained right groin will affect the Oct. 31 regular-season opener.

The Bulls also trimmed their roster down to the guaranteed contracts entering training camp. This comes as little surprise as the Bulls are working under a hard cap of 74.3 million and couldn't afford to sign any of the non guaranteed deals anyway.

On November 21st, Chicago will have enough room under the cap to sign one player to the veteran minimum, but unless there's an injury, it's unlikely they'll use u all their flexibility right out of the box as anyone signed for the 14th and final roster spot would be unlikely to play immediately.

Chicago's starters appear to have found their groove as preseason has gone on, and while the bench has struggled at times, Nate Robinson's improved play leaves fans with hope that the bench won't be completely lost. The biggest issues remains a back up to Rip Hamilton, and if Belinelli doesn't improve quickly, look for Jimmy Butler to play far more SG minutes than initially expected.

Butler's best fit is at SF, but Thibodeau has shown he'll go with what is effective so a shorter perimeter rotation that looks something like below is certainly in the realm of possibility of Belinelli can't get his act together.

PG: Kirk Hinrich 30, Nate Robinson 18
SG: Rip Hamilton 28, Jimmy Butler 14, Kirk Hinrich 6
SF: Luol Deng 38, Jimmy Butler 10

The Bulls actually have a log jam of players in the backcourt, so removing Belinelli from the rotation won't be much of a challenge if he can't get the job done and the rest of the roster is healthy.

Clock ticking down on Taj Gibson extension

Reports have generally been positive about the possibility of a Taj Gibson extension. Both K.C. Johnson and Aggrey Sam have reported talks were going in the right direction for something to get done before the start of the season. However, the trickles of positivity have generally slowed.

This is they type of situation which is likely to go down to the wire with both sides waiting until the last possible second to try and get the best deal possible then saying yes or no. For Taj, it's about security. He's the type of player who may not have a shot at a big deal next season if he struggles or has a significant injury. Nor has he earned all that much money on his present contract.

For Gibson, removing the risk of never getting that pay day is worth giving up some money for. However, at the same time, it could also easily be his only large pay day. Gibson entered the league at 24, and thus is much older than a typical player looking for his first extension.

At 27 years old now, Gibson will be 32 when he looks for his next contract assuming a four year extension is reached. Who knows where his game will be at in five years. He may be looking for another large deal or may be on his way out of the league. While he needs the security, he must also maximize his income.

The Bulls are in a tough position themselves. If they let Taj play out the regular season there's a good chance that a big man starved league will massively overpay him next off-season. By underpaying rookies and superstars, he league rules are set up so that guys in Gibson's position (non superstar, but non scrub) cash in truckloads of money in free agency as someone has to get the extra cash.

Some team with a hole at PF will look at Gibson as a starter and offer him eight figures if he has a quality season. The Bulls can ill afford to lose Gibson and know that if he's healthy and plays well that he'll cost far more next summer than he will now. Striking the correct balance between Gibson's risk and the Bulls risk will determine whether a deal gets done.

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  • I like Gibson a lot. He's certainly worth $8 - $10M annually for 4 or 5 years. However, I'll remove the doubt and say this will be Gibson's last and only large payday.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Taj is 27 right now.

    Let's say he resigns for 4 more years. That leaves him at 31.

    That's still pretty young.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    Signing for 4 more years puts him at 32 - he's still got a year to play before the extension kicks in.

    By 32 most players are looking at a couple of years at less than the MLE type deals unless they've been an all-star calibre player in their prime. It's hard to see Gibson getting another pay day like this one. I'd go as far to say there's a much better chance that he wont get another contract at all after this than he'll get another larger than MLE one.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    At age 31, Taj Gibson will be on the back end of his prime, and I'd project him to be a $4M/year player, unless he undergoes some kind of offensive renaissance. It's not a knock on him. It's the new financial landscape of the NBA.

  • I agree Gibson is worth $8-10M/yr it's Boozer's inflated contract that is the problem on the team! By locking in Gibson at under $10M/yr really gives us flexibility to lose the Boz sooner than later!

  • In reply to smiley:

    It makes Boozer expendable, sure, but it doesn't give the Bulls salary cap flexibility.

    And if Reinsdorf pays Taj $10mil per, that doesn't give Reinsdorf the incentive to Amnesty Boozer (paying him tens of millions to play somewhere else).

  • I don't have much confidence in our 2 guard positions going into the season and I find it hard to believe that we couldn't have attracted at least Barbosa at the minimum but if I were him I'd go to Boston where they have a team that has another year in the tank and they are going all in to beat the Heat this year. At this point anyone beating the Heat is ok by me since we have little chance to do that this season or in the next few. I would have been happy to even get the crazy Beasley cheap, or obviously kept CJ around. Hopefully we can win a championship while Derrick is here and playing at a high level!

  • In reply to smiley:

    Delonte West just got cut.

  • The Bulls(per J.R.'s "no new taxes" policy) dumped their roster to avoid said tax. And they won't amnesty Boozer, and "pay a player for nothing." Noah, Deng, Rose, and Boozer plus avoiding tax means no financial means left for significant adds which Taj's new contract would be - a $6-8 Million add on to the payroll.

    The fact that they will have to "go down to the wire" says it all - Taj, like Omer, willl likely have to leave the Bulls to get paid. After all, we wouldn't want to cut into Reinsdorf's huge profit margin just so we could retain a valuable player and fan favorite now would we?

    Let's face it, as long as Reinsdorf owns the team, the Bulls will not pay the tax in any consistent, tangible fashion. Thus retaining quality core players puts a stranglehold on expaning the talent base of a likely NBA Champion.

    Side note: saw John Paxson on CTL last night, for a franchise executive, Pax appears so emotional, and makes a point of how beholden he is to Reinsdorf. He really is emotionally attatched to his core players. A nice guy, but from a business and winning standpoint, I don't see him necessarily succeeding with that attitude. Still, you have to admire his loyalty to core guys and his desire to bring in character competitors. He still has more chance of things working out for him then a lot of other G.M.'s/execs who are blind to any attitude considerations in the pursuit of the almighty offensively gifted player.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    We don't have to worry about Pax adding a offensive player with an attitude. He generally avoids offfensive players so there is no way we get one with an attitude problem.

    Also I respectfully disagree about the Bulls being cheap with players as they have overpaid so many. Kirk, Boozer and Loul being my favorites for overpaid bulls. I admit I don't understand their player management strategy as they overpay some guys then hold others knowing they won't resign and watch them walk when they could have received an asset in return.

  • In reply to Chad:

    So you're saying they're not cheap, they're just dumb.

  • I expect to see a good deal of Rip at the 3. I can see lineups with both Nate and Kirk as the guards and Rip at the 3. If you add Lu or Vlad at the 4, you'd have an interesting small lineup.

  • it does make you wonder what the strategy is. If they don't bring back Belinelli and Rip, thats 7 million off the payroll and Gibby is making 2 million this year. Of course you have to think the Bulls are looking to draft a tall PF or Center in next year's draft and they claim Mirotic will come in the 2014-15 season. Whatever they do, I just hope they don't let another asset walk for nothing, lets have some of that Portland greed(or I should say smarts) and cash in for a change with valuable draft pick or a young shooting guard.......yes I could only wish.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    But that's just the point: if we re-sign Taj we have two perfectly serviceable power forwards, with a third on the way in 2014 or 2015, and one very good center. We should be looking to draft a shooting guard! It would be very frustrating to see the Bulls cheapness force them into drafting another PF in 2013.

  • As the original(only) member of the Gibson band wagon when he was drafted(I argued for drafting him prior to the draft) I like Taj as much as any Bulls fan.

    However,

    While I don't doubt that someone will put a big offersheet on the table for Taj if he reaches free agency, he is just not an 8 figure player. In reality, due to the limitations of his offensive game(and the realities of a luxury tax league, he is a full MLE or just slightly above type player.

    He is a non scoring sixth man on a championship caliber team, not a legitimate starter. As much as I like him as a player, and as valuable as he is as part of any teams regular rotation, if he is your starting power forward, you will always be looking to find a better starting power forward.

    I will be shocked if the Bulls offer anything more than 4 years @$30-$32 million. Making him slightly overpaid, which is basically the going rate to retain your own free agent or to steal someone else's. Given Gibsons age/situation, I'd be surpised if he could turn that down, although his agent will press him relentlessly to do so.

    Even though it is at least 2 seasons away, the arrival of Mirotic also lowers Taj's value to the Bulls, as Mirotic will be the starting power forward by the end of his first season as a Bull, if not immediately upon his arrival.

    Gibson is in pretty much the same situation that Asik was, he is more valuable to another team that views him as a starter, and thus can afford to pay him like one. There was no bigger advocate of keeping Asik than I was, and I feel the same way about Taj, but the luxury tax reality sucks almost as bad as Bozo and his bloated contract.

    I would have loved to enter the 2014 season with a core of Rose, Noah, Asik, Mirotic and Gibson and taken my chances on filling in the blanks with some wing scoring around those 5 guys.

    Bulls fans will go nuts if Taj isn't resigned this week, and go insane when the bulls don't match his offersheet next summer. However, my sense is that the minute after Gibson resigns is when Bulls fans will stop raving about him, and start calling him overpaid.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    So you believe the Bulls will just let him walk in the offseason and not trade him for anything in return...just like they did with Asik.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I don't think it really matters a huge deal how much Gibson is "worth", I don't think the Bulls can really do wrong here unless they just let him walk. You've got to find ways to flip assets for other assets when you can, like how Denver signed Nene even though they had every intention of sending him out in a deal as soon as they could.

    To that end I think getting the extension done at a reasonable rate is the best bet, you don't want some team making an offer you don't want to match like with Asik. Get Gibson under contract and trade him for something else down the line if it does turn out that the Mirotic hype is real and Taj is a luxury.

    That said I think this off-season was the optimal time to trade him if the plan isn't to keep him long term, as I think his value will go down when he doesn't look the same on defense by playing next to Boozer rather than Asik.

  • I disagree that the Bulls overpaying certain players (or just, in general, when they give out big contracts) shows they aren't cheap.

    People use this argument often, where they say some variation of, ''You're calling the Bulls cheap? They paid Wallace. They paid Boozer. They paid Noah (etc., etc.).''

    But those arguments disregard the fact that money can be siphoned out of other positions on the roster to make up for the bigger contract(s).

    So while you're sitting there with your attention focused on the large size of certain contracts, the Bulls make up for it by ridding themselves of other contracts, whether by trade, waiving them, or letting them walk (those sound familiar? All three happened this offseason), by not using the full amount of their exceptions (like the MLE), or just not using them at all period, and by not making certain trades that they may have, under different salary conditions, otherwise made.

    But, in spite of all of this, the ''Big Contract'' fallacy still often works, as you see it used fairly frequently.

    The more people who wake up to the illusion that it creates, the better.

  • If we know anything about the Bulls, it's that they are big spenders. I'm willing to bet they offer Taj, at least, $300k per year, for up to 5 years.

  • The Bulls' plan is simple...

    1) Let Taj walk next offseason for nothing.

    2) Recycle the current 'Bench mob' for another set of Vet-Min players next year.

    3) Then in 2014, Deng's contract expires. Boozer will then have 1 year left...not to Amnesty...but so they can throw in a 1stRounder and trade as an 'expiring contract'.

    4) Then for 2014, they got after the big stars with their newly found cap space. When that fails, they will resign Deng for $10+mil and tell us this was the plan all along.

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