It was late on Sunday night when news of a potential Carlos Boozer for Pau Gasol swap between the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers started to spread the same way nearly all news disseminates in 2012 -- with smart phones in hand, via Twitter. The nuts-and-bolts of the rumor looked something like this:
- Lakers star Kobe Bryant, disgruntled in the locker room minutes after an LA loss to the Phoenix Suns, told reporters, "I wish management would come out and either trade (Gasol) or not trade him." Bryant continued:
"I'd rather for them to not trade him at all. If they want to do something, I wished they'd just fucking do it, and if they're not going to do it come out and say you're not going to do it. ...This way he can be comfortable and he can go out and he can perform and he can play and invest all of himself into (the team)."
- Spanish news outlet Marca then reported that Bulls guard Derrick Rose had "given his blessing" to Chicago to explore a trade for Gasol, one that would presumably center on Boozer, Chicago's highly paid, underachieving starter at power forward, and reserve point guard C.J. Watson.
- Chris Sheridan, a longtime NBA reporter for ESPN now operating from his own website, confirmed the report through independent sources. Speaking on Rose's desire to play with Gasol:
"He hasn’t said so publicly, but he has made that known privately," said the source, who spoke to SheridanHoops.com on condition of anonymity.
Rumors like this are hardly a new phenomenon in Chicago. Over the last decade, seemingly every star player in the NBA has been linked to the Bulls. There was a grainy YouTube video in 2007 of Kobe telling a couple of fans in a parking lot to "buy a Bulls jersey." The first set of Gasol-to-Chicago rumors came when the star forward was still trapped in Memphis, a trade apparently squashed by Bulls ownership's unwillingness to surrender the popular Andres Nocioni or go into the luxury tax. There have been rumors about Kevin Garnett, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and now Dwight Howard. Perhaps the most infamous incident came when the man known as "Worldwide" Wes, a prolific NBA handler thought to be in the ear of LeBron James during his free agency in the summer of 2010, proclaimed "we're going to Chicago, and Chris Bosh is coming, too."
There's a strong common thread here, and it's the reason I prefer to discuss anything in the Bulls' universe more than a potential Howard trade: none of these deals came to fruition, either because the rumors were flimsy in the first place or because Chicago simply didn't have the fortitude to pull the trigger. If there's another connector, it's the hype: just as Howard talk clouds every narrative surrounding the present day Bulls, rumors for KG, Kobe and Amar'e were also the only thing Chicago wanted to talk about. This is where the current Gasol situation breaks the mold.
The thought of trading Boozer and Watson for Gasol is certainly enough to get this city excited. Gasol has a pair of championship rings and a wealth of playoff experience that comes with it. Even at age 31, he continues to be arguably the most skilled big man in the game. Boozer, on the other hand, has established himself as something of a local anti-hero, possibly the only unlikable character on the NBA's best and hardest working team. So why hasn't the Gasol story blown up like so many of the previous rumors? Perhaps this time, Marca and Sheridan amount only to the boy who cried wolf. We've simply been burned too many times before to go all-in emotionally on another Bulls trade rumor.
It's easy to poke holes in the report. Why hasn't a credible American news outlet come out and backed up the international report from Gasol's home country? Sheridan also has a bit of a reputation for kick-starting unfounded rumors dating back to his days at ESPN. Now that he has his own site, it's easy to see the motivation behind "breaking" something like this. The stuff about Rose also sounds extremely out of character.
Ultimately, Gasol for Boozer and Watson simply doesn't pass the sniff test. This would be a trade celebrated in the streets of Chicago for weeks. Instead, the rumor has been greeted with skepticism. At this point, Bulls fans know that when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.