Class warfare has never been hotter. It's the basis of our national social protests, a sticking point in our upcoming presidential election, a key storyline in our Batman movies. This country has spent the better part of the last year marching against the idea of the rich getting richer, though no amount of creatively worded signs will ever impede the progress of capitalism. This is the way things work, for better or for worse. Of course Dwight Howard is going to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Orlando Magic center held the NBA news cycle hostage for over a year with his trade demand, a simple request that would seemingly change on Howard's whims with each passing week. Now it's over, though the relief granted by the end of the incessant rumors might not be enough to squash the overall ramifications of the transaction. The Lakers just acquired one of the game's five best players, simultaneously morphing from an aging threat in the Western Conference to what could be the NBA's new odds-on title favorite. Sometimes life isn't fair.
Howard is headed to Los Angeles as the main component in a massive four-team deal that is set to restructure the NBA's hierarchy. The aftershock of the deal will be felt league-wide. The Nuggets get Andre Igoudala to create an insanely fun starting five. The 76ers get Andrew Bynum, a 24-year old building block and arguably the league's second best center. Orlando? They'll be receiving Arron Afflalo and first round draft picks from every team involved.
So we ask: why didn't the Chicago Bulls try to get in the mix? Oh sure, Chicago placed a hard cap on itself by signing Kirk Hinrich to a portion of the mid-level exception and then using the bi-annual exception to sign Marco Belinelli. We can't assume the Bulls were dumb enough to do that by accident. But with Howard's demands in the spotlight for so long and Chicago privately touting the need for another superstar, didn't it make sense for the Bulls to at least be involved in the Howard talks? Of course it did, though the creativity and financial commitment required was just too far out of the Chicago's comfort zone.
Look at what Orlando is getting in return for the game's best big man. Are we really to believe the Magic wouldn't have at least entertained a deal primarily involving Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson? Sure, there would have been plenty of other moving pieces to figure out, but it's beside the point. The point being: the Bulls didn't even try. They were resigned to inactivity all along, knowing full well Derrick Rose's torn ACL saved the franchise from pressure to make the type of monetary gamble this organization shies away from like an incurable disease. Instead of trying to get better, the Bulls saved money and "kept their flexibility". That's what the team and those drinking its special blend of bullshit Kool-Aid will tell you, at least. What Chicago is really doing amounts to tying their own hands and admitting defeat for the next two seasons. This is not how the big markets should play.
So now what do the Bulls do? Well, it's been obvious for a month. Chicago is planning on waiting until 2014 to again dip its toes in the treacherous waters of free agency. Because this always works out so well.
Things to keep in mind: Howard is head-and-shoulders better than anyone available in the summer of 2014. The Bulls could have had Howard now as opposed to waiting two years for the pie-in-the-sky chance at luring another superstar. Chicago also wouldn't have to cut ties with Luol Deng, like the mythical 2014 scheme requires.
Yes, Howard said he'd never come to Chicago, but guess what: he said he'd never come to the Lakers, either. This is a premium example of a big market franchise acting like it. The Lakers make gobs of money due to a TV deal and unimpaired sell-outs of every home game. They put those resources back into the team. The Bulls? They'll count the dollar signs in Jerry Reinsdorf's bank account while we read about it in the next Forbes report. Chicago has argued nothing would have "put them over the top". Yeah, great logic. You can't win with a defeatist's attitude, Bulls.
Howard was there for the taking, just as he had been for months. He would have been the perfect star to pair with Rose. It's just another blow in what I'm deeming 'The Worst Offseason Ever'. If the mainstream beat writers won't call the team out on its own bullshit, someone has to.
Here's what's truly demoralizing about the Bulls: basketball is becoming baseball, with a gulf in competitive advantages between the haves and the have-nots. The lack of luck involved in basketball's playoffs makes those advantages for the big markets even more exaggerated. This is the 1% vs. the world all over again. The Bulls are in that elite class, yet they refuse to act like it.
If you're a Pacers fan or a Bucks fan, there's no need to be upset at your team for not going after Howard. You never had a chance. So isn't it even more disheartening that the Bulls have all the makings of a big market bully, but refuse to play ball?
The advantages of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are mitigated by the fact that teams in that sport build with an eye on results over the course of a 162-game schedule. When it gets down to a best-of-seven series in the MLB postseason, anything can happen. Just ask the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals. There is no such chance involved in the NBA. The best teams punish and kill. That is what Miami is doing, that is what Oklahoma City is doing, that is what the Lakers will do. Meanwhile, the Bulls will see how much they can make in operating revenue.
Maybe Howard never would have come to Chicago. Maybe he would have. We'll never know. But it's the lack of effort on the part of Chicago's front office that should really be infuriating. You deserve to be upset today, Chicago. Don't let the Bulls fool you with their own spin.