This will be something of a companion piece to Monday' column suggesting the Bulls shouldn't let the luxury tax get in the way of re-signing Ben Gordon.
At this point, I think keeping Gordon is definitely a goal of team management. But they will also keep their options open this summer, because some interesting trade possibilities could develop as teams try to keep their payrolls down.
Toronto isn't planning to do anything with Chris Bosh this summer, but Amare Stoudemire could conceivably end up back on the market. Utah might be open to a sign-and-trade for Carlos Boozer. There is talk that Orlando won't be able to keep both Hedo Turkoglu and promising big man Marcin Gortat, two likely free agents.
Another factor will be how much interest Gordon attracts as an unrestricted free agent. The only three teams currently on target to have significant cap room are Detroit, Memphis and Oklahoma City. It's possible none of them will pursue Gordon.
Memphis is probably out of the question, with O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley in the backcourt. Detroit has Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton at guard, along with a strong need to rebuild the front court. Look for the Pistons to chase players like Boozer, Stoudemire and Lakers free agent Lamar Odom.
Oklahoma City might be a possibility for Gordon, since the Thunder don't have a ton of money wrapped up in rookie Russell Westbrook and ex-Bull Thabo Sefolosha. Portland has a chance to free up some cap room, but Gordon is a fit only if the Blazers decide to move Brandon Roy to small forward.
Any of the other NBA teams can offer Gordon the mid-level exception of around $5.6 million. Last year, the Bulls offered Gordon around $54 million over six years and may not have to go that high to outbid the competition.
Of course, the Bulls would have a better chance of creating cap room in 2010 if they don't re-sign Gordon. Letting the team's leading scorer walk away is a risky proposition, though, with no guarantee the Bulls would land any of the top 2010 free agents.
CELTICS PARTING SHOTS
Give the Bulls credit for not giving up in Game 7 after falling behind by 14 at halftime. But my biggest question is why Derrick Rose did so little offensively in the fourth quarter. Kirk Hinrich seemed to have the only hot hand among the other players. Knowing Ben Gordon and John Salmons didn't have it going late in the contest, my first choice would have been to let Rose turn it loose.
Overall, I think the Bulls' biggest downfall was dealing with Boston's screens. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo got a ton of their points with the aid of interference from big men Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins. Sure, many of those screens were technically illegal, but since the officials didn't call it, it's on the Bulls to deal with it.
At the end of Game 6, they started switching on every screen and ended up with Brad Miller on Allen a few times.
In general, it shows how much the Bulls big men still have room to improve when Perkins and Davis combine to average 31.4 points in the series.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
Here's a sample of Game 7 comments from the Celtics, most of which didn't make the Chicago papers.
Doc Rivers: “My only thought with this series: It was hard. I don't see great. I just saw hard.”
Paul Pierce: “It was a long, grueling series. My hat's off to the Bulls because you really didn't expect them to come in and play the way they did throughout the whole seven games. Thanks goodness we were battle-tested and were able to pull this out. I was able to tell some of the guys, if they can bring their team back and get Luol Deng healthy, they're going to be tough to beat.”
Pierce: “I think this was probably one of the most mentally tough series I've had to deal with. I thought some of my lows were a little too low, because you're always thinking back to one play that could've won the game.”
Ray Allen: “I told Rondo after the game, 'They were probably the toughest matchup we've had , if I go back to even last year, because they have three guys capable of scoring 40 a night and it definitely put a crunch on our defense.”
Also, Kendrick Perkins suggested if the Bulls had John Salmons and Brad Miller all season, they would have been a top four seed.
JVG POINTS OUT UGLY ACHIEVEMENT
The funniest thing I heard over the weekend was broadcaster and former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy congratulating Tracy McGrady on the air for finally getting out of the first round. Of course, McGrady hasn't played since Feb. 9, so I suspect the sarcasm ran deep with that comment.
SORTING OUT SECOND ROUND
The most interesting second-round matchup, in my mind, is Lakers-Rockets. Houston has two of the league's best defenders, Ron Artest and Shane Battier, to throw at Kobe Bryant, as well as two low-post scoring options in Yao Ming and Luis Scola. I know he gets booed around the league, but I'm still an Artest fan because he was such a pleasant guy to cover during his early years with the Bulls.
Atlanta doesn't seem to have much of a chance against Cleveland. Dallas probably got a free
pass into the second round with Manu Ginobili's injury and doesn't figure to last long against a suddenly confident Denver squad. Boston-Orlando has a chance to be a good series, though it's tough to see either team giving the Cavs a good test in the East finals.