The Bulls probably could have traded Kirk Hinrich last year at the trade deadline or during the summer, but didn’t want to give away a valuable team leader without getting a good piece in return.
It’s tough to know for sure what deals could have been done, but it does seem clear that the Bulls are now anxious to swap Hinrich for expiring contracts before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
Why the change of heart? Well, Tyrus Thomas might have something to do with it.
When Ben Gordon left for Detroit last summer, the Bulls knew they’d have enough cap space in 2010 to sign one significant free agent, with Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson at the top of the wish list.
I think at the time, they felt it would be possible to try and orchestrate a trade for a top-line power forward using Hinrich, Thomas and other spare parts, such as the two rookies and future draft picks. The thinking goes if Carlos Boozer was planning to leave Utah as a free agent anyway, maybe the Jazz would agree to a sign-and-trade.
If such a trade didn’t work out, then re-signing Thomas or keeping him for one more season might still be a possibility.
Even before Thomas was suspended by the team for Saturday’s game against Miami, it was becoming obvious that Thomas and the Bulls weren’t going to have a lasting relationship. Thomas could use a fresh start and he figures to get that chance this summer. In the meantime, he’s not going to bring Boozer, Chris Bosh or much of anyone back in a trade the way things have been going.
Maybe that’s why the Bulls decided their best chance at building a dream team this summer is to open more cap room. Trading Hinrich and John Salmons is the way to make that happen, though Salmons can opt out of his deal when the season ends whether he's still with the Bulls or not.
There are no guarantees in NBA free agent chasing, as the Bulls learned in 2000. But it should be encouraging to fans that the team believes it can sign two top line players.
In theory, it sounds great. Things aren’t going well for Wade in Miami, Johnson could build a much-higher profile by playing in Chicago, Boozer figures to leave Utah regardless and Bosh is certainly no lock to stay in Toronto. The Bulls want to land one shooting guard and one power forward to join Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
Needless to say, the Bulls are anxious to get something done. Maybe the Lakers will see Hinrich as an important piece to another title. It is possible for the Lakers to make a deal with all expiring contracts if they send Adam Morrison, Jordan Farmar and Josh Powell to the Bulls.
All-star weekend is coming up and that’s generally when trade deadline talk starts to get serious, with all team officials in one place.