CHICAGO — Fresh off last night’s 14-point beatdown of the Orlando Magic — on the road, no less — can someone please tell me why the Chicago Bulls should jeopardize everything they have going right now by trying to trade for center Dwight Howard?
Lest we forget, the Bulls won a league-best 62 games last season, had the youngest MVP in league history, saw their first-year head coach win Coach of the Year, were the league’s top defensive team and went on a playoff run that saw them reach the Eastern Conference finals.
When basketball resumed following the end of the lockout, the Bulls upgraded the shooting guard position with Richard Hamilton, entered training camp with the majority of last year’s team intact and healthy, and were considered to be in a better position to dethrone the Heat atop the East.
Over the years, Chicago’s front office has been methodical in getting bad, fat contracts off the books, assembling a strong supporting cast around Derrick Rose and has gotten everyone on the same page.
So explain why the Howard gamble would make sense? A legitimate championship contender doesn’t need to make wholesale changes or a chemistry experiment, and Howard represents just that.
Plus, unless he were to indicate otherwise, he’d be a rental.
How and why Howard’s name has been linked to the Bulls, and where the rumor even originated, is unbeknownst to me. Howard has made it clear that he would like to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers or New Jersey Nets. He has not mentioned the Bulls, nor did he address the situation before the Bulls’ game in Orlando. While anything is possible, in this digital day and age the Howard-to-Chicago speculation seems to be nothing more than a eye-catchy headline or good water cooler talk based off some daydreamer throwing stuff against the wall with the hopes that something sticks.
What kind of legs does this ridiculous speculation have? Not even ESPN’s on-air talent broached the possibility of a Howard-to-Chicago trade on Friday night’s broadcast.
If I’m completely off base here and the rumor becomes reality, then so be it.
But I say let’s squash it right here and now. I’m not a big fan of hypotheticals to begin with.
To me, it’s just not worth forking over so much talent to get Howard. The rumor out there has the Bulls shipping some combination of draft picks, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson to Orlando.
“We’re not talking trades,” Howard told reporters in Florida on Thursday when asked about his interest in the Bulls.
The Bulls don’t need another superstar. They have one in Rose. This is his team. His teammates respect him. He’s a beloved son to Chicago. The Bulls needed someone to help alleviate the pressure and scoring load from Rose, which the ESPN NBA pre-game crew thinks – and I’m in agreement with – the team accomplished with the acquisition of Hamilton. If anything, the Bulls might need little more than a more experienced backup center.
They don’t need a new starting center, especially a guy whose ego and personality are bigger than Disneyland, a player who donned a cape when he was in dunk contests and has the Superman theme song play after each time he scores.
To me, that doesn’t seem to fit the Bulls’ culture. Now, I’m not going to knock Howard as a person because I don’t know him. I’m sure he’s a good guy deep down inside, but perception is reality. Sure, the way Howard plays defense is a coach’s dream, but at what expense?
Let’s take a brief look at the players who have been associated with this trade rumor:
Deng: A key cog, and if he keeps up his current pace he should be on the All-Star team. Deng is the team’s unsung hero who brings a lot with his inside-out game and ability to defend at a high level. He’s too important. Find another player on the Bulls roster who can play three positions. You can’t.
Noah: Teammates feed off his passion, and the Bulls starting center does all the intangibles. Sure, he can be loud and outspoken, but he’s not disruptive. A career 51.4 percent shooter from the field, he’s efficient with his touches and, in my opinion, proves the Bulls don’t need an offensive-minded starting center.
Gibson: Still coming into his own, he’s a serviceable defensive presence on the second unit who has upside on both ends of the floor. The third-year player was a great late first-round find.
Asik: A second-year player who still has a lot of developing to do. He came into camp healthy and remains a defense-first player. By the end of this season, when he’ll be up for a contract extension, he’ll have had more time to develop in order to make an informed opinion on where he might fit in for the immediate future.
In case any delusional Bulls fans who really want Howard on the roster are reading this and disagreeing, just remember this: Chicago already was the league’s top defensive team without Howard. And they’re also title contenders without him.
ESPN studio analyst Jon Barry said something on Friday that I found myself nodding in agreement with:
“The Chicago Bulls are going to be better than last year – that much we can guarantee,” Barry said.
And he said it regarding the Bulls’ roster as it stands today.
Chris Silva, former Pistons beat writer for the Detroit Free Press and Kevin Durant’s de facto biographer for thunder.nba.com, covers the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter at @silvawriter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.