The Chicago Bulls grand plan for a title was to somehow try and sign James Harden to a max contract when he became a free agent after this season — at least that was the hope among fans. Now that Harden has been dealt to Houston (the Chicago ties here are scary), fans now not only have to live with the fact the Harden/Rose idea is dead but that Taj Gibson, a guy that’s already here, might be on his way out as well.
Gibson is in the final year of his contract and the last thing the Bulls want to do is have a situation like the one that transpired this offseason when restricted free agent Omer Asik was stolen away by the aforementioned Houston Rockets. Asik, like Gibson, was a restricted free agent but the Bulls failed to reach a contract extension with him and believed they could hash out a deal in the offseason.
Then the Rockets came along and foiled that plan (as they did with Jeremy Lin and the Knicks).
Fast forward to this year and the Bulls are in the same exact situation with a far better piece of their potential championship puzzle. Gibson has already won over fans and critics with his play since 2009, but he’s yet to receive the title of starter at power forward.
Gibson came to Chicago in the draft from USC, and when he got here he had to fight with Tyrus Thomas for minutes. When Thomas got injured and eventually traded, the thought was that Gibson could grow into his role as a starter. But instead the Bulls threw $75 million at Carlos Boozer and GIbson has been coming off the bench ever since then.
Boozer has more than worn out his welcome in Chicago which has fans calling for Gibson to finally take over as starter. But we may never see that if Gibson and the Bulls don’t agree on a contract.
Teams have been hot after Asik and Gibson dating back to the 2011 trade deadline when every offer the Bulls got involved one or both of them. Now that Asik is gone and got insane money, Gibson knows his value and isn’t going to undersell himself. The trade and eventual max extension of James Harden only solidifies fears that if he even graces the open market, someone will out-bid the Bulls for their best bench player.
Gibson wants $10 million a year, the Bulls want to give him $8 million a year.
That right there is your bottom line. Gibson loves Chicago, he wants to stay in Chicago and help bring a title back to town. But he’s not in the business of charity, and the Harden deal has shown him that if the team you love doesn’t want to give you the money, someone else will.
Chicago simply does not want to give Gibson $10 million per year when they’re already giving four of their five core players yearly salaries north of that mark. Derrick Rose ($16M), Joakim Noah ($11.3M), Luol Deng ($13.3M) and Carlos Boozer ($15M) are all making gobs of money, and at this time the Bulls are uncertain whether or not they’ll amnesty Boozer after this season.
Even if they do, giving Gibson the salary he wants means the Bulls would still be strapped for cash when it comes to bringing in another star player to complete the team.
The final question is which is more important to Gibson: the money or the team?
This isn’t to say Gibson must humble himself and take the $8 million per to stay in Chicago, he owes the Bulls nothing. But this James Harden deal has shown the business aspect of the game to players once again, and when your pupils turn to dollar signs, loyalty goes out the window.