Forman does well in free agency but fails to hit home run
More than 21/2 hours later than originally scheduled, new Bulls starting guard Ronnie Brewer finally emerged behind the podium Monday wearing a $12.5 million smile but apparently not a watch.
"Good evening," Brewer said after apologizing for being delayed.
It was 4:10 p.m.
Hopefully, he has a better feel for the shot clock.
The fear is that a crowd of Chicagoans never may be as happy to see Brewer make a United Center entrance as the one in the media room that welcomed him after Monday's long wait. But Brewer will be worth the effort for Bulls fans if he offers as much pizzazz on the court as off it.
He already knows how to play to the locals. Asked why he chose to take the offer here rather than one from the NBA runner-up Celtics, Brewer didn't hesitate.
"I think this team's style of play fits me better," he said. "Not to say (the Celtics) are old, but ..."
Brewer's not sayin', he's just sayin'. He'll fit in just fine.
A terrific defender who can handle the ball and score in double figures, Brewer joins former Utah teammates Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver on one of the deepest Bulls' roster of the post-Jordan era. But after all that jazz of NBA free agency, a championship-caliber team it is not.
All three signings filled needs and if the Bulls added any more Jazz to their repertoire this summer their flagship radio station, WMVP-AM 1000, would have to consider changing formats. Granted, every guy who used to pass the Mormon Tabernacle on his way to work should find good harmony on a Bulls team that's undeniably better than the one ousted by the Cavaliers.
But if general manager Gar Forman was going to raid the Utah Jazz organization, couldn't he have started with coach Jerry Sloan?
Forman just accomplished what every self-respecting sports executive strives to do every offseason. He improved his team's chances of winning more games than it did in the previous season. The 2009-10 Bulls went 41-41. After completing the roster with dynamic backup point guard C.J. Watson, acquired Monday from the Warriors, and eventually a backup center, the Bulls will have acquired enough talent to win 50 games in 2010-11.
Realistic or not, we all expected the bar to be higher. And we expected it to be higher because that was what the Bulls had led us to believe since letting Ben Gordon go to clear salary-cap space for the summer of 2010 that was supposed to change everything. It only changed a little.
That's the biggest reason for restraint in celebrating the signings of Brewer, Boozer and Korver -- none of them is named LeBron or Dwyane or Chris.
Yes, Boozer has been an All-Star twice. But I doubt he is on anybody's top-10 list of franchise-changing talents the way James, Wade or Bosh are. Three free-agent player signings later, the Bulls' best long-term investment this offseason remains coach Tom Thibodeau.
That's not diminishing what the Bulls accomplished in committing $107.5 million for three mentally tough, playoff-tested veterans. But if you go out to dinner thinking steak and lobster, ordering roast beef and mashed potatoes is a letdown.
The Bulls didn't sell 1,500 season tickets in 48 hours in June on the promise of Boozer banging the glass for double-doubles. A city didn't ignore baseball for a month because it was distracted by the possibility of Korver spotting up for 3s. Nobody was wearing out the refresh key on their computer searching for the latest Brewer updates.
This is what you get, Chicago: An improved team still no better than the fourth best in the East. There's the Heat, the Celtics, the Magic and then maybe the Bulls.
Truth is, doubt remains about the Bulls' ability to go deep in the playoffs when this was the summer to replace question marks with exclamation points. The Bulls organization had an opportunity to make history. It will have to settle for making progress.
It's OK if it takes at least until the annual circus trip in November for fans to accept the difference.
The Bulls would have been criticized for not joining the chase for James, Wade, et al., so I won't be a hypocrite and rip them for losing it. It seems a little rash and unfair to hold the Bulls' brain trust responsible for the whims of millionaires motivated by factors beyond the control of Forman, John Paxson or Jerry Reinsdorf.
The Bulls could have appealed to James' sense of competitiveness or Wade's sense of family and, in retrospect, still perhaps never had a chance to land either. Forget the fact that this merger began to be plotted three years ago. It turns out James was an even bigger basketball diva than many feared, Wade was disingenuous about the local tug of fatherhood and Chris Bosh was holding onto one hand of each superstar for direction.
Alas, that direction was South Beach.
Directionally speaking, the Bulls are still headed north -- just not as far or as fast as everyone hoped.