Ben Gordon, His Contract Negotiations, and the Bulls

Posted on October 5, 2008 by


I wish John Paxson would’ve read a bit of Sherlock Holmes before he became GM of the Bulls.

A man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with scuh furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it…It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless fact elbowing out the useful ones.

Except John Paxson didn’t crowd the Bulls with knowledge. He crowded them with overrated and overpaid players.

Kirk Hinrich, an unimpressive point guard, got an average of 9.5 million over 6 years to overdribble, complain on defense, choke in the clutch, and back-up Derrick Rose.

Ben Wallace got 14 million per year to deteriorate and watch other centers and power forwards grab rebounds. Ben Wallace’s deterioration begat the 13 million dollar albatross that is Larry Hughes, whose seen better days, particularly those days when there wasn’t a website dedicated to him telling him not to shoot so much.

Luol Deng is the latest to benefit from Paxson’s fool strategy. He got 12 million per year, to stay injured and to perform his disappearing act when it matters.

Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, Luol Deng. They will make 31 million out of the 54 million under this year’s salary cap. With the on/off Nocioni, that’s 39 million invested in 4 players: a player who should’ve been traded, a player we traded for because of a bad signing, a bad signing, and Andres Nocioni.

In contrast, the San Antonio Spurs, a real franchise, invested 41 million dollars in 3 years, but in players who are actually the team’s main producers: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.

In Paxson’s mistake-accumulating frenzy, he crowded out one of the team’s main producers since 04-05. None other than the leading scorer over the past 3 years, Ben Gordon.

Despite his status as the clearcut #1 option on the offense, he wasn’t going to be paid even Kirk Hinrich money, let alone Luol Deng money.

After a long and drawn out negotiating period, Ben Gordon signed the 1-year qualifying offer for 6.4 million dollars. The consensus is now that he is good as gone after that 1 year. After this one year, he becomes an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could sign anywhere and the Bulls would be left with nothng to show for the 3rd pick in the 2004 draft.

Yes, he comes off the bench, and yes he was leading scorer for a losing team.

However, bench scoring is one of the few things going for us, ever, and he was leading scorer for a 41 win team, and a 49 win team as well.

I’ve followed this team since the first Bush was still in office. I was the jump-rope monitor for my class. I’ve since advanced to playground monitor.

I didn’t even know who Ben Gordon was out of college. I wouldn’t care too much about him if he didn’t help the Bulls shoot themselves out of the pile of dung they were in.

I simply recognize a good, winning product when I see it. Ben Gordon is exactly that.

Unfortunately, the Bulls wouldn’t know. If anyone has inclinations of using any variation of the phrase, “wouldn’t know [insert item of curiosity here, in this case for the Chicago Bulls, WINNING PLAYERS/DIFFERENCE MAKERS] if it was biting them in the ass”, the Chicago Bulls are a good modern-day point of reference.

He was a huge reason we even had a resurgence in 04-05. We were supposed to be monumentally bad and supposed to continue in that direction. Luol Deng was the first guy I noticed, I thought he was a star, after a Lakers game, but we still lost. I lost all hope in the season after watching us muff a Clippers game.

Then out of nowhere we won a game in Utah.

It was cute. The rookie was doing something we could’ve had Jamal Crawford done. Nice!

We then won against the Lakers at home.

I thought that this Ben Gordon guy might be worth something after all, but it would be impossible for this team to do anything else.

He solidified his status as 4th quarter magic in 2 games against the Knicks. By the time he was done, he was a league-wide sensation and the Bulls were suddenly out of the worst 6 year funk in pro team sports history. He had 20 games where he had 10 points or more in the 4th quarter. He was a reason that announcers talked about clutch statistics. 6th man of the year as a rookie.

However, that was probably a curse in disguise for the perception of his game.

Scott Skiles pigeonholed him as being effective only as a 6th man.

For the better part of 3 years, Gordon would have to fight for his playing time, let alone starting time in ways most star scorers would never have to. In 06-07, despite being a league top 20 scorer at 21.4 points per game, he averaged the least minutes (33), and scored at the rate of and more than Amare Stoudamire, a guy who operates in the post.

However, instead of giving this leading scorer, this guy who’s helped to re-energize your franchise more room to grow even more, Scott Skiles seemed to punish Gordon. Particularly in 05-06, BG was subject to benchings for in-game defensive lapses and turnovers. Skiles jerked him on and off the bench, starting each season with Gordon as a starter, before relegating him, and subsequently reinstating him.

At work in Skiles’ mercurial management of Gordon was the principle of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As in as they kept trying to change BG’s role and his minutes around, the more his status to the team, his reputation stayed the same, the perception of his improvement stayed the same.

The league-wide expectation is that if you are a bench player, your ultimate goal is to become a starter.

However, the line fed to us by the Skiles regime was that Gordon was our very special bench player, not the traditional bench player who stunk, but the one who gave us a boost from the bench. Bench scoring, tops in the league, thanks in no small part to Ben Gordon.

But still even with Skiles’ explanation, casual fans and media pundits alike completely missed that point this summer when analyzing Gordon’s situation.

They missed that point when they were calling him simply a bench player, who was fair value worth no more than 8-9 million dollars a year. They missed that when they de-valued his contribution as the leading scorer.

Bench players in the NBA tend to get conflated into one category. Not good enough to play unless you are Manu Ginobili and Leandro Barbosa, players on the bench on winning teams. If you’re not on a winning team, bench players are players of excess. Ben Gordon is a bench player. Ben Gordon is of excess.

The other argument was against his ability as a #1 option. He was “only” a leading scorer has also been used against him. It’s implied that playing offense on a losing team means you’re not that good on offense, that you’re shooting and chucking because no one else will.

That mode of NBA trend generalization doesn’t jibe well with the reality that Gordon’s effective FG percentage was well over 50%, meaning he wasn’t just randomly shooting and wasn’t inefficient.

Despite all the herking and jerking of his playing time, and an everchanging role as defined by an idiotic coach, BG has still been the player whom most fans anticipated to “heat up.” “Heat up” as in hit shots. “Hit shots” to actually win the basketball game. No one on this team would have expectation of Hinrich, Luol Deng, or Andres Nocioni to “get hot.” There is no Hinrich time, or Luol time. It’s Gordon everyone expects to salvage a game.

Gordon heat up in a 19-2 run scoring 16 in the 4th quarter against Indiana.

This was a game in which we were down 19 with 6 minutes to go. If we didn’t win this game, we might have not made the playoffs. If we didn’t win that game

A few games later, he heat up against the Wizards. He shot 9 for 9 behind the 3-point line. This was the game that sealed our entrance into the playoffs.

Perhaps this 6th man heating up and leading the team in scoring is not such a trivial attribute after all. It might actually be useful, particularly if we were interested at all in winning any championships.

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