Funny how no one seems upset about Bulls' failure to sign LeBron
The Miami Heat's opening preseason game Tuesday against Detroit was treated with the same sort of pomp and circumstance reserved for Olympic opening ceremonies.
Whether the Heat's new lineup becomes an unstoppable force or a colossal failure, the NBA is certainly on the verge of something completely different.
It's easy to forget now that Chicago played such a prominent role in the 2010 free agent summer. The story changed so quickly: The Bulls seemed to have no chance at signing LeBron James when the season ended, then Cleveland's early playoff exit changed everything.
Suddenly, the Bulls seemed to be the favorites to land James and made their the final recruiting pitch in July. Then came the "Decision special, jersey-burning in Cleveland and a gaudy pep rally introducing James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Looking back now, it's seems a bit odd at how little disappointment there is or was in Chicago about losing out on James. Joakim Noah seemed to speak for the fan base when he stood outside the Berto Center with a smile on his face the night of the decision and said everything worked out great.
"I was in New York and Chicago this summer, Noah said this week. "It seemed to me that it's beneath those cities to beg someone to play for their team, put up billboards. But people are also hungry to win. I reached out to LeBron and tried to get him to come here.
Back in 2000 when the Bulls failed to reel in Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Eddie Jones as free agents, the negative backlash seemed to last for years. This time, with the stakes even higher, the reaction was quiet.
"I think the fans know that we have a good team, Luol Deng said. "We've got Derrick (Rose), we've got Jo. The new guys that we brought in (Carlos) Boozer, (Kyle) Korver, (Ronnie) Brewer. All those guys really make it a good team. I know we didn't get one guy, but we got a bunch of great players.
Added Rose, "Everybody knows and the city knows, a few pieces, that's all we're missing. They know we want to fight. They know we're a grimy team that just finds a way to win. Adding pieces should at least push us over.
Most people suspect James, Wade and Bosh had been plotting this move for years. Heat president Pat Riley was clearly privy to the possibility, because why else would he spend two years refusing to add players with long contracts?
If the Bulls messed up somehow, one theory is Rose didn't recruit James with the same enthusiasm Wade did. Rose admitted guilt, but he doesn't believe it would have made any difference.
"My thing is, if (James) wanted to come here, he would have come, Rose said. "If I wanted to go somewhere, I'm not going to come just because of one person. When people say I didn't pay him no mind, if he really wanted to come here, who would have stopped him? I guess they had a plan.
There was talk during the summer that Rose didn't want to go overboard reaching out to James out of respect to Deng, who plays the same position.
"I really don't think that's the reason, Deng said with a laugh. "I really don't know the relationship between Jo, Derrick and LeBron. If you have a player like LeBron out there and you're telling me he's just waiting for guys to recruit him to come to the team, there's something wrong with that. I think he wanted to play with D-Wade. He had his mind set.
ESPN is trying to manufacture excitement for Miami's big three, but it seems as though the rest of America has a strong desire to see the Heat get beat. The Bulls are hoping to be one of the teams with a chance to defeat Miami, but they appear to be well behind the Lakers, Boston and Orlando on that list, especially with Boozer sidelined for two months.
If James wins championships in Miami, it will only accentuate the fact that he couldn't win on his own. If James doesn't get a ring, the country may rejoice.
Aligning the stars in Miami was perfectly legal under NBA rules and James had a right to play where he'd be happiest. But the best comparison for this Heat team is probably poor sportsmanship at recess. You know, when one kid bullies everyone into putting the best kids on his team so he has a better chance of winning.
"That's exactly what it is, Noah said with a laugh.
No doubt, the Bulls would be a better team with James in uniform. But no one in Chicago seems to miss him.