I don’t think there have ever been more words devoted to something that almost surely wasn’t going to happen as have been devoted to a potential Jimmy Butler trade.
On Monday, Stephen A. Smith reported (should I stop there?) that the Celtics want to use the third overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday to acquire the Bulls’ star. What ESPN’s “First Take’’ chatterer failed to understand is that it doesn’t matter what the Celtics want to do. It doesn’t matter if the Celtics want to re-engage in trade talks with the Bulls. It only matters what the Bulls want to do.
And aside from what they do in the bathroom and in the gym, the Bulls generally don’t want to do squat.
Barring a shocking development, Butler will be a Bull after the draft. So why do we in Chicago — we who should know better — keep beating this gasping horse? Like so many things these days, it has something to do with the Cubs. Everyone saw how Cubs president Theo Epstein tore down the franchise and built it into a World Series champion through high draft picks. Lots of people now think it’s the best way for teams to put together a winner.
Going young is the route the Bulls should be taking. Nothing they have done the past few years suggests they are close to building a winner or would know which elite free agents to sign to help them do it. So start over, right?
But nothing in the Bulls’ recent or distant history suggests they are willing to relieve themselves of one of the best players in the game to gather first-round picks. That’s the biggest obstacle to what many people in town seem to want. It appears to be the size of a decent-sized mountain.
Ah, but long-time Jerry Reinsdorf observers will point to the White Sox’ trade of star pitcher Chris Sale as proof that the chairman of both the Sox and the Bulls is no longer the mountain that can’t be moved. Perhaps, but in hindsight, it looks as if the Sox wanted to get rid of a uniform-shredding pain in their behind as much as they wanted to start a youth movement. And there was little risk in hurting attendance that already was painfully low. The Sox are averaging about 500 fewer fans per home game so far this season than last. Big deal.
Ah, but others will point out that Michael Reinsdorf, Jerry’s son, is running the Bulls now. He’s his own man, they say. Maybe, but until proven otherwise, I’ll assume that the apple is still rubbing up against the tree.
The Bulls sell out every game. Business-wise, there is no impetus for trading Butler. Zero. They have a proven star whom people come to watch in droves. If the Bulls were to make a deal with the Celtics for, say, two or three first-round draft picks, it would be a huge risk. That’s Bulls-think. Stick with what’s comfortable and what sells, unless someone makes a ridiculous offer. That’s Bulls-think, too.
Perhaps Michael Reinsdorf is more daring and forward thinking than I give him credit for being. If so, then he has to be asking himself whether he trusts vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman to choose the right players with those first-round picks, should the Bulls indeed trade Butler.
A good owner is loyal to his employees but also beholden to no one. The Reinsdorfs have always leaned heavily toward the loyalty part of the equation. It means that Paxson is safe, just like most of the people who work for Jerry Reinsdorf with the White Sox will continue to be gainfully employed.
If I were to make a plea, it would go like this: Surprise us, Michael Reinsdorf. Surprise the living daylights out of us. Get Chicago out of the rut in progress that is Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. I see sixth, seventh or eighth playoff seeds rolling out toward the horizon for the Bulls, and it’s making me drowsy.
But I know that pleas from the media almost always fall on deaf Reinsdorf ears.
The Bulls apparently are asking the world for Butler, as they should, and the franchise abhors change, which it shouldn’t. Everything points toward the team doing nothing with Butler.
I like Jimmy Butler. He’s an excellent player on both ends of the floor. He also isn’t going to get the chance to win a championship in Chicago. The best path for him and the Bulls would be one that takes him to a team with the resources to win in the next several years and takes the Bulls to a fresh start with several lottery picks.
All very logical.
And all of it unlikely to happen.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.