The Chicago Bulls haven’t given up in their free agency hunt to land LeBron James and on Wednesday, they made another move to inch them closer to their grand prize. The Bulls signed power forward Carlos Boozer to a five-year, $80 million deal, adding him to an already impressive group of supporting cast members and landing another title piece to entice James.

Pairing Boozer with up-and-coming superstar point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah gives Chicago a three-headed attack and the makings of a dominant frontcourt. The trio should pencil the Bulls in as likely contenders in what’s becoming a power-packed Eastern Conference. Earlier Wednesday, the Miami Heat received verbal commitments from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and are presumed to be the frontrunners in the chase for James.

The Heat however, cannot sign James to the maximum deal of six years, $128 million like the Bulls can since they didn’t give Boozer a maximum contract. Should James sign with the Heat or the Bulls, his arrival would make either team a definite title contender and the favorite to win the Eastern Conference next season.

Without James however, Chicago will still be much improved. The Bulls have lacked a frontcourt post scorer for years and even discussed a deal with Boozer’s former team, the Utah Jazz, last season that would’ve brought the two-time All-Star to the Windy City before talks fell through. Boozer is a proven finisher on the pick-and-roll and flourished as the receiver in Utah’s system. Without a dominant low post scorer, the Bulls have relied more on Rose’s ability to drive and attack in the past but pairing Rose and Boozer should help revamp the Bull’s offensive system.

Chicago has been clearing cap space since last year in attempt to become a force in this summer’s free agency race. The Bulls traded away shooting guards John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich and let scoring dynamo Ben Gordon walk in free agency last summer. Chicago’s moving spree gave the team room to add two max-level free agents and the team was in the hunt for Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire before the two forwards signed with Miami and New York.

The Bulls haven’t advance past the first round in the playoffs since Michael Jordan guided them to their sixth title in the 1997-98 season. Chicago flirted with a brief rebirth in power, qualifying for the postseason three straight years between 2004 to 2006. A 33-49 record in 2007 broke their playoffs streak but netted them Rose with the first pick in the following draft.

Rose has been lauded as Chicago’s next franchise star and surrounding him with supportive pieces has been a goal of the organization since it originally acquired Rose. James, coincidentally, has been requesting a stronger supporting cast after failing to win a title in each of his last seven seasons.

James is expected to announce his decision in an hour-long ESPN special scheduled to be aired Thursday at 9 p.m.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO