Bulls Deal Hinrich, Prepare for ... LeBron?

Hinrich and 17th pick ready to go to Washington

Friday, Jun 25, 2010  |  Updated 7:30 AM CDT
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The Luvin' Spoonful

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Kirk Hinrich is the little dude that could. Though he'll be coming off the bench this season, he's still been elected captain by his teammates.

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With the 17th pick in the NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls select ... LeBron James and Chris Bosh?

Well, maybe.

Dwyane Wade just might have a home in his hometown if he decides to leave Miami. And Joe Johnson? Come on down, too.

Suddenly, the possibilities in Chicago seem endless.

Already expected to be major players in free agency, the Bulls now have enough salary cap room to reel in two high-profile free agents after agreeing to trade veteran guard Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick in the draft to the Washington Wizards on Thursday.

General manager Gar Forman would not confirm the trade, but a person familiar with the situation said an agreement is in place.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal can't become official until July 8, when the new salary cap takes hold and the Wizards can take Hinrich's $9 million salary for next season without having to send back something of similar financial value. The Bulls will receive a future second-round pick in the deal, which was first reported by ESPN.

For Chicago, the expected trade has huge implications. The Bulls have been eyeing this free agent class for awhile, letting leading scorer Ben Gordon sign with Detroit last summer and trading away John Salmons during the season.

The deal would clear $10.3 million from the books for next year and leave Chicago with about $30 million to spend in a star-studded market that will likely include James, Bosh and Wade when the free agent negotiating period begins July 1. Depending on where the cap winds up, the Bulls might even have enough to offer two maximum contracts.

If not, they'll be close. Either way, they're in a good position.

"We see it as a real opportunity," Forman said. "Obviously, the free agent class this summer is probably as attractive as there's ever been in the history of the league. We wanted to create the flexibility, and with that flexibility, we think there's going to be opportunities for us this summer. Obviously, we want to be very aggressive this summer as far as trying to improve our team."

But if they don't get one or two of the top players?

"There's a lot of different ways we can improve with the flexibility," Forman said. "We've put ourselves in a position where we have a real opportunity, and in doing so, we're going to obviously be very aggressive with it."

Along with all that cap space, the Bulls also boast one of the NBA's top young point guards in All-Star Derrick Rose, a rich tradition and a sports-mad city. After back-to-back 41-win seasons and first-round playoff losses, the Bulls are looking for more.

Firing coach Vinny Del Negro and replacing him with longtime NBA assistant Tom Thibodeau, the mastermind behind a dominant defense that helped Boston reach the NBA finals two of the past three years, was a preliminary move. The same goes for the trade.

Hinrich averaged 13.4 points in seven seasons with Chicago and figures to give the Wizards a reliable veteran to go with No. 1 pick John Wall and Gilbert Arenas, but trading him puts the Bulls in position to make several big moves.

They have a chance to become instant championship contenders and ignite the fan base the way the Blackhawks just did on their way to the Stanley Cup. Or, the way Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did while leading the Bulls to six championships in the 1990s.

Forman acknowledged after taking 6-foot-9 forward Kevin Seraphin of French Guyana with the 17th pick that the Bulls are "currently in discussions" to trade his draft rights but would not identify the team or any other specifics. Seraphin spent the past four years playing at various levels with French club Cholet Basket and signed a three-year contract last August.

But the Bulls' eyes are on bigger prizes.

"We think the future is extremely bright, and our hope is, we think it's going to be a very attractive place that guys are going to want to come play," Forman said.

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