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More cap room for Bulls brings more speculation
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/26/2010 12:00 AM

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After the Bulls stretched their salary cap room by agreeing to send Kirk Hinrich and No. 17 draft pick Kevin Seraphin to Washington, there have been plenty of rumors, predictions and unnamed-source speculation regarding NBA free agency.

The fun begins Thursday when the Bulls and everyone else can begin negotiating with a stellar free agent class that includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and others.

Here are a few things that appear reasonably certain when it comes to the Bulls and free agents:

Pack the bags

The process will start with a road trip.

There has been speculation for months about how James will make up for lost time by going on a recruiting tour, something he missed by skipping college.

Apparently, there has been a change of plans. Starting July 1, James will stay in one spot and teams will visit him. Those meetings could take place in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, or a neutral site, as ESPN reported Friday.

James might visit some of the cities later or he could simply make a decision. Whether he announces his choice live on national television hasn't yet been revealed.

The Bulls believe they have a good chance of signing the two-time MVP and will sell the idea they're ready to become an instant championship contender.

Johnson anxious

Joe Johnson is ready to sign if the Bulls are interested.

A replacement for Hinrich is available if the Bulls want to spend the cap room they just created on Johnson.

There has been talk for months that the Atlanta shooting guard was hoping to land in Chicago and nothing has changed. Johnson was already a summer regular at the Berto Center, based on his friendship with Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, a college teammate at Arkansas.

Johnson would answer the Bulls' need for better outside shooting. He averaged 21.3 points last year, his fifth straight season of at least 20 per game, and shot 45.8 percent from the field.

One issue, though, is if the Bulls end up with Johnson and James, what would they do with forward Luol Deng? A trade would be in order, but it will be difficult to move Deng because of the $51 million remaining on his contract.

Maybe if the Bulls included Taj Gibson, they could pull off a sign-and-trade for one of the available power forwards.

Bosh a mystery

Chris Bosh's intentions are less obvious.

The Bulls could try to pair James and Bosh, play James at shooting guard and keep Deng at small forward. But while Johnson appears very interested in the Bulls, Bosh's plans are unclear.

Joining Wade in Miami is an attractive option. Toronto has also promised to work with Bosh on a sign-and-trade deal, which means teams without cap room, such as the Lakers, Dallas and Houston, could become possible alternatives.

Bosh talked about the process on ESPN radio this week and admitted James holds most of the cards right now.

"Am I waiting on LeBron? Pretty much," Bosh said. "I think everyone has to.

"He's a great player and I would be crazy to think that all the teams that are considering him, they would talk to somebody else first. I think everybody is going to be going at him first. They'll probably call him at 12:01 (on Thursday morning). Hopefully they'll call me at 12:02."

Bosh also had nice things to say about Chicago. If they can pull off another trade, it's conceivable the Bulls could end up with James, Johnson and Bosh.

"Chicago is a team worth checking out," Bosh said. "When you have a city like Chicago and you have young talent like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and a new coach like Tom Thibodeau, that's something worth looking at. I know that they are all about winning. - We'll see what kind of pitch they have when (July 1) comes."