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Anyone predicting LeBron James’ free-agent destination is Chicago can’t back it up

SHARE Anyone predicting LeBron James’ free-agent destination is Chicago can’t back it up

CHICAGO — Now that the Celtics have eliminated the Cavaliers from the playoffs, make room outside the United Center for a statue of LeBron James, who will be the best Bull ever to wear No. 6.

How quickly we forget Ronald "Flip" Murray's contributions to the Bulls' latest one-and-done playoff run.

Sarcasm is the only way to stomach the LeBron-mania that swept through Chicago on Wednesday after ESPN's Chris Broussard made the media rounds, including a stop on Chicago's WMVP-AM 1000's Afternoon Saloon, saying James has given thought to leaving the Cavaliers for the Bulls when he becomes a free agent on July 1.

And I've given thought to succeeding Vinny Del Negro as Bulls coach. Doesn't mean it's going to happen.

Sure, it could. (James coming to the Bulls, not me coaching them.) And, yes, the Bulls will investigate James' interest, particularly after he made complimentary comments of both the roster and the city during the regular season and the Cavaliers-Bulls first-round playoff matchup.

But anybody speculating on what any of the prime free agents will do six weeks from now is doing exactly that. And that's not a knock on Broussard, who's plugged in, a friend and possesses a mean jumper himself.

But the reaction to his comments — made, in his words, "from talking to a lot of people around LeBron" — was about as accurate as a Murray three-pointer.

Any league observer would agree that of the teams with maximum salary-cap space this summer, the Bulls possess the most attractive roster. Derrick Rose is an All-Star. Joakim Noah could become one. Whoever is hired as coach inherits a team coming off two playoff appearances.

Underpinning all this is the history Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and a host of others created for those seeking challenges. Especially because a thin layer of dust now sits on those six championship trophies.

James leaving his home state — and roughly $30 million on the table for a sixth year courting teams can't offer — still is considered a long shot. Obviously, the series loss to the Celtics could change his thinking. And there is word James might seek a shorter-term deal, so the $30 million angle might be overstated.

James created another mini-stir during the Bulls-Cavaliers series when he praised Chicago.

"It's an awesome city, one of the best we have in America," James said. "Great restaurants. Great shopping. . . . I think we all love Chicago. I go on vacation in Chicago sometimes. . . . I spent three summers from my sophomore year to my senior year in high school staying in Chicago, working out at Jordan's facility."

And James' praise of Rose after the Cavaliers dispatched the Bulls bordered on hero worship.

More intriguing, to me, were postgame comments after a regular season victory over the Bulls in March, when James even praised rookie Taj Gibson during his roster evaluation.

"They like their basketball here and the way I play," James said that night. "Going back to 1984 when Jordan was doing what he was doing, they've seen greatness. For them to respect the way I play the game, I respect that."

I respect James' appreciation for the game. But the only certainty about July 1 is I won't be coaching the Bulls.