World Wide Wes has been telling everyone that he believes LeBron James(notes) is leaning hard toward signing with the Chicago Bulls. No one can be certain if basketball’s most famous middleman has been whispering honest insights to friends or amping the anxiety of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert. Just know this: It wasn’t until Tom Thibodeau – who swore he never again wanted an agent – signed with William Wesley’s CAA that the Chicago Bulls grew serious about the coach’s candidacy.
Something pushed Bulls officials to get on a plane, fly to Los Angeles on the eve of the NBA Finals and meet with the Boston Celtics assistant coach. Within 48 hours, the Bulls had a deal for Thibodeau to become their head coach. For several weeks, the Bulls had chances to interview him. They never did. Just a year ago, Thibodeau couldn’t get offers from the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia Sixers and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics see him as a career assistant and wouldn’t even consider him as a candidate to replace Doc Rivers.
Only now, Tom Thibodeau has a three-year contract to coach the Chicago Bulls.
As one front-office executive with a franchise that has significant salary-cap space this summer said, “I think all the big free-agent deals will be done by July 1, if not the draft. The NBA would have a cow if [it] knew what’s going on now.”
Some league executives don’t even believe Bulls general manager Gar Forman was sold on Thibodeau, but it doesn’t matter. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf was. Everything is happening on the ownership level now, and that’s the reason Gilbert wants to become Jerry Jones and Danny Ferry wanted out of a Cleveland future whether it included LeBron James or not. The hiring of Thibodeau doesn’t assure the Bulls of James, but consider it something of a down payment.