Pictured above is the last image Chicago Bulls fans saw of the Ben Gordon era in Chicago. You can name a million (or $55 million) reasons why it ended. And for some odd reason, I will always point to Jerry Reinsdorf and his love for baseball.
As much as Bulls fans heard about how much better the defense was going to be, the knowledgeable Chicago fan knew that was code for "our offense is going to struggle at times, so bear with us." It was made clear that Gordon's shoddy defense and questionable shot selection were the two reasons he wouldn't be brought back to the Bulls.
For $3.7 million more over the same time span, Reinsdorf's Chicago White Sox will employ a center fielder who is making Ben Gordon money without Ben Gordon's production.
For what critics say about Gordon's shot selection, baseball fans can say about Rios' eye at the plate. You can praise Rios' versatility and defensive prowess in the same breath you can chat up BG7's big shot making reputation.
At least you could always count on Gordon to shoot about 43 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. As for Rios, what's so inspiring about a .199/.229/.301/.530 line? Don't worry, I'll be eagerly awaiting your answer in the comments section.
To this day, I can't believe the Bulls couldn't find money in the coffers for Gordon, the team's leading scorer. Remember when Chicago paid hefty salaries for Eddie Robinson and Ron Mercer? And for what? Obscure references to Robinson's headbands and Mercer's career at Kentucky?
What I will say next will sound familiar to Cubs fans.
Mr. Reinsdorf, if you're not all in with both of your franchises, one has got to go. It would be like if a parent bought one child designer clothes while shopping at Wal Mart for the other child. Imagine telling your son or daughter, "Honey, your big brother/sister is getting the Gucci outfit. But maybe when 2010 rolls around, you can get one too."
For years, the Cubs were managed by a corporation that had different agendas. Agenda No. 1 was its newspaper, which later became its fledgling newspaper. Agenda No. 2 was making money off the newspaper and baseball team. Agenda No. 3 was to make as much money as possible from the baseball team to make ends meet -- baseball team be damned.
So now I sit here with Reinsdorf on my mind. Mr. "I'd Trade My Six NBA Titles For One World Series Title" and a team that clearly needs help. Jerry, you got your World Series ring. Can the basketball team go back to being great again?
I want you to look at the Bulls' two losses.
The game against Boston was a laugher. The Celtics owned that game from the second quarter on. It was a combination of Boston having really good talent on the court and the Bulls not having a defense to counter it. And guess what? Gordon was nowhere to be seen in Boston. The days of placing poor defensive efforts on Gordon's shoulders are over.
Then there's that choke of a game against Miami. You want to impress Dwyane Wade to come home and team with Derrick Rose in what would be among the most dynamic backcourt duos in the NBA? Losing 95-87 isn't going to help at all. Especially when Wade sees his future teammates slacking on the defensive end leaving a 3-point sniper like Quentin Richardson open from beyond the arc. Heck, Chicago's "D" reminded Bulls fans of how the Heat won the NBA title a few years ago, hitting mid-range jump shots of D-Wade penetration.
So if you want someone to blame when the Bulls miss out on a playoff spot, head over to 35th & Shields when April comes around. And while you're on the South Side, go pick up some Harold's Chicken. It will help take your mind off the fact that you spent $15 just to boo the hell out of Alex Rios in a park full of fans eagerly awaiting the opportunity to cheer when the Cubs lose.
And who was taking the big shots for the Bulls down the stretch? Kirk Hinrich. Luol Deng. John Salmons. Maybe if we were on campus and you asked me, "Ludameister, Hinrich/Deng is getting the ball down the stretch with your beloved Salukis/Tar Heels up by one in the last 10 seconds. How do you feel about this?" I would probably respond with a brief prayer to the college basketball gods and hope for a miracle.
Guess what? This isn't college anymore. Hinrich is a more than serviceable sixth man, Salmons is nothing more than a role player and Deng is trying to rebuild what was once a lock to be an All-Star career. Derrick Rose can't do it all by himself. It's just not possible.
Gordon's bad shot selection is the same poor shot selection made by Salmons and Hinrich yesterday, but they get a pass for being grinders. Somewhere, David Eckstein and Ryan Theriot nod in approval while spooning on a couch somewhere in the land of vertically challenged middle infielders.
And, no, I'm not overreacting. For the next 78 games, the Bulls will be playing without a go-to-guy in the guts of the game unless something drastically happens before the trade deadline.
There is little doubt in my mind that Wade is the kind of player Chicago needs to grab in the offseason. If not, Bulls fans will miss Ben Gordon a little bit more as each game passes.