DEERFIELD, Ill. - Carlos Boozer sees championship potential in Chicago, even without LeBron James. And he insists the Bulls aren't conceding anything.
The King's announcement that he's uniting with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a powerhouse trio that could make Miami the favorite in the Eastern Conference for years to come didn't exactly leave Boozer cowering.
"You can't be afraid to play somebody because they have three really good players," Boozer said Friday at his introductory news conference. "How are you going to win if you're afraid to play? We're not going to be afraid to play. We're going to fight, we're going to attack. We're going to go out there and see what happens."
Boozer said he did all he could to lure James to Chicago. Instead, the jewel of this free agent class announced Thursday on ESPN that he was leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat, sending Cleveland into a uniform-burning frenzy and giving the South Beach partygoers something else to celebrate.
"Of course, I was trying to get him to come down here to Chicago to play for us, but I was happy for him," said Boozer, James' teammate in Cleveland for a year and on the U.S. Olympic team.
They had a brief conversation Thursday night. Each player offered congratulations. Now, they're moving on.
With a ready-made supporting cast and enough salary-cap space to lure two stars, the Bulls were looking to make big moves this summer after back-to-back first-round playoff losses. They missed on The Big Three - James, Wade and Bosh - and wound up getting Boozer, instead.
The two-time All-Star forward agreed to a reported five-year deal worth about $75 million Wednesday that turned into a sign-and-trade with Utah a day later, with the Jazz getting a trade exception and the Bulls a future protected second-round draft pick.
On Friday, a person familiar with the situation said Kyle Korver decided to follow Boozer from Utah and sign with Chicago, giving the Bulls the shooting guard and outside threat they needed.
The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract was not completed, was not sure of the terms. ESPN reported it's a three-year deal for about $15 million.
Korver is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter who hit 59 of 110 last year while averaging 7.2 points. The Bulls were desperately in need of a shooting guard and now they have one after landing the dominant post presence they'd craved for years.
There were also multiple reports late Friday that the Bulls had extended a three-year offer sheet to Orlando restricted free agent J.J. Redick. The Magic would have seven days to match it. If they don't, that would give the Bulls another shooter, not to mention a third former Duke player to go with Boozer and Luol Deng.
The agreement with Boozer on Wednesday came after Wade and Bosh announced they were joining forces in Miami and ensured the Bulls wouldn't come away empty-handed. They were still hoping to land James, but found out a few minutes before the announcement that wasn't happening.
"The reaction was we got on the phone, we continued to work," general manager Gar Forman said. "Our goal this offseason, we wanted to be very aggressive to try to improve our basketball team, and we feel we've done that with the signing of Carlos."
As for James?
Forman said he was "terrific" and "professional" in their dealings. He also downplayed speculation that Chicago really wasn't a serious candidate for James, Wade and Bosh, that they'd decided long ago they would unite elsewhere.
"In our meetings, they were very interactive," Forman said. "I think they were trying to make the best educated decision for themselves. The feedback that we got is there was great interest."
Boozer said James was in a no-win situation, bound to be criticized no matter where he went.
"He had to do what was best for him and his family," he said. "Hopefully, we'll see him down the road."
When he looks ahead, Boozer likes what he sees. He had a "great time" in Utah but called Chicago "the perfect fit."
He goes from one All-Star point guard (Deron Williams) to another (Derrick Rose) and will be playing for a defensive-minded coach in Tom Thibodeau, as he did in Utah for Jerry Sloan. Now, his teammate Korver is coming, too, and while it might be a stretch to call the Bulls the Jazz Midwest, there are some similarities.
Another draw for Boozer is teaming with Joakim Noah in a frontcourt that could dominate on the glass. The Bulls led the league in rebounding last season.
On offense, Boozer will take pressure off Rose by drawing double-teams and will be a good pick-and-roll partner. He can finish with both hands, and is good at finding cutters.
"When you add those two things to your team, obviously, those things make your team a lot better," Thibodeau said.
"I think we can be as good as we want to be," Boozer added. "You look behind me and see all the banners, that's what we play for. In my opinion, I think if we're reaching our full potential, hopefully we'll put another one up there at some point."
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