Before Derrick Rose’s injury, the Chicago Bulls seemed genuinely interested in re-signing small forward Luol Deng.
But then Rose went down again and Chicago deployed a tactic fans and players have seen numerous times before: deny a player is on the block and state your intentions to re-sign him. All the while, the Bulls were shopping for the best available deal.
The best deal Chicago could find for now-former leading scorer Luol Deng and his expiring $14 million contract was the non-guaranteed and waive-able $25 million contract of Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum and several low-end draft picks.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s comments following the trade were carefully crafted as to avoid criticizing his front office, but the coach made clear his place in the Bulls organization.
"I had a chance to voice my opinion," Thibodeau said to ESPN Chicago. "Their job is to make financial decisions, to make player personnel decisions, and things of that nature. Their job is to do that. My job is to coach the guys that are here. That's the way it works.
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"We discussed it, and I'll leave it at that."
The statement has fueled speculation that Chicago’s front office may have created a rift between them and Thibodeau, but the Bulls may have been left with no choice but to hoard picks and salary cap space.
Had Derrick Rose not suffered another season-ending injury for the second time in two years, Chicago likely finds a way to re-sign Deng. But with Rose breaking down before general manager Gar Forman, vice president John Paxson, and Thibodeau’s eyes, the Bulls had to form a new plan that might not involve the only player to win an MVP in the last five years not named LeBron James.
If Thibodeau isn’t happy with the start of what could be a complete overhaul, he might not like some of the next rumored moves. There’s talk of amnestying the rest of forward Carlos Boozer’s contract, and a report from USA Today tabs point guard Kirk Hinrich as the next player to be shipped out.
The Golden State Warriors have reportedly shown interest in Hinrich before the Deng deal, seeking a more reliable back-up to point guard Stephen Curry than Toney Douglas and Nemanja Nedovic.
Ankle injuries have been a problem for Curry before, and the Warriors will need more depth behind him in order to ensure an even deeper postseason run than last year. Curry’s averaging a career-high 9.5 assists per game, and Golden State desires a playmaker capable of maintaining at least half that production.
Hinrich is a proven floor leader with a career 37.3 percent mark from three, and has contributed a solid 12 points and 5.4 assists per game over 11 seasons of work. The 33-year-old’s $4 million contract also expires at the conclusion of the season.
The Warriors apparently also made overtures to Denver regarding veteran point guard Andre Miller, according to a report from Yahoo!Sports last week. The Sacramento Kings also expressed interest.
However, NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported the Nuggets have no interest in parting ways with Miller. The 37-year-old was suspended for two games last week after a nasty and public argument with first-year head coach Brian Shaw on the Nuggets bench.
Sharp Shooter Available
The Milwaukee Bucks and shooter Gary Neal are reportedly interested in a quickie divorce. Neal signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal this past summer, but got into a heated locker room exchange with injured center Larry Sanders following last Saturday’s 116-100 loss to Phoenix, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
Neal apparently yelled at Sanders: “I earned my money. Why don’t you try it?” It’s likely Neal was alluding to Sanders tearing a ligament in his right thumb in a bar fight in November, just three months removed from signing a four-year, $44 million extension.
Neal made his money and name as a shooter for the San Antonio Spurs in his first three years in the league prior to signing with the Bucks. Last year in Game Three of the Finals, Neal hit six of the Spurs record 16 three-pointers and finished with 24 points in the 113-77 win.
For his career Neal is 40 percent shooter from three, and while no teams have been mentioned as a landing spot, Milwaukee is hoping to move him by the trade deadline.
The Bucks unfortunately own the worst record in the league at 7-27, and are expected to compete for No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft lottery. Milwaukee could have as many as seven second round picks in next summer’s draft, and could use a couple of them to accelerate a deal involving Neal.