While everyone around the Bulls plays it down, let’s just say it’s accepted as fact around the rest of the league that coach Tom Thibodeau and Bulls GM Gar Forman (and the rest of the front office) don’t see things the same way. There is naturally some tension in any coach/GM relationship — a coach wants assets he can win with now, a GM has to think cap and budget and three years down the road — but Chicago’s relationship has some real issues.
The latest issue could be Luol Deng.
The Bulls cut off contract extension talks with him and Deng is going to test free agency next summer. Thibodeau sees Deng as central to his system and the team.
So, tension follows. Joe Cowley at the Sun Times adds some color to this.
But at least one source feels that would change if forward Luol Deng is traded or allowed to walk into free agency without an extension next summer.
“Ask Tom how important he thinks Luol is,’’ the source said. “How happy do you think he would be with that decision?…”
“You need rebounding, he’ll give you rebounding,’’ Thibodeau said of Deng late last season. “If he’s not shooting well, he gives you great defense. No matter how the game is going, he’s always going to be there late for you, no matter if it’s pick-and-roll offense, swinging the ball, moving without the ball, making a great random cut from the weak side. He has great impact on winning. You can’t ask anything more of one of your best players.’’
Bulls management has looked at the Heat, the Thunder and other top teams around the league and seemed to be aiming for clearing out some space to add another elite player next to Rose. If Deng walks and they amnesty Carlos Boozer, they Bulls will have the cap space to target the deep crop of free agents this summer expected to include everyone from LeBron James (not likely to land in Chicago) to guys like Danny Granger and Zach Randolph. It’s a deep class, but it’s also a risk in trying to get a guy on the open market. The Bulls could also see what they could get in return for a Deng trade.
Thibodeau also knows he hadn’t seen what this group of players can do healthy in the playoffs — they were just hitting their stride and seemed destined for a showdown with the Heat two seasons ago when Derrick Rose injured his knee. Now this one season will become the test of how good this Bulls rotation will be.
It may also be the one and only time we get to see it. Which isn’t likely to make Thibodeau happy.