Luol Deng and the Bulls were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension, and as a result the two-time All-Star will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
Deng is finishing out a high-priced deal that will pay him $14.2 million this year, and Chicago was unwilling to re-up at a number close to that price, while Deng would rather test the waters to see what his true value might be before committing long-term to a lesser contract.
Deng was reportedly disappointed with the lack of extension talks before the deadline to reach a deal had passed, and it’s unclear if those hard feelings will have a carryover effect in negotiations this summer.
From the Bulls’ perspective, however, it’s all business. And GM Gar Forman said he still sees Deng as part of the team’s future.
“We value Luol a lot,” Forman said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” Tuesday on ESPN Chicago 1000. “And Luol is a big piece of the success we’ve had the last several years though we haven’t gotten to our ultimate goal. We think Luol is going to continue to be a big piece, a big part of what we’re doing. I know a lot was said about that we couldn’t come to an extension last summer but if you guys really study the NBA, especially since this new CBA — going into the CBA and since the new CBA has been in effect, it’s very, very rare that extensions get done so the fact that one didn’t get done was not an indicator of where we’re at with Luol at all.”
The season-ending injury suffered by Derrick Rose has thrown a wrench into the team’s plans to contend for a title this year. It’s more than possible that Deng could be traded before the season is finished if Chicago starts to fall out of playoff contention and decides rebuilding with cheaper pieces — and getting something for Deng instead of letting him walk — is a better option.