Luol Deng is in the final year of his contract with the Bulls, one that will pay him more than $14 million this season. He’s a two-time All-Star who performs well at both ends of the floor, and someone considered vital to Chicago’s chances for success.
But whether due to disagreement over his future value or his reportedly high asking price, the Bulls have decided not to pursue talks with Deng about an extension. While Deng said at media day he’d prefer not to discuss the situation as it does or does not play out over the course of the season, he remains disappointed about the way things are being handled.
As Rose returns to the Bulls after missing a full season, his most important teammate – Luol Deng – is privately disappointed over the franchise’s unwillingness to engage him in serious contract discussions. Deng could leave as a free agent this summer, could be traded before the February deadline – everything is so unsettled over his future.
It seems as though teams are more and more willing to allow their high-priced star players to leave in free agency without getting anything in return, if the decision has been made internally that they don’t want to pay what the player will command elsewhere, for whatever reason. We saw that in Utah this offseason with both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and we saw it in L.A. with Dwight Howard leaving to join the Rockets. Sometimes, future salary cap space to use more wisely is preferred over a large contract handed out to a single player.
There’s certainly no guarantee Deng will be dealt at the trade deadline — with teams knowing that Chicago has no interest in retaining him long term, the offers that will come in are likely to be less than desirable.
Deng looked out of sync in the Bulls preseason opener, finishing 4-of-16 from the field while taking plenty of wild shots. The situation is less than ideal for him with his future in question, but he’ll need to put it in the back of his mind and not focus on it for Chicago to reach its potential this season.