How badly did the Chicago Bulls really want to keep Luol Deng? The two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on an extension last summer.
It had been reported since Deng was traded to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum that the Bulls had made a last ditched take-it-or-leave-it offer to their All-Star small forward and he turned it down. A lot of rumors have sprouted up around that meeting and around the summer negotiations between the Bulls and Deng on an extension.
He’s not bitter. And despite reports, he never asked for $15 million a year from the Bulls, who traded Deng to Cleveland on Monday in a financial move to create flexibility for the future.
“My thing is in the summer, I never came with a number,” Deng told the Tribune. “I heard on the radio that I asked for 15 (million). I would never ask for a number. We came to (general manager) Gar (Forman) last summer and we wanted to sit down and talk. And Gar didn’t want to talk. They felt like they wanted to wait and see how everything goes with Derrick (Rose).
“Three days before the trade, Gar called me upstairs and put three years, $30 million on the table. Take it or leave it. No negotiation. I said no and that was it. But 15? That’s the only thing that upset me. I’m not upset with the organization. I want everyone to understand that. If I was a GM, would I make that move? Maybe.”
Deng went on to say he wanted to stay a Bull his entire career, it just didn’t work out.
The Bulls made business decisions, both in the summer when they didn’t want to talk extension and in the trade talks. That three-year offer was one the Bulls knew Deng would reject, which is why they put it on the table.
Thibodeau can’t be happy with this, but the Bulls made a smart decision to retool on the fly over the next couple years and contend again.
As for Deng, it will be interesting to see what he draws on the open market — he brings strong defensive skills and can work as a second, ideally third, offensive option on a good team. But he needs to be with the right star and there are questions how well the 29-year-old will age. My guess at his price point is probably more than $10 million a year, but not the $14.3 he made this season. Something like four-years, $48 million, and a number of teams may offer that. Deng will have options.