10:14pm: The Bulls prefer to keep Deng past the trade deadline and try to work out a fair deal on a new contract in the summer, but it’s “misleading” to suggest the team wouldn’t accept any trade offer, writes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Johnson spoke with an executive from another team who interprets the notion that the Bulls are determined not to trade Deng as a signal that Chicago has been getting lowball offers. The Bulls haven’t initiated any talks, but they’ve fielded calls from front offices inquiring whether they’re anxious to move Deng for financial reasons. The answer the Bulls have given to those questions has been a “no.”
8:48am: NBA teams have been inquiring about Luol Deng‘s availability recently, as the Bulls have lost 13 of 16 games and slipped to 9-16. However, according to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Bulls are “determined” not to trade Deng. Windhorst reports that the Bulls are confident they can re-sign Deng next summer, despite not reaching an extension agreement with him earlier this year.
Given the Bulls’ spot in the standings, the absence of Derrick Rose for a second straight season, and the team’s looming luxury tax bill, league executives felt the Bulls would be interested in offloading some salary prior to the trade deadline, writes Windhorst. But it seems, with two months to go before that deadline arrives, that moving Deng isn’t in the club’s plans.
We heard yesterday that the Bulls weren’t actively shopping Deng, despite the fact that the odds of a contract extension appeared to be “almost nil.” The two sides were about $5-6MM per year apart in contract talks, according to that report, and it sounded as if Deng was bracing for the possibility of a trade. Of course, the 28-year-old is considered one of Tom Thibodeau‘s favorite players, so any deal would open up a new can of worms between the franchise and its head coach.
Deng has played as well as ever so far this season, averaging a career-high 19.6 PPG and 4.1 APG to go along with 7.0 RPG and a 17.8 PER. The veteran small forward is earning about $14.28MM in the final season of a six-year contract.