The Bulls have apparently cooled somewhat on their desire to re-sign Pau Gasol and now may be favoring an attempt to ink center Joakim Noah to a short-term deal instead, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. Chicago had resisted trade overtures for Gasol prior to the February trade deadline and GM Gar Forman referred to him as part of the team’s core, adding that the Bulls were the clear favorites to re-sign the big man this summer.
Gasol, who is planning to opt out of his deal for 2016/17, said in February that how the team played down the stretch would influence his decision. With Chicago going just 12-15 since the veteran made that proclamation, it would appear that Gasol is now considering alternative options to Chicago, Johnson notes. “Nothing is set right now. I will evaluate what I need to when the time comes,” Gasol said Thursday night. “The way the team has responded to adversity and finished up the season has been disappointing.” The 35-year-old has had a strong campaign for the franchise, averaging 16.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 blocks in 71 appearances.
The Tribune scribe notes that while the Bulls have yet to formalize their offseason plans, there is a strong bond between the front office and Noah, who has long been the emotional leader of the team. However, there is no guarantee that Noah will return to the Windy City, as he has had some issues with coach Fred Hoiberg this season. Johnson points to the apparent disconnect between Hoiberg and Noah regarding the center’s shift to a reserve role, with Noah disputing Hoiberg’s assertion that he had volunteered to do so. “I never said I want to come off the bench,” Noah said shortly after the start of the season. “I said I’ll do what’s best for the team.”
Noah has been linked to the Magic as a potential free agent target, though only speculatively at this point. The 31-year-old had surgery on his separated left shoulder on January 19th, with a projected recovery time of four to six months, and he’s only appeared in 29 games this season, notching averages of 4.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 21.9 minutes per contest. The Bulls already have $65,766,154 in guaranteed salary committed for 2015/16, and that will limit how much the team is willing and able to commit to Noah, whose injury history may make the notion of him inking a short-term deal a fallback option at best, though that is merely my speculation.
Which player would the Bulls be better served to re-sign for next season? Sound off with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.