The Bulls are adamantly opposed to negotiating a buyout with Robin Lopez, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. According to Haynes, Lopez’s representation has been in talks with Bulls management since late December about a possible exit strategy for the veteran center. However, the team intends to stand firm.
While the Bulls aren’t opposed to parting with Lopez, they remain focused on trading him for an asset, rather than losing him for nothing, Haynes writes. That could be tricky — while Lopez has an expiring contract, his $14.36MM cap hit will make it difficult to move him for anything of value without taking back any future salary.
If Lopez is bought out and/or waived at some point, the Warriors would be his next team, sources tell Haynes. The center position has been an area of some concern for Golden State this season, but the Dubs will be getting DeMarcus Cousins back very soon and they look like locks to land Lopez as well if he reaches free agency at some point during the season.
“I think it’s an appealing situation for just about anybody in the league,” Lopez told Haynes when asked about the Warriors. “You go there, they share the ball, they play defense, they play the right way. But right now, that’s something we’re aspiring to do here. And there’s a certain joy in trying build a culture like that, and I appreciate being a veteran in that position of helping shepherd a team towards that point.”
It makes sense that the Bulls would keep all their options open up until the February 7 trade deadline. Early-season buyouts – like the ones negotiated by Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers in Phoenix – are somewhat rare, with veteran buyouts typically happening between the trade deadline and March 1.
It’s not clear whether the Bulls will continue to maintain a hard-line stance with Lopez if they’re unable to find a suitable trade. The team values his leadership, as Haynes notes, and is of course under no obligation to do a favor for the defending champions. However, allowing Lopez to join a contender rather than keeping him on a lottery-bound roster could buy Chicago some league-wide goodwill with veterans and agents.