Posts Tagged ‘Herb Rudoy’

No Deal For Deng Means Drama For Bulls

Regardless of how well the players and the coaches fended off the distraction of it, the Chicago Bulls’ 2012-13 season was preoccupied, overshadowed and generally beholden to one question: “Is Derrick back?”

Odds are good, as of Tuesday, that 2013-14 will be colored by a variation on that query, as in: “Is Deng gone?”

With reports that talks of a contract extension between Luol Deng and the Bulls have broken off [CSNChicago.com], followed up by agent Herb Rudoy‘s quote that the All-Star forward “will definitely go through” free agency next summer [Chicago Tribune], a team that grappled with considerable unknowns last season assured itself of a fat one for this year. What it means to the depth and cohesiveness of the Bulls as they try to chase down the Miami Heat and a couple other improving Eastern Conference contenders remains to be seen. But it adds drama where there might have been none.

Derrick Rose, obviously, is the fulcrum on which this season tilts; if he can return from extended rehab (since April 2012) to his status as one of the NBA’s most explosive, elusive players, Chicago looks equipped to challenge the Heat and jockey with Indiana and Brooklyn for East surpremacy.

But Deng has been the Bulls’ glue and constant for the past three seasons, at least. From coach Tom Thibodeau‘s arrival through Rose’s major absence (and lesser ones), the 6-foot-8 forward has been a two-time All-Star and two-way player, coping with and often playing in spite of his own less-spectacular injuries. Deng has been Thibodeau’s go-to guy in you-name-it situations, and it took a rather serious scare last spring – he developed a serious infection after undergoing a spinal tap during the first-round series vs. the Nets – to sit him down for good.

Still just 28 after nine NBA seasons, Deng has been taken for granted by Bulls fans who remember the contract haggles that he and teammate Ben Gordon went through in 2007 and 2008. Deng finally landed his six-year, $71 million deal while Gordon left to seek his fortune (five years, $58 million) in free agency, yet the climate at United Center often seems almost as chilly toward the former as the latter.

As a performer and a teammate, as a workhorse who soaks up innings (Deng has averaged 39.1 minutes the past three seasons, leading the NBA over the past two), the man from the South Sudan has been terrific. His biggest failing? Probably his timing.

Deng’s current contract, signed in 2008, will pay him $14.2 million this season, a big number under the current CBA. He’s coming off what for the Bulls, for all its pluckiness, largely was a lost season, given Rose’s absence. And his own health issue late flipped more opportunity to Jimmy Butler, who emerged over the second half as a potential Deng replacement.

Some might argue that Chicago isn’t even all-in on 2013-14, despite Rose’s need for consistency around him as much as added talent. The Carlos Boozer countdown will be busy, with the veteran power forward headed to the amnesty pile next offseason and with Nikola Mirotic stashed overseas like some new-millennium Toni Kukoc. Rose could be rusty, Boozer and Joakim Noah might be due for  breakdowns, the roster still needs another big and Deng is facing the equivalent of a qualifying year. With the exception that he could be dealt by the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

Deng feels he has earned, and will keep earning, another big contract. But with Rose, Noah and Taj Gibson on the books for more than $39 million in 2014-15 and chairman Jerry Reinsorf having to shell out another $16.8 million for Boozer whether he’s on the books or not, the Bulls either will be looking for a hometown discount from Deng or will have moved on to Butler entirely. Meanwhile, Deng will have options, with teams both ambitious and rebuilding, eager to land a solid player, leader and citizen.

This all will be played out over 82 games, many of which Deng probably will play hurt again, will get left on the court too long or will be sent back in by Thibodeau to nail down the outcome. The mileage on his odometer will spike and, this time, it will be dinging a market value in which the Bulls will have no future stake.

It all might set a good team guy like Deng to wondering why one player can get treated as gingerly as the Stanley Cup while others get used as if they’re Dixie.

Bulls’ Pick Of Snell Keeps Deng Guessing

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DEERFIELD, Ill.
– Chicago forward Luol Deng got neither a trade nor a contract extension by the end of NBA business late on Draft night Thursday, which should only make his summer more, um, compelling.

That’s a fill-in-the-blank euphemism for the crossroads at which Deng finds himself at age 28.

Deng, the Bulls’ two-time All-Star, has been coach Tom Thibodeau‘s most leaned-upon player for the past three years, at both ends of the floor and through the teams’ many injuries (Deng plays hurt more than any other Bull and most of his NBA peers). During the season, that makes him invaluable on the floor and in the locker room.

During the offseason, though, that makes him an asset. And that’s how Deng was being assessed, evaluated, sliced and diced as the draft approached.

Some reports had the Bulls talking about a deal with Washington that would have sent Deng to the Wizards for the No. 3 pick and Emeka Okafor – Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick instead. Okafor and Deng, meanwhile, went nowhere.

Other reports suggested that Deng was in negotiations with Chicago brass for a contract extension, presumably something that would bring his annual salary down from the $14.2 million he’ll earn in 2013-14 – down, that is, if Deng wanted to stick with the Bulls.

With Derrick Rose ($18.8 million), Carlos Boozer ($16.8 million), Joakim Noah ($12.2 million) and Taj Gibson ($8 million) on the books for $55.8 million in 2014-15 – Boozer as an amnesty candidate – Chicago is sensitive to payroll, cap and luxury-tax implications for the summer of 2014 and beyond.

But the extension talks were swatted down by Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, early in the week.

Then with the No. 20 pick Thursday, Chicago drafted 6-foot-7 New Mexico wingman Tony Snell, described in NBA shorthand as a “3&D” guy. That puts him in the Bulls team photo next to 6-foot-7 wingman Jimmy Butler, who showed some of the same skills in a breakout second season in 2012-13. Butler is heavier on the ‘D,’ still developing on the 3 but based on his performance after the All-Star break and against Brooklyn and Miami in the playoffs, he already has been inked into the starting backcourt spot next to Rose.

Snell – touted for his 6-foot-11 wingspan, 8-9 standing reach, 9-inch hand length and 4.9% body fat – was a high school teammate of San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in Riverside, Calif., but is only four months younger than the Spurs forward, who already has logged two NBA seasons and one stellar Finals. So we’ll skip any comparisons there.

We won’t make any to Deng, either, a heady, selfless player finds ways to caulk around whatever his Chicago teammates are or aren’t providing on a given night. But Deng got ill in the playoffs, followed by a spinal tap to rule out meningitis and complications from that procedure, ending his postseason. That gave them another taste of life without the 6-foot-8 veteran – and life went on.

Washington, its roster so young, could use a veteran such as Deng, same as several other teams. Deng, a proud man, deserves to be appreciated for all he’s done and keeps doing for the Bulls. That’s a long shot, given management’s budget red lines and some fans’ vocal treatment of the South Sudan gentleman during some earlier periods of contract wrangling and under-performance.

Deng’s heavy minutes through a bum wrist and other ailments also have left him feeling a little taken for granted. And the front office’s apparent determination to keep its powder dry for 2014 and beyond – despite Rose’s eagerness and various opportunities and vulnerabilities in the Eastern Conference – might make younger, cheaper facsimiles look awfully attractive.

“We value Luol as you all know,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said late Thursday. “Luol’s a big piece of what we’re doing. He’s been a big piece of the success we’ve had the last couple years. And he’ll continue to be a big piece of what we do moving forward.”

Deng and his future in Chicago (or elsewhere) is as good a barometer for the Bulls in 2013-14 as anything this offseason.

Reading The Labor Tea Leaves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Good luck trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing in the NBA’s ongoing labor impasse.

One minute all seems lost, with voices from both sides (players and owners) dispensing ominous soundbites about their fear that any sort of peaceful accord is anywhere in sight. And then the next, we hear that progress, however slight, is being made and that perhaps there is a chance that common ground is in the distance.

And then comes the announcement, Friday morning, that the league is wiping out the first week of camps and preseason games.

It’s a wicked game being played by those trapped inside of the labor dispute matrix. And we’re forced to do our best to read the tea leaves every day to see if we can decipher fact from fiction.

Good luck:

There Is Still Hope

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: After more than two years of negotiations, it’s finally time to negotiate.

Following a series of small compromises by both sides, it was the owners’ turn to move the needle in a significant way. And they did: According to a person briefed on the negotiations, the league put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward even as the start of training camps were set to be delayed and preseason games canceled — with such gloomy but fully expected and insignificant announcements expected Friday.

“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks. “Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.”

According to one of the people familiar with the bargaining, here is some of what transpired Thursday: After signaling last week that the players’ offer to move lower than the 54.3 percent share of BRI was a starting point that could lead to a deal on economics, league negotiators came back with their own number. Unsurprisingly, the number was lower than what the players had last proposed, though multiple people involved in the talks refused to specify by how much.

The owners’ proposed BRI split was made without specific system details tied to it, and the number itself was “unacceptable” to the union leadership, one of the sources said. Thus, the faces of both sides emerged from the Manhattan hotel after five hours of bargaining and delivered the same vague non-answers with strikingly similar flatlined demeanors and monotone voices.

“I’m sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can’t have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like,” commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday. “And having these conversations with you doesn’t add anything to that. And that’s the dilemma.”

Cancellation Of Camp Could Send More Overseas

Mike Monroe of the Express-News: The decision could move some key Spurs to join the growing list of players signing on with teams overseas.

Before departing Argentina, where he helped Brazil qualify for next summer’s Olympic tournament, center Tiago Splitter told the Express-News he would sign on with Flamengo, a Brazilian club where former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa currently plays, if training camps were postponed or canceled.

“I do not want to be waiting for something to happen,” Splitter said. “I want to be playing, so if our (Spurs) camp will not start on time then I think I will sign with Flamengo.

“Of course, I will make sure I will be able to join the Spurs when the lockout ends, but I want to be playing and working on my game.”

(more…)