PRO BASKETBALL

VP John Paxson: Deng trade gives Bulls more flexibility

2014-01-07T19:15:00Z 2014-01-12T16:06:24Z VP John Paxson: Deng trade gives Bulls more flexibilityAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
January 07, 2014 7:15 pm  • 

Professional sports is a business. Never forget that.

Bulls' forward Luol Deng, a free agent next season, knew he was on the bubble the moment management learned Derrick Rose would be lost for the season with his second knee surgery.

So late Monday night, the Bulls traded their 10-year veteran to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum, whom they waived, and three future draft picks.

"We really did come to the determination that we weren't going to have Luol long-term," said John Paxson, vice-president of basketball operations, during a Tuesday news conference. "We came to the realization we were too far apart to get anything done."

Deng, who was averaging a career-best 19 points per game this season, had rejected a three-year, $30 million extension.

Chicago gets a future first-round pick that belonged to Sacramento, along with 2015 and 2016 second-round picks Cleveland had obtained from Portland.

"We believe we'll be in a position to make our basketball team better and deeper in the future," Paxson said.

"Whatever I asked him to do, he did, and he brought it from Day 1, the minute I got here," added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who often called Deng the "glue" that held the team together.

"Lou was never the type of guy that would call attention to himself. He did a lot of good things in this community because he felt it was the right thing to do."

Deng is the fourth-leading scorer in Bulls' history behind Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Bob Love.

Paxson said the Bulls are not in "rebuilding mode" because the current roster, though a short one at the moment, still has enough talent to compete.

Luring free agents to Chicago, however, could become even more difficult given the negative reputation management has gotten from former players like Ben Gordon and even Deng, who had been critical of contract negotiations in the past.

"Contract issues go on all over the league with players," Paxson was quick to say. "There's no negative feeling about it from our end.

"For the record, we also several years ago stepped up and gave him a $71 million contract to keep him here, which is fairly significant in my opinion.

"I think we treat people fairly, treat players fairly, and go about our business in the right way."

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