The Chicago Bulls are serious in their bid to battle for an NBA championship in the next few years, but those aspirations could be in trouble after talks between the Bulls front office and Luol Deng hit a snag in negotiations on Tuesday.
According to a report from Shams Charania of RealGM, contract extensions between the Bulls and Deng were discussed, but both parties did not even reach the financial aspect of the terms when the negotiations were ceased.
“Luol has taken the position that he will definitely go through the free-agent process,” said Herb Rudoy, who is Deng’s Chicago-based agent, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
If indeed Chicago decides in letting Deng go, they’ll risk losing him to the rich class of free agents in the 2014 offseason.
Deng will join the likes of Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James; Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol; Paul Pierce (Brooklyn Nets); Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks); Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors); Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers); Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies); and Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) among others in the free agency pool.
“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. He'll continue to be a big piece of what we're doing moving forward," said an optimistic Bulls general manager Gar Forman in June of 2013.
The hesitation from the Bulls camp of giving Deng a long-term extension most probably roots from Deng’s injury history.
In the 2004-05 season, Deng suffered a season-ending wrist injury after playing 61 games. In the 2008-09 season, Deng played in only 48 games and the playoffs due to another undisclosed injury. Last year in the 2013 playoffs, Deng missed the crucial games vs. the Nets because of a spinal tap procedure.
Deng is a two-time All-Star with career averages of 16.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists in a nine-year NBA career.