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Luol Deng contract snag could mean Bulls fishing for bigger free agents

Might Bulls be delaying their negotiations with Luol Deng with LeBrJames mind? | Sun-Times Media

Might the Bulls be delaying their negotiations with Luol Deng with LeBron James in mind? | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 12, 2013 6:29PM



Heat superstar LeBron James gave a vague response earlier this week.

“I have absolutely no idea,’’ James said in an ESPN.com story when asked about his possible pending free agency after the 2013-14 season.

Somewhere in Chicago, those five words had to have Bulls general manager Gar Forman smiling.

Forman, like at least half the GMs in the NBA, isn’t conducting his business solely based on the hope that James opts out of his deal with the Heat next summer, but this upcoming free-agent class has to factor into decisions being made at the Berto Center.

That’s why the reports of the Bulls informing Luol Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, last week that they won’t negotiate a deal for the pending free agent came as no surprise.

It’s either smart business or a dangerous game of chicken with the hope of landing James.

It’s a long shot, but with the Bulls at least in the conversation in James’ first decision, it’s one the organization has to explore.

Rudoy, however, said Wednesday that it could cost them Deng on July 1, and despite Deng wanting to stay, a hometown discount, if talks eventually restart, is out the window.

“I actually expected them to negotiate an extension,’’ Rudoy said in a phone interview.

“I was very surprised when [Forman] called and said they had decided not to negotiate further. I was a bit surprised because it’s going to be a hot free-agent market next summer.’’

Rudoy was asked if Forman indicated that the Bulls wanted to look at bigger options before opening up talks again with Deng, but he said that was not conveyed to him.

“Of course, they didn’t say they didn’t want him back, so that was never discussed,’’ Rudoy said.

“I told Gar that they’re running the risk that someone can step up July 1, and they can lose him.

“At this point, we’re not looking to do anything except get the best deal possible. We’ll see what happens, and we’ll see what’s out there.

‘‘He loves Chicago, loves playing for [coach Tom] Thibodeau, really loves playing for Thibodeau, but he’ll look for the best offer.’’

According to Rudoy, Deng, 28, will spend the next three weeks working out with a trainer in Hawaii and return to Chicago just before the start of training camp Sept. 27.

The aftermath of a spinal tap gone wrong, which cost Deng two games in the seven-game playoff series against the Nets and the entire series against the Heat, is now in the past. But that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten.

A source told the Sun-Times in July that Deng’s camp was hoping he’d seek out a second opinion to see if the leaking of spinal fluid was because the procedure was mishandled, but Deng refused.

“It’s just not his nature to rock the boat,’’ the source said.

“That was a disaster,’’ Rudoy said of the spinal tap. “I’ve done this a long time and never seen anything like it, the kind of medical care he received.’’

But Deng is fully healthy, and if this is his last season with the Bulls, he wants to go out on top.

“Lu will come, play hard, look to win a championship alongside Derrick [Rose],’’ Rudoy said.

“But after that, the risk is all on the Bulls.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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