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Carmelo to Bulls? Then say bye to Deng, Gibson and more

Updated: February 8, 2014 6:29AM

As of Monday afternoon, coach Tom Thibodeau told the media that, after discussions with general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson, “they’re not actively seeking to move anybody.’’

By midnight, Bulls forward Luol Deng was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and three draft picks.

Active must be in the eye of the beholder.

In acquiring Bynum and the picks, the Bulls are obviously taking steps to reload through what is expected to be a draft filled with elite talent. At the same time, it doesn’t sound like Thibodeau is on the same page with his front office, especially with the Bulls taking a step back in talent by sending Thibodeau’s favorite player to a division rival.

A Bulls source not only confirmed the deal but insisted the organization “was not tanking.’’

That was a tough sell considering all Deng does for the Bulls. It might even be a tougher sell to Thibodeau.

“When you look at the college players that are available, everyone says it’s going to be a great draft,’’ Thibodeau said recently of the idea of NBA teams tanking.

“You never really know until they get here, then at the end of their career, you can say whether it was a great draft or not. Teams that are changing because of either free agency or players retiring, I think a normal progression would be, ‘OK, the team has changed so we’re going into rebuilding, so what’s that mean?’ Everything is so much more under a microscope now that people, I think, jump to conclusions. Sometimes you just have to let it play out.

“Once you allow [tanking to] creep in, you’re heading down a slippery slope. To me, we all owe it to each other and the organization to give everything we have every single day. I’m looking at our team, and I like the possibilities. I love our team.’’

The next move for the Bulls will be dumping Bynum by 4 p.m. Tuesday before the second half of his $12.3 million salary kicks in, and with Deng and Bynum off the books, the Bulls will save more than $15 million in salary, taking them below the salary cap and out of luxury-tax hell.

As for Deng, he was going to be a free agent at the end of the season, and when the Bulls stopped negotiations for a contract extension back in the summer, the writing was on the wall that he could be headed for a trade.

It was all but cemented Nov. 22, when the Bulls lost guard Derrick Rose to a season-ending right knee injury. But through it all, the Bulls continued to insist that they weren’t making calls on any of their players, only taking them.

Thibodeau reiterated that Monday, and even went as far as to say that with the roster as is, he could win with it. As for the trade rumors, Thibodeau downplayed them.

“Well, the thing is, and that’s the nature of this league, there’s always something, whether it’s a contract, usually when you get closer to the trade deadline, you hear about a lot of stuff then,’’ Thibodeau said. “And you’re in control of that, whether you’re going to allow that to impact you in a negative way, but there is always talk about something. That’s the challenge of this league, not to get distracted, to concentrate on the things that are necessary to win.

“You’re a professional player, so the same things go into winning: Establish your routine. The things you have no control over, don’t worry about it. Do what you have to do for your team.’’

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