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Bulls trade Luol Deng to Cavs for Andrew Bynum, draft picks

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Updated: January 7, 2014 3:00PM



As of Monday afternoon, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told the media that in his discussions with general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson that “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 future draft picks.

Active must be in the eye of the beholder.

“We have great respect for Luol Deng, as a player and a person,’’ general manager Gar Forman said of the deal in a statement. “He has been an incredible contributor to our team on the court, and he has also done great things in the community. On behalf of the entire Bulls organization, I want to thank Luol for his years in Chicago.’’

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. The Bulls landed Cleveland’s right to the Sacramento King’s first round draft pick conveyed in a June 30, 2011 deal, the right for Chicago to swap its own 2015 first round draft pick with the Cavs own 2015 first round draft pick (only in the case that the Cleveland 2015 first round draft pick is between 15 and 30), and the Portland Trail Blazer’s 2015 and 2016 second round draft picks acquired from the Trail Blazers via a 2013 draft night trade.

The next move for the Bulls will be dumping Bynum by 4 p.m. CST 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.

“The moves made [Monday night] will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship,” Forman said.

Maybe, but not likely this year.

The deal will also bring to light once again whether or not the organization and Thibodeau are on the same page, especially considering Deng is one of Thibodeau’s favorite players.

A Bulls source not only confirmed the deal before the official announcement, but also 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 their coach.

“When you look at the college players that are available, everyone says it’s going to be a great draft,’’ Thibodeau said recently on the idea of NBA teams tanking. “You never really know until they get here and 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.’’

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

It was all but cemented on Nov. 22, when the Bulls lost 2011 MVP point guard Derrick Rose to a season-ending right knee injury. But through the dark clouds hanging over this team at the start of the season, the Bulls continued insisting 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 at the time, he could win with it.

“You can’t get to this level without being talented,’’ Thibodeau said. “You’re talented and here for a reason. Hey look, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen a lot of things happen in the playoffs. We have to do the work that’s necessary to get there. Just concentrate on what’s in front of us. Practice well today, get ready for our opponent tomorrow, concentrate on improvement, get better. You never know what happens. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things.’’

EMAIL: jcowley@suntimes.com



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