Luol Deng being traded is without question the biggest surprise of this Chicago Bulls 2013-14 season.
Gar Forman should hardly ever be compared to former Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay. But the way the general manager traded two-time All-Star Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of the night makes the Irsay comparison – the owner famously moved his Baltimore Colts franchise to Indianapolis in the cover of night in 1984 – seems appropriate.
The subject of Deng being moved had been a topic of discussion since training camp when negotiations on an extension between the two sides stalled during the summer, leaving Deng entering the 2013-14 campaign in the final year of a six-year, $71 million deal that was to pay him $14 million this season.
The Bulls were in "championship or bust" mode going into the season, but another knee injury to Derrick Rose effectively closed their championship window and fans were ready for the organization to have a “fire sale” and enter into full “tank” mode with the loaded 2014 NBA Draft Class -- featuring Duke standout and Chicago native Jabari Parker -- on the horizon.
Gar Forman had previously stated the Bulls had high hopes of trying to keep Deng – the longest tenured player on the roster – in Chicago beyond this season and had no interest in trading him. But given the franchises recent history of letting assets walk away while receiving nothing in return – Kyle Korver and his trade exception immediately come to mind – most felt Forman was just blowing smoke and that Deng would be in uniform the rest of the season and then leave in free agency next summer.
But as it turns out, Forman was indeed trying to keep Luol Deng – a favorite of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodeau – in Chicago.
Yahoo! Sports reported Deng had rejected a three-year, $30 million extension offer last week. This after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed days prior that Deng and his agent, Herb Rudoy, were looking for a deal somewhere between the $12-$13 million per year range.
With the Bulls already in luxury tax territory for a second straight season and poised to pay the harsh and extremely stiff repeater tax next summer, it left the team no choice but to trade Deng away from the only team he’s ever known.
The move effectively ends one era, signals the dawn of a new one, and leaves no mistake that basketball is and always will be a business before anything else.