Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibodeau Not Happy With Luol Deng Trade, But That’s Understandable

Mar 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau on sidelines with forward Luol Deng (9) during the second half against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. Chicago won 113-95. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls have gone into salary dump mode with Monday night’s trade of All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and draft picks.

Bynum is already gone, having been waived for the salary savings on Tuesday.

Deng is in the final year of his contract and will make $14.3 million in 2013-14. The Bulls are now off the hook for the balance of that, plus the non-guaranteed portion of Bynum’s $12.3 million deal. That gets Chicago below the luxury tax line, which will save the team upwards of $20 million.

Coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t happy with the deal. Deng was one of his favorite players and a franchise stalwart, only Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Sloan and the man who pulled the trigger on the trade, Bulls vice president John Paxson played in more games in a Bulls uniform than Deng, who Chicago took seventh overall out of Duke in 2004.

Mike Dunleavy moved into Deng’s spot in the starting lineup on Tuesday night and scored eight points with seven rebounds in 28 minutes of the Bulls’ 92-87 win over the Phoenix Suns. Chicago is currently sixth in the Eastern Conference at 15-18, but the long-term prospects for this season are bleak; with Derrick Rose injured and presumed out for the year and Deng now in Cleveland, Carlos Boozer—who is currently out with a sore knee—is the team’s top scorer at 14.7 points per game.

A team that struggles to score as much as the Bulls do—they are dead last in the NBA at 91.3 points per game—can’t be helped when its leading scorer (Deng at 19 points a night) is dealt.

“I had a chance to voice my opinion,” Thibodeau told “Their job is to make financial decisions, to make player personnel decisions and things of that nature. Their job is to do that. My job is to coach the guys that are here. That’s the way it works. We discussed it and I’ll leave it at that.”

And the personnel moves might not be done. USA Today reported on Tuesday there was serious interest from at least one team—the Golden State Warriors—in veteran guard Kirk Hinrich and there have been rumors swirling for a couple of years now that Boozer could be cleared off the books via the amnesty clause, the provision built into the 2011 collective bargaining agreement that Chicago has yet to avail itself of.

Paxson said no decision regarding Boozer and the amnesty clause has been made, despite multiple reports to the contrary.

“Everybody knows that we have the amnesty clause available to us,” Paxson said. “And it’s a decision that will be made but it’s not being made today. It will be made at some point, but you can’t do it now if you want to do it.

“But let me say this about Carlos, OK, because I think Carlos sometimes gets a little bit unfair criticism. When you think about the last three or four years, the only player who has practiced every day, played almost every game, come into the practice facility or the United Center with a positive attitude has been Carlos Boozer. He’s been good for our team, he’s been good for our guys. And we take those things into consideration. No decision has been made and the fact is we don’t have to make that decision today so it’s not worth discussing really.”

Boozer has one more year on his contract at $16.8 million for 2014-15. He was signed in July 2010 to a five-year, $75 million deal.

Of course, the one big name that has floated in the wake of Monday night’s trade is Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, who could opt for free agency this summer, but other than rumblings, there is nothing of substance to discuss regarding Chicago and ‘Melo.

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