Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Early Tuesday morning, when either the hard-working or hard-partying were the only ones up, a basketball era, which was never allowed to flourish, died.
The Chicago Bulls ended a promising chapter on a disappointing note.
The Bulls finalized a deal to send two-time All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers. What exactly the Bulls got in return is a little complicated, so let's quote it directly from the Cavs' press release.
"In exchange for Deng, the Cavs send Chicago (Andrew) Bynum, Cleveland's right to the Sacramento Kings' 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."
So, it's Deng for Bynum, a first-rounder, the right to swap first-rounders and two second-rounders. It's not a bad haul at all for an upcoming unrestricted free agent, who, according to reports, turned down a multi-year extension for $10 million a season.
(Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson confirmed Tuesday an offer was made over the weekend but Deng turned it down.)
That is what gets to the heart of why Deng is now a Cavalier. The two sides appeared resigned not to sign in the offseason, and let the world hear about it. Acrimony is a strong word, but the marriage between the Bulls and Deng wasn't the sturdiest in sports history.
Deng still apparently bore ill feelings over last season's finale. He played through a wrist injury, but missed part of a first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets and all of the second-round series against the Miami Heat thanks to a botched spinal tap. Ouch.
According to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, Deng was displeased with several things related to the incredibly painfully sounding botched spinal tap.
"We didn't handle that as well as we could've and should've," admitted Paxson.
The two sides met in the offseason, fast-forward a few months, and now, Deng is in Cleveland for more than a visit to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.
There's clearly more at play in this trade than just realizing Deng's future looked bleak in Chicago, although that's reason enough to trade an impending free agent.
The Bulls were viewed as a title contender this season. Over Derrick Rose's last two healthy seasons, Chicago was 112-36. Wow, title aspirations were realistic.
Rose tore his meniscus and everything was over. Not just this season, but with Deng murky at best about a future in Chicago, this run of the Rose/Deng/Joakim Noah/Carlos Boozer/Tom Thibodeau Bulls would never attain immortality. It never really attained a chance to run for immortality.
The realization stings. The brass could've given it one more shot, but decided to just make it all about the future, although they won't admit such.
"Rebuilding is not a word to use when you still have Joakim Noah on your team or with Derrick Rose expected to come back healthy," Paxson said on Tuesday.
The haul in the Deng trade was a good start, contrary to what Paxson says publicly about rebuilding. They got a first-round pick, the right to swap with a team that's probably going to be in worse shape than they will be, and two second-rounders. (Some of these picks have so much protection on them, you'd think they were going to wrangle snakes in the jungle.)
For someone who didn't figure into long-term plans, that's a decent take. Chicago has a pick coming from the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyrus Thomas, who is no longer in the league, but that pick, like every other one traded in the NBA, is more protected than the White House.
The added bonus come draft time is that the Bulls, without Rose and Deng, will stink, thus increasing their own chances at a great pick come June. Bynum won't even make it 24 hours as a member of the Bulls. He'll be waived before he can get a slice of deep dish.
Kirk Hinrich and even Mike Dunleavy have little value to the Bulls now. They are bench pieces added to assist in the title hunt. Sell everyone.
One player who is a bit of a hair in the rebuilding soup is Carlos Boozer. He's owed an obscene $16.8 million next season. If GM Gar Forman can take advantage of another GM at a bar or something, and get said team to take Boozer off its hands, maybe Chicago does it.
Otherwise, and more likely, wait til the summer and amnesty him. He's one of the few remaining players eligible for amnesty. Get rid of him, but keep him for the season. There's no point doing it now.
"It's a decision that will be made but it won't be made today," Paxson said Tuesday.
That will leave a core of Rose, Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson to go along with as many as three first-round picks in the greatest draft in over 10 years.
(Charlotte's pick is top-10 protected and Sacramento's top-12 protected. The Charlotte pick is probably coming Chicago's way, while there's almost no chance the Sacramento one comes this year.)
The Bulls also have Real Madrid star Nikola Mirotic under their control and will most likely start negotiating with him in the summer.
There will be some cash laying around in Chicago. Assuming the Bulls amnesty Boozer, they could have upwards of $10 million of cap space. That doesn't land LeBron or Melo, but move another asset like Gibson, or Butler, and now the Bulls are getting there.
Also on the financial front, the Deng trade and subsequent waiving of Bynum helps them avoid luxury tax hell this season. Can't diminish the value of that.
The true downside, other than continuing an emerging feud between Thibodeau and the Bulls' front office, is ending an era that never got to realize its potential.
By the time all of these players were together in their primes, injuries ravaged any chance of a championship run.
The band has been dismantled. This Bulls group will be remembered for potential and Rose's knees.
Now, with all due respect, Mr. Paxson, it's time to rebuild.