COMMENTARY | Apparently the Cleveland Cavalries thought trading away three draft picks and Andrew Bynum for the opportunity to rent former Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng for a month was a really good idea -- it is still a mystery to me why their franchise is in disarray.
According to a report by CBS Sports, the Cavs have made Deng available to other teams looking to make a deal by the Feb. 20 trade deadline, because -- and get this -- they are worried he won't re-sign with them his summer. Uh … isn't that the exact reason the Bulls traded him in the first place?
Whether Deng is able to escape from Cleveland at the deadline or not, Chicago will not be one of cities looking to harbor this future Ohio fugitive.
Why the Bulls Will Not Look to Trade for Him
I've heard a lot of fans talk about how cool it would be if the Bulls just went right back and traded for Deng, essentially swiping three picks from Cleveland for nothing.
The simple, and most obvious, reason Deng will not be back in a Chicago uniform this season is because he isn't allowed to.
Under the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team cannot reacquire a player it traded away during the same season. Deng can be traded to any NBA team not named the Chicago Bulls.
But, even if the rule did not exist, and the Bulls could trade to get Deng back, it would defeat the purpose of having traded him away in the first place.
Deng was dealt to get the Bulls under the luxury-tax number and give them more financial flexibility going into next season. Taking Deng's contract back on would push them further into the red than they already are, and still without any guarantee he would re-sign this summer.
Back to Chicago in Free Agency?
Deng was traded away after rejecting Chicago's three-year, $30 million offer. But, since then, he has seen firsthand what may be in store for him playing for teams without the kind of franchise stability he may have took for granted in Chicago.
According to a story by NBC Sports, Deng told a friend that the situation in Cleveland was far from ideal. "The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It's a mess." Deng even jokingly mentioned that maybe the Bulls would give him three years and $30 million to go back home to the Windy City.
The Bulls could have interest in bringing Deng back, but it would surely be a hat-in-hand, take-it-or-leave-it situation for Deng, whereby the three-year, $30 million contract he rejected earlier this season would be all Chicago would even be willing to discuss.
Teams Who May Have Interest in Deng at the Deadline
A two-time All-Star who can score and defend wing players will certainly have a market at the deadline.
Houston Rockets: Houston Rockets were one team rumored to be on the Deng train before Chicago moved him to Cleveland. As the Rockets are still circling the idea of clearing Omer Asik's $14.8 million from their book before next season, Deng offers the kind of expiring contract Houston would covet, while still being a big roster boast to a team looking to contend in the West this season.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers will do everything it can to move Pau Gasol before the deadline, and Cleveland would be one of the team who helps make it happen.
The Phoenix Suns were said to be involved in Gasol trade talks before those discussions broke down because of LA demanding the Suns' top draft pick in return. Cleveland could swoop in and either replace the Suns in these talks, or help as the third team involved in a deal that would send Gasol to Phoenix, Deng to Los Angeles, and the expiring contract of Emeka Okafor and picks to Cleveland.
Charlotte Bobcats: Yes, Michel Jordan's rag-tag team of forgotten NBAers has not been as miserable this season as in years past. Thanks to the offseason acquisition of Al Jefferson, the Bobcats are actually threatening to see postseason action.
Charlotte has the expiring $13.2 million contract of Ben Gordon to make the money match up, plus the team has two future first-round draft picks form the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons that the Cavs would certainly find appealing.
Deng would be a great addition to a team looking for consistent wing play, and as a former Duke Blue Devil, joining the Bobcats would constitute a homecoming of sorts for Deng.
Dalton Russell is Chicago native and longtime follower of the Bulls. His championship expectations were irrevocably ruined by the Michael Jordan-led teams of the '90s and now impatiently awaits the next great chapter of Bulls basketball.
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