We’re usually loath to discuss ongoing contract negotiations, especially in regards to a player like Luol Deng – who is currently under contract to play one more season for the Chicago Bulls in 2013-14. With that in place, though, it appears as if there are no real current “ongoing contract negotiations” between the Bulls and Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy.
Rudoy expressed as much, along with a few other damning indictments of the Chicago Bulls front office, in a recent discussion with NBA.com’s David Aldridge:
We never negotiated," Rudoy said Friday. "We had several meetings. One was to discuss the medical care he got, or did not get, after his spinal tap [in May], which was of great concern to him."
Deng missed the last two games of the Bulls' first-round series against Brooklyn and all of Chicago's East semifinal series against the Heat after suffering debilitating headaches following a spinal tap that was taken to determine whether he had developed meningitis. But he was upset that the Bulls' team physicians accompanied the team to Miami for the start of the series, leaving him alone in a Chicago hospital as he lost 15 pounds and became violently ill as spinal fluid leaked into his body. Deng was sick for weeks afterward.
"And we had another meeting to discuss whether they would discuss a contract," Rudoy said. "He [Forman] called me a week or two ago and decided they did not want to discuss a contract and that it would have to wait until after the season. I told them they'd have to wait until after July 1, because he would have to see what the market is, and that he would become a free agent. And I couldn't promise he wouldn't sign somewhere else. Now, he loves being there, and he loves playing for [coach Tom] Thibodeau. Loves playing for him. But he has to see what the market is."
The “or did not get” aside, in reference to the spinal tap? Yes, that’s a shot. And an appropriate one, too.
As we’ve discussed over and over in these pages, both in the diagnosis, the handling, and the on record discussion of Deng’s injury and illness, the Chicago Bulls completely botched what could have been a life-threatening situation for their two-time All-Star.
Even coach Tom Thibodeau, whom Deng’s agent lauds in this interview, went on record following Chicago’s game five loss to the Brooklyn Nets in telling the media that Deng was suffering from “flu-like symptoms,” completely leaving his workhorse out to dry as both media and fans criticized the league’s leader in minutes per game for sitting important contests out.
We’ve discussed the likelihood of Deng’s return, a 2014 departure, a possible extension, or trade viability here before. Rudoy’s comments to Aldridge, it should be noted, don’t exactly come off as negotiating through the press, or your typical agent-speak:
"I know there will be a terrific market for Luol Deng," Rudoy said. "Bulls fans should know he loves playing in Chicago. But if the Bulls don't want to give him an extension, he's obliged to take a look at the market and make a decision that's best for him."
There will be a terrific market. Again, as we’ve gone over before, Luol Deng probably isn’t worth a four-year, $48 million deal at this point in his career (even heading into his prime), but the sheer amount of teams with cap space next summer will likely drive his free agent number up. And the Bulls have a history of handling departures this way, distracting fans with other hoped-for baubles (highly regarded Montenegrin forward Nikola Mirotic, possible cap space, their rights to a future Charlotte Bobcats first round pick) while refusing to pay the luxury tax repeatedly.
The Chicago Bulls probably shouldn’t match a massive contract offer for Luol Deng. It doesn’t mean they’re handling any of this the right way, even if they end up in the exact right spot.