OAKLAND, Calif. – The Chicago Bulls are adamant that they will not negotiate a buyout with center Robin Lopez, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Lopez’s representation has been in discussions with the Bulls’ front office about an exit strategy since late December, sources told Yahoo Sports, but the franchise intends to stand firm.
If the Bulls were to change course and reach a buyout agreement with Lopez, the Golden State Warriors would be his next destination, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Marc Stein of the New York Times first reported the Warriors’ interest in Lopez.
The Bulls have been reluctant to part ways with the 30-year-old 7-footer, who happens to be the oldest player on their roster. They would rather part with Lopez via trade to get an asset, sources said.
“I don’t think there’s an NBA player that doesn’t want to be on a winning team, a playoff team,” Lopez told Yahoo Sports after Chicago was routed by the Warriors 146-109 Friday night. “I feel like I’m kind of smack dab in the middle of the prime of my career. Who doesn’t relish playing in playoff situations? That’s something very appealing and whether that’s something the organization and myself come together and decide, that’s something we want to work towards with this team, or whether that’s something that’s going to happen somewhere else, I’m just going to keep grinding. I think right now we definitely aspire to be a winning team, and I want to help out with that.”
Lopez, who is averaging 5.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game this season, has not personally approached management about his future, sources said.
“I’m not heavily involved in [buyout talks] because I try to stay focused in on the day-to-day,” Lopez told Yahoo Sports. “My [agent] keeps me informed of the bigger bullet points, abreast of the more important news.”
The Bulls are devoted to developing their young talent and are tied for the fourth-worst record in the league at 10-33. Lopez, a 10-year veteran, is playing his fewest minutes since his fourth year in the league. The Bulls value his veteran leadership and he was a stabilizing force that kept the team from a full-blown mutiny when Jim Boylen took control of the team in early December, sources said.
“I’m invested in these guys,” Lopez told Yahoo Sports. “My teammates are invested in me, and I’m invested in them. You never know what’s going to happen in the NBA. It’s a business, so you’re kind of prepared for any other options. But right now, I’m focused on doing what I can to help this Bulls team.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr drafted Lopez out of Stanford with the 15th pick in the 2008 draft when Kerr was the general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Golden State GM Bob Myers has stated that the team’s No. 1 priority is acquiring a big man for frontcourt depth even though injured All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins will soon debut for Warriors. Because Golden State has a top-heavy roster of All-Star talent, it is unlikely the team will pull off a trade for Lopez, leaving the buyout market as its sole option.
“I think it’s an appealing situation for just about anybody in the league,” Lopez told Yahoo Sports about the Warriors. “You go there, they share the ball, they play defense, they play the right way. But right now, that’s something we’re aspiring to do here. And there’s a certain joy in trying build a culture like that, and I appreciate being a veteran in that position of helping shepherd a team towards that point.”
Lopez is in the final year of a four-year, $54 million deal he signed with the New York Knicks in 2015. He was traded to the Bulls in June 2016 and is owed $14.3 million for this season. March 1 is the deadline to reach an agreement on a buyout and still be eligible for the postseason.
“I try to stay focused on what’s going on in the present,” Lopez told Yahoo Sports. “Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I know anywhere that I go, I’m going to look to help out and contribute. I think I have a pretty flexible game. I try to plug in where I need to help out.”
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