In Chicago, there could be a running of some Bulls right out of town.
The team is now four games under .500 at 14-18, and it's becoming harder and harder to believe that the current core has what it takes to compete for an NBA title.
The Bulls’ game-plan for the immediate future is coming into focus. League sources with knowledge of Chicago’s plans say that they’ll definitely be looking to deal Luol Deng before the Feb. 20 trading deadline. Deng is a free agent this summer and the Bulls don’t want to pay him anything close to top dollar. The second part of their house-cleaning: They intend on using their amnesty move this coming summer to part ways with Carlos Boozer. Boozer is scheduled to make $16.8 million next season.
Rose has told several confidantes that he is worried that the Bulls will start to let the team hit the skids by allowing key players to leave via free agency, forcing him to go through a rebuilding program that he wants no part of.
Keeping coach Tom Thibodeau and sidelined superstar Rose happy should be important to Chicago's brass, but there's a certain point when you just have to be realistic.
Even if Rose was healthy, Chicago would likely still be looking up at the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference. The former isn't getting any worse as long as it has LeBron James, and the latter is trending up with young stars like Paul George and Lance Stephenson.
Deng can hold his own against the likes of James and George right now, but he's creeping closer to 30 (he'll turn 29 in April), and he's already showing signs of physical wear and tear.
He missed nearly 30 games of the 2011-12 season, and he's already sat out nearly a third of this season. The most recent nagging problem has been an Achilles injury.
As for Boozer, he's already 32, and his numbers are trending downward (nearly three points and a rebound since his first season in Chicago). Plus, backup forward Taj Gibson has always been considered the better defender, and he's averaging a career-high 11.9 points this season.
The Bulls need some more young pieces upon which they can build and the financial flexibility that moving Deng and Boozer would afford them.
For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.
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