Before the Bulls announced that they had shipped Deng off to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum's contract, three draft picks and the promise of financial flexibility on Monday night, they made one last play in attempt to retain him.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Deng rejected a three-year, $30 million contract extension, compelling Chicago to strike a deal with Cleveland:
Within days of the Chicago Bulls unloading Luol Deng for salary-cap relief and a first-round draft pick, the All-Star forward rejected a three-year, $30 million contact extension, a league source told Yahoo Sports.
Deng, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, turned down the deal on Friday, clearing the way for Bulls management to complete a deal with Cleveland for broken-down center Andrew Bynum and a package of draft picks on Monday night.
Contract talks broke down between both sides prior to this season as well. Dialogue between Deng and the Bulls stopped once it became clear they were unable to establish common ground, per CSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam.
The Bulls initially valued Deng at $7 million to $8 million annually, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley, so their latest offer represents a substantial increase. However, going on 29 this summer, Deng will become an unrestricted free agent and the two-time All-Star will have his last chance to cash in.
A three- or four-year deal will take him through his 32nd or 33rd birthday, at which point eight-figure salaries will become a thing of the past. If Deng believes that he can net more, then devaluing himself by signing Chicago's extension wouldn't have made sense.
And you better believe Deng thinks he's worth more.
Woj says that Deng was looking for $12 million to $13 million annually, not unreasonable when you consider Andre Iguodala, a one-time All-Star, landed four years and $48 million from the Golden State Warriors last summer. Josh Smith, another two-way forward, signed with the Detroit Pistons for four years and $56 million, but has yet to make an All-Star appearance.
Deng's camp naturally saw dollar signs in wake of those two contracts.
Lingering drama from last season only hurt Chicago's chances at re-signing Deng as well. He was reportedly frustrated with how the team cared for him following a late-season spinal tap.
From the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson:
The Bulls issued the spinal tap to test for viral meningitis, and sources at the time indicated Deng complained of his post-procedure care, which featured unfamiliar doctors, no visits from team personnel and the lack of a private hospital room.
Deng’s representatives met with Bulls management last offseason to discuss their concerns over these issues. That set an ominous tone for general talk on a contract extension for Deng, which produced such a gulf that no counteroffers were exchanged.
Any chance the Bulls had of keeping Deng at a discount vanished when the two sides couldn't reconcile over the summer. If he was going to stay, Chicago would have to pay market value for him.
Paying Deng more than $12 million annually wasn't an option for the Bulls, though, who fully intend on retaining Jimmy Butler when he's eligible for an extension. Footing the bill for him, along with $12 million or so for Deng, became unrealistic fast.
While committed to winning, the Bulls remain a cash-conscious bunch, never writing checks that their owner Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't want to cash. With nearly $65 million already on next season's ledger before even factoring in Deng, this divorce became inevitable.
"We have great respect for Luol Deng, as a player and a person," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a team statement.
They just didn't have deep enough pockets.
*All salary information courtesy ShamSports.