It’s not easy letting a favorite player go, but that’s what’s being asked of Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. On Monday evening, the Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and future draft picks. Bynum was waived the next day.
According to ESPN Chicago, Bulls vice president John Paxson doesn't expect Thibodeau to be happy about the situation. Paxson does, however, expect his coach to be a professional about it:
Look, it's not realistic to ask Tom or his staff to be happy about taking a player of Lu's caliber off your team. But what has to happen within an organization is that when decisions are made, that as a group you have to align together, and you have to move forward.
Thibs described his meeting with the front office as diplomatically as can be expected:
I had a chance to voice my opinion. Their job is to make financial decisions, to make player personnel decisions, and things of that nature. Their job is to do that. My job is to coach the guys that are here. That's the way it works.
Moving forward—that’s what this is all about. With Derrick Rose lost for yet another season-ending knee injury, the Bulls are regrouping. Trading Deng, a free agent at the end of the season, allows the team to get under the luxury tax. By clearing Bynum’s $12.3 million plus the remainder of Deng’s $14.3 million, the team will save more than $20 million.
They'll also lose a lot more games.
K.C. Johnson for the Chicago Tribune, wrote about the regret of Deng’s teammates, as well as his coach. Thibodeau expressed his feelings succinctly:
It's tough. Lu did an unbelievable job for us. He embodied everything that we believe in: high character, intelligent, mentally tough, great humanitarian. He worked extremely hard and performed well. We wish him well.
Deng, a two-time All-Star, was in his 10th season with the Bulls. He was a draft day trade in 2004, picked seventh overall by the Phoenix Suns and dealt to the Bulls. This was Thibodeau’s fourth season coaching the small forward.
It’s tough to lose a favorite player, and it’s tough to be put into a rebuilding situation. Tom Thibodeau is a guy who shows his emotions easily on the sidelines. He gets angry and he coaches to win. This can’t be easy for him, at all.