The Chicago Bulls weren't interested in getting better this offseason. With star point guard Derrick Rose gone for most of the year while he recovers from a torn ACL in his left knee, Bulls management saw fit to dismantle the same bench unit that contributed to so much of the team's astounding success over the last two years. Never mind that the non-guaranteed contracts of Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer could have made for attractive trading chips to a team seeking financial relief: it almost feels like the Bulls weren't even aware they had the right. Or maybe the NBA's most profitable team knew that doing so would require them to take on added salary as they pushed against the same luxury tax that makes owner Jerry Reinsdorf's blood curdle. Either way. Instead, the Bulls waived each of the one-year club options and found cheaper replacements.
Well, at least some were cheaper. Chicago's love affair with Kirk Hinrich continued as the guard signed a two-year, $8 million deal. Hinrich was atrocious last season, though he did battle injuries. I personally believe C.J. Watson is a better player, but I anxiously await Hinrich proving me wrong. Watson had plantar fasciitis surgery on both feet after last season ended; he was playing hurt for Chicago out of necessity. Oh well, it's all over now. Gone are Watson, Korver, Brewer and Omer Asik, the sturdy backup center stolen by the Houston Rockets thanks to an intricately constructed contract. In the Bench Mob's place will be Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic and Nate Robinson.
As I said before, all of Chicago's moves can be defended if viewed in a bubble. It's classic management by the Bulls' front office. They saved money, pitched a soon-to-be-added mystery star to team with Derrick Rose in the future. One problem: the 2014 free agency class is brutal. Also: it requires the team letting go of Deng. Also, also: when's the last time the Bulls actually succeeded in free agency? That is, after all, how Chicago got stuck with Carlos Boozer for $75 million. Why throw away two seasons for this?
It's peculiar, then, that Luol Deng told the Tribune's K.C. Johnson on Monday that he plans on delaying wrist surgery. Deng says he will be ready when the Bulls open training camp. The small forward is set to play with torn ligaments in his wrist all season long.
Why Deng is rushing back for a season his front office already gave up on is beyond me. Here's what Deng told Johnson after Great Britain's 90-58 win over China, the country's first Olympic basketball victory in 64 years.
"Did I look like I needed (surgery)?" Deng said. "I'm fine right now. I feel great. There are a lot of things I want to improve in my game that I want to focus on. I want to be a better player than I was last year.
"I have time to make decisions and be healthy by the time we start (training camp)."
Deng said this after scoring six points on 3-of-11 shooting. Against China! He finished the Olympics shooting just 31.4 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three. When Deng rhetorically asked Johnson if it looked like he needed the surgery, I wish someone would have interrupted and said "Yes."
Surgery would put Deng out between 2-4 months. Again: who cares? Certainly not the Bulls. You can't say they ever did in 2012-2013.
It's my belief that the organization is strong-arming Deng. They're making him forgo the surgery as a penalty for playing in the Olympics. The Bulls never wanted him to compete for his adopted home country, but the small forward was defiant. Now, he'll gut it out for the team next season by playing hurt. It will diminish his play and kill his trade value going into next offseason. This is a catastrophe for Chicago, but they'll take short-term gains over long-term improvement as long as the team's profits aren't on the line. Classic Bulls.
Ricky O'Donnell is the editor of SB Nation Chicago and the founder of the Chicago sports blog Tremendous Upside Potential. Follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.