General manager Gar Forman has stated publicly on more than one occasion the Bulls hope to keep Luol Deng long term.
Deng is on record as saying he would like to remain with the Bulls but won't discuss last summer's failure to produce a contract extension during the season. And Deng's representatives emphasized in September that their client would "definitely explore free agency" next summer.
In this regard, nothing has changed regarding Deng, the subject of much trade speculation since Derrick Rose went down with a season-ending knee injury. ESPN.com reported Friday the Bulls "are determined not to trade Deng." One league executive lightheartedly translated that to mean "they're getting lowball offers."
Sources indicated the Bulls have fielded, but not initiated, exploratory calls regarding Deng. Given the Bulls' underwhelming season, those calls have tried to gauge if the Bulls are desperate to deal the 10-year veteran for reasons more financial than basketball related.
They are not, and their preference remains to keep him if they can re-sign him for the right price next summer. However, any implication the Bulls wouldn't accept the right trade offer for an impending free agent would be misleading.
Deng on Saturday will miss his second straight and sixth overall game with his sore left Achilles and calf. He has targeted the Christmas matinee in Brooklyn for a return, but that isn't guaranteed. An MRI has confirmed no tear.
"What I tried to do is play and treat it and see if I can get rid of it," Deng said late Thursday in Oklahoma City. "But it doesn't seem like I could do that. So we made the decision that I have to try to put it behind me and stop playing instead of being in and out. I want to be smart about it."
Butler's blues: The disjointed nature of Jimmy Butler's season continued with his sprained right ankle that almost surely will sideline him for Saturday's home game against the Cavaliers -- at least. Butler rolled his ankle Thursday when he stepped on Thunder forward Nick Collison's foot in the second quarter.
Butler had scored in double figures in three of his four games since returning from missing 11 to turf toe. While the one game he didn't reach double figures featured a 1-for-11 stinker against the Magic, he rebounded with a team-high 20 points Wednesday in a loss in Houston.
"In Houston I thought he got his rhythm back," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So that was a tough blow, him going down."
March madness: The Thunder's lone United Center visit March 17 could feature simmering intensity after the postgame exchange between Kendrick Perkins and Joakim Noah late Thursday. Perkins used profanity while telling Noah to exit the Thunder's locker room, which Noah had visited to continue a conversation with former teammate Thabo Sefolosha.
Though the league typically frowns upon players entering opponent locker rooms, the Bulls regularly welcome former teammates. John Lucas III, Nate Robinson and Ronnie Brewer have visited the postgame locker room this season.
Thibodeau coached Perkins while they were with the Celtics and consistently has praised his toughness.
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