In a season where the Chicago Bulls seemed poised to contend for the NBA championship, all it took was one innocent play from star point guard Derrick Rose to change everything. With the announced loss of Rose for the rest of the 2013-14 season thanks to a torn meniscus to his right knee, so too are those chances of competing for that coveted Larry O’Brien trophy lost for his team.
So what happens next for the beloved franchise of the Windy City?
With no hopes of competing for meaningful accolades, the first decision that calls attention to itself is the one regarding the future of Luol Deng. In the final year of a contract that pays him $14.3 million, the 28-year-old small forward has and will continue to command serious interest among playoff teams looking to beef up their rotations for their own playoff runs.
With a roster that already has over $64 million in contracts in the books for the 2014-15 season, there are serious doubts about whether the team can financially afford to keep the longest-serving member of the Bulls past the conclusion of this season. With a season that looks lost and a financial future that looks tight, he likely will be the first domino to fall.
Aside from Deng, the future of Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy face an equal amount of uncertainty with the sudden lack of meaning that their services now provide to a team no longer possessing enough talent to compete with the likes of the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
In the case of Boozer, he has provided exactly what was expected of him, but he never became the Robin to Rose’s Batman that many thought he would become when he joined the Bulls in 2010. His 16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 219 career contests in a Bulls uniform makes him plenty productive, but it hasn’t made the kind of impact many expected from what was to be the final piece of the Bulls’ championship puzzle.
As for Hinrich and Dunleavy, who will undoubtedly be asked to do more than they’re capable of in the coming months, a future with this team seems unlikely if the Bulls decide to retool the roster. As each provides something essential to playoff teams, whether it’s perimeter defense or the ability to space the floor, both will command suitors throughout the league. This trio of players seems to be running on borrowed time in a Bulls jersey.
For these players, the loss of the season means the likely end of their tenure with the franchise they now battle for each night. Whether fans like it or not, the future of this Bulls team began to take shape this afternoon.