CHICAGO -- Out of all the possibilities that have been thrown out in regard to what Gar Forman could get in return for Luol Deng, few expected Andrew Bynum's name to pop up in a potential deal. That changed Saturday when ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported that Bynum had been suspended by the Cleveland Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team and was on the trading block. As an example, Windhorst noted that the Bulls could be a destination for the oft-injured center given the way the numbers line up. Allow him to explain:
"As an example of how Bynum could be used in a deal, the Chicago Bulls are currently about $7.5 million over the luxury-tax line. They could trade free agent-to-be Luol Deng for Bynum and immediately waive him, which would save about $8 million off the cap and get the Bulls out of the tax. Such a trade would save the Bulls almost $20 million in salary and tax payments. Sources said the Bulls remain determined to hang on to Deng and hope to re-sign him even though the Cavs are interested. This is just how a trade for Bynum might work and what the motivations would be."
The ball remains in Forman's court. The Cavs could sell Forman on the fact that Deng may leave anyway at the end of the year and they could clear out space now and save the organization millions in another lost year without Derrick Rose. All along, the Bulls have wanted to acquire assets in the form of cheap contracts or draft picks. They didn't want to take back more money, but Bynum's uniquely structured contract allows them to look at things differently. Would they do the deal if a first-round pick was included and/or if Dion Waiters was included? Would the Cavs even want to include either of those pieces to try and move out Bynum quicker and bring Deng in for the stretch run?
This is where things remain complicated for Forman. If he really does want to re-sign Deng in the offseason, the idea of trading him now is a moot point. Deng and his representatives have shown no indication of offering a hometown discount, and the Bulls have shown no indication of paying him what he wants. The idea that Deng would take less money to come back to the Bulls after they dealt him is laughable.
Clearly, there are deals out there for Forman to consider. But the question he must ponder most of all isn't whether the Bulls should deal Deng now, it's how confident he is that Deng can play at the same level for the next few years and how convinced he is that the two-time All-Star will re-sign for closer to the range the Bulls are hoping for. The answers to those questions will determine what happens to Deng's future in Chicago. But the idea of being able to jump out of the luxury tax and save a boatload of money in the short-term has to be very appealing for a team that watched its championship aspirations die for the season the night Rose went down.
Bulls learning from injury-plagued past? Deng remains questionable for Monday night's game against the Memphis Grizzlies although he admitted Saturday that his troubled Achilles was feeling better. The veteran forward says he believes the organization has taken a smarter approach to injuries this season.
"I think we learned from the past," he said. "I think the players, too. We talk to each other. In the past I would have been out there playing and then missing another month or so and I really don't want to do that. The other thing is I don't want to keep coming in and out. I think that's the last thing we need. We're trying to get going. We won two in a row. Guys are playing well, we're getting guys back, and I don't want to come in and then out again. But definitely I think we're being smarter this year."
The last word: Deng, before Saturday's blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, on if better days were ahead for the Bulls:
"I really believe that. I really think so. I think we had just unbelievable injuries and guys have been in and out. And I think the addition of D.J. Augustin really helps us. Kirk [Hinrich] sits out and you get D.J. in, the flow of the game just keeps going. I'm really excited and I think we're better than what our record says. But at the end of the day you are what your record is. But I'm really looking forward to everybody being at full strength and see how good we can be."