The signals are clear even though the moves are subtle.
HoopsHype.com was the first to report over the weekend that Bulls officials arranged a Saturday sit-down with Real Madrid forward Nikola Mirotic. Sources close to the situation later told ESPN.com that the Bulls are indeed doing everything they can on the buyout front to be able to bring Mirotic to the NBA next season after taking him in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Then on Monday, Chicago unexpectedly released veteran point guard Mike James, who made the Bulls' roster out of training camp to provide coach Tom Thibodeau with an experienced hand whenever needed for spot duty behind Rose. But with Rose sidelined again and Chicago's short- and long-term aspirations in flux as a result, management has abruptly decided to release the 38-year-old to ensure that unproven youngsters Marquis Teague and newly acquired D.J. Augustin get as many minutes as possible.
Yet it can already be said that the fondness within the organization for Mirotic is such that the versatile 6-10 forward, who's shooting well above 60 percent from the floor in Euroleague play, is regarded as a bigger part of the future by the Bulls' brain trust than either longtime Thibodeau favorite Deng or Boozer.