CHICAGO -- Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a "positive dialogue" about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he's ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday that Noah has been telling teammates he is ready to leave the Bulls. According to an unnamed player quoted in the report, Noah "has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction."
For his part, Noah has repeatedly discussed how much he loves the city and enjoys playing in Chicago, where he has spent his entire nine-year NBA career. At an end-of-season news conference in April, Bulls executive vice president John Paxson discussed how fond he is of Noah.
"Anyone who has been around us, anybody who has spoken to either [general manager Gar Forman] or I about Joakim, they know how we feel about him," Paxson said. "He represents a lot of things that we believe in. To me, he's one of the most genuine people I've ever been around in this business, as far as people go. So we have an affinity for Jo. But we've got to talk, we've got to see where it goes."
Wednesday's report underscores how many different issues the Bulls are going to have to work through this summer after a disappointing 42-40 season in which the team failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time in eight years.
Noah, who just completed a five-year, $60 million deal, was plagued by injuries over the past two seasons. He never fully recovered from offseason knee surgery during Tom Thibodeau's final campaign in 2014-15 and never really found his role in Fred Hoiberg's system during Hoiberg's first season in 2015-16.
Noah was taken out of the starting lineup by Hoiberg to start the season and was not pleased with the way Hoiberg told ESPN's Zach Lowe that Noah asked to come off the bench. After struggling to find a rhythm over the first two months of the season, Noah finally started to play better and find more consistent minutes, before a shoulder injury in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 15 knocked him out for the year.
Noah and his representatives are looking to cash in this summer with the massive TV money coming into the league, and they remain confident that Noah can get back to playing at a high level and staying on the floor. For the second summer in a row, he is spending a bulk of his free time working at Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara alongside friend and personal trainer Alex Perris.
The Bulls have to decide whether they want to bring back Noah for a ninth season or cede more power within the locker room to All-Star Jimmy Butler. While Noah has long been their emotional heart and soul, Butler was more vocal in his leadership approach over the past season after signing a five-year max extension last summer. His new approach irritated some of his teammates, including Noah, according to multiple sources.
For his part, Butler acknowledged during a recent interview with ESPN that he could do a better job listening in the years ahead.
"I think what I learned as a whole is that talk is cheap, and learn to keep your mouth closed," Butler said in discussing what he learned from a leadership perspective last season.
In that regard, Noah and Butler's relationship might be able to heal with time and more communication if both men return to the Bulls next season.
What remains to be seen is whether Noah is willing to trust the Bulls moving forward, even if they commit to spending enough money to bring him back.