(CBS) Losers of 13 of their past 18 games and sitting in seventh place in the East with 30 games left, the Bulls may be ready to raise the white flag on what appears to be a lost season.
Chicago is “aggressively shopping” center Pau Gasol on the trade market ahead of Thursday’s 2 p.m. deadline, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Gasol has a player option for the 2016-’17 season but has indicated he intends to opt out and hit the open market, so part the Bulls’ desire here is to get an asset, however small, instead of letting him walk for nothing.
If the right deal could be found, moving Gasol — who carries a $7.4 million cap hit this season — could perhaps also allow Chicago to get under the luxury tax threshold of $84.74 million. The Bulls’ payroll is currently about $4.5 million over the luxury tax. If the season’s a lost cause, avoiding the luxury tax is important because it can avoid the harsh, punitive repeater penalties down the line. The Bulls paid the luxury tax in 2012-’13, according to Mark Deeks, but avoided it in 2013-’14 by trading Luol Deng to the Cavaliers in January 2014, during a campaign in which point guard Derrick Rose went down early with a season-ending injury.
While expressing optimism about their ceiling when fully healthy, the downward-trending Bulls must also factor into this decision their current injury problems. All-Star wing Jimmy Butler is out until early March with a strained left knee, and forward Nikola Mirotic is out longer than that following two surgeries — one an appendectomy and then a follow-up after complications from the first one. Big man Joakim Noah’s also been lost for the year with a shoulder injury.
“I know (executives John Paxson and Gar Forman) are up doing their job,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Tuesday night. “They’re calling all around the league, just like teams do this time of year. We’ll see what happens. This is the time where things get serious, these final 48 hours leading into the deadline. We’ll see what happens.”
Gasol’s been Chicago’s most consistent player outside of Butler, averaging 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds while making the All-Star Game. Moving him would represent giving up hope of competing this season.