The Chicago Bulls didn’t wind up making a major move at the NBA trade deadline, though the team will remain in the headlines as the future of Pau Gasol comes into focus.
Gasol, 35, was one of the bigger names making the rounds thanks to his possible trip to the free-agent market this summer. Though he’s been somewhat of an odd fit and the Bulls are hardly hanging on by a thread as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, Gasol still posts a respectable 17.1/10.8/2.0 slash line.
Not only did the Bulls shy away from moving their veteran leader, the front office was quite adamant about his future with the team this summer, as was Gasol himself. The Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson summed up the situation:
Thursday’s trade deadline passed with the Cavaliers getting aggressive, joining teams like the Pistons and Hornets that the Bulls currently are battling for lower-tier playoff positions. The Bulls, meanwhile, not only kept Pau Gasol, they doubled down on re-signing him in free agency this summer.
General manager Gar Forman called Gasol “part of our core.” Gasol, who turns 36 in July, said the Bulls “for sure” are the leading candidates for his services.
It all sounds positive, but this is the Association and folks know how quickly things can change. Even Gasol has openly admitted that the final stretch of this season will play a big role in the decisions he makes this summer after opting out of his player option, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
How these [29 regular-season] games play out will give me information of how I want to … or how my decision will be influenced for sure. How we handle this situation and if we’re able to overcome it, get more together and united and stronger or we give up or are content with it. Because that tells a lot, it tells you a lot about the character of a team and the people you are around with.
The pressure is on, Chicago.
The Bulls, just 29-26, didn’t do much to improve at the trade deadline, clearly hoping the return of Jimmy Butler can provide a spark. Things don’t look good either way, though, not with the team losing seven of its last 10. The immediate future isn’t exactly pretty, either, not with dates against the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers on deck. The Bulls still have to play Atlanta multiple times and deal with the likes of Toronto and Cleveland before the end of the season.
Losing Gasol in free agency would obviously be a major blow, especially with it looking like Joakim Noah is on his way out the door as well.
It’s not time for the Bulls to slap the panic button just yet. The headlines remain positive, and Gasol is a professional who wouldn’t let them be anything else lest it hurt the team. But it’s quite clear the clock is ticking and the Bulls will only remain favorites for so long if things don’t improve.