Trouble brewing for Bulls in DeMar DeRozan extension talks

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

After making no significant changes over the offseason, I approached the 2023-24 season as a cautious optimist. Whether that will prove to be a foolish decision or not remains to be seen, but things are certainly not getting off to a good start following an embarrassing 124-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Bulls home opener.

Perhaps worse than the loss itself, Chicago’s mid=game feuds on the sideline and eventual locker room implosion highlighted the humiliation and showcased the sorry state this franchise is currently in.  “We agree with [Nikola Vucevic] and we got to do a better job with [getting him the ball],” said DeMar DeRozan, “We won’t let that happen again.”

However, I’m not sure we can necessarily take DeMar at his word here. Just months removed from locking Vucevic, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu on multi-year contracts, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore that DeRozan is one of only two core players on the Bulls roster without long-term security. DeMar has yet to sign a contract extension and is an unrestricted free agent this summer, leaving his fate with the team ultimately undecided.

Recent reports indicate we’re far from a conclusion to this story, as Shams Charania told FanDuel that negotiations with Chicago have come to a grinding halt.

DeMar DeRozan’s expiring contract is a ticking time bomb for the Bulls.

I’ll admit, it’s difficult to fault DeRozan here. He’s at the center of a team who has decided it wants to shoot threes now despite not having the talent to do so, he and LaVine still aren’t quite meshing in their third season together now, and the coaching staff appears to have completely lied to Vucevic regarding a new offensive scheme to get the big man more involved.

This is not an environment that fosters trust. As they say, winning cures all, but the Chicago Bulls are not a winning basketball team. They are a stubborn franchise determined to continue running things back, so long as the tickets keep selling.

As a business model, this makes perfect sense. As a competently ran basketball team, this is about the worst position a franchise could possibly be in. The Bulls want to re-sign DeRozan to continue selling tickets and merchandise, but not so much that they’re tied to a depreciating asset long-term. On the other hand, a star like DeMar doesn’t want to squander his last productive years in the NBA on a team so deeply unserious with their aspirations for championship pursuit.

If the Bulls re-sign DeRozan to his terms, they’ll continue to be stuck in no man’s land. If he bolts in free agency, Chicago will have lost one of its few valuable assets and be stuck with a management team incapable of rebuilding from the ground up. There’s just no good way this ends for the Bulls. And it’s only been one game.

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