This week has been full of smoke from the NBA’s most trusted insiders regarding the approaching trade deadline. The Bulls have been mentioned daily for the last month, starting with Zach LaVine’s nearly guaranteed trade to the Detroit Pistons before opting for season-ending surgery on his injured right foot. Next was addressing DeMar DeRozan’s expiring contract and how, without LaVine, Chicago would likely miss the postseason for the second consecutive season and should contemplate gaining assets before DeRozan’s summer departure without anything in return. Throw in the Alex Caruso rumors and Andre Drummond being labeled “the most likely Bull” to be traded, and it’s been a whirlwind of a week for Chicago’s faithful. Tonight, Coby White made the front office’s decision glaringly clear as they approached the trade cutoff on Thursday afternoon.
Competing With Anyone In The League
While hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago’s miraculous comeback tonight may not have been all that great for the Bulls’ future. Down as many as 23 in the third quarter, after just three points in the first two quarters, White exploded for 30 points in the second half and dragged the Bulls back to contention as they forced overtime. Darnell Mayberry, Bulls’ insider, reported last Thursday that the front office would likely be standing pat for a third straight trade deadline.
“With a week remaining before the NBA’s trade deadline, few within or around the Chicago Bulls organization anticipate the franchise making a major move. If the Bulls swing a deal before the Feb. 8 deadline, most will be surprised. It’s not that the Bulls can’t make a trade, but there’s a prevailing belief that the front office won’t commit to something substantial.”Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic
DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic echoed the same sentiment, saying they believed the current group was enough to beat any team across the league. Tonight’s win over the second-best record in the NBA, tied for the best standing in the Western Conference, proved just that.
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Front Office’s Logic Will Prevail
Arturas Karnisovas and his front office members have coined the term “continuity” throughout their tenure in Chicago. After five trades in his first five months with the team, he’s only executed one trade in the 41 months since. Considering the Bulls have a record below .500 under his direction and are sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, they’ll likely fall short of postseason play for a second year in a row and a sixth time in seven seasons. The widely understood reluctance to trade Caruso will likely extend down the entire roster after a night where they claw back against one of the league’s best.
If there’s any silver lining to tonight’s victory, it’s the “passing of the torch” game, as Bulls’ announcer Adam Amin put it. White’s second-half outburst of scoring and playmaking while DeRozan sat idly by with only 11 second-half points, nine of which came via free-throws, it became evident who’s running the show in Chicago now. The 23-year-old recently extended guard has had a season full of highlights, and tonight’s fireworks show in the clutch just earned him the reigns over his veteran running mates. Currently third in the league with a 9.5 points per game increase from a season ago, he’s also inflated his rebound and assist per game numbers by nearly two and three, respectively.
What Amin calls “one of the best comebacks of the season by far” will be the deciding factor in Chicago’s front office remaining silent in the next three days. Beginning this summer, Karnisovas will be on the hot seat to prepare a new supporting cast around his rising young star.