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updated: 1/7/2014 7:03 PM

Bulls join Chicago's rebuilding craze

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  • Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will have to find a way to replace Luol Deng after the Bulls traded him to Cleveland in a salary dump move in exchange for the injured Andrew Bynum and conditional draft picks.

    Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will have to find a way to replace Luol Deng after the Bulls traded him to Cleveland in a salary dump move in exchange for the injured Andrew Bynum and conditional draft picks.
    Associated Press


The Bulls would like you to repeat after them: Trading Luol Deng doesn't signal that they're in the process of a long-term makeover to complement Derrick Rose.

"Rebuilding is not a word to use," executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said Tuesday, noting the club still has Joakim Noah as a player, Tom Thibodeau as head coach and Rose as a supposed superstar when he returns from his latest knee injury.

Yeah, right. The Bulls aren't rebuilding any more than the Cubs didn't start all over a couple years ago, the White Sox aren't trying to become respectable on the fly and the Bears won't attempt to play better defense next season with players still in college as we speak.

The Bulls are contributing to a Chicago sports scene that has been veering closer to a fantasy camp than a reality series. Around here it's about prospects, draft choices, cap room, financial flexibility and hope for the future.

OK, so the Deng deal had to be made. The Bulls had to get something for him, although not very much, before he became a free agent. Plus, the trade was a salary dump that provided luxury-tax relief.

All that said, overall it's still almost as if the Bulls are in a race with the Cubs to see which has a more profound degree of difficulty to become championship contenders. Meanwhile, the White Sox also don't like to refer to it as rebuilding so let's call theirs a Reinsdorfing. The Bears' fantasy is that they can win a Super Bowl with (cheap shot alert) Jay Cutler.

None of this is terrible, just terribly familiar. The Deng trade itself isn't terrible, just terribly typical. Since the beginning of time, Chicago sports teams have been trying to rebuild their rebuild.

Occasionally, fantasy becomes reality. The Bears and Sox did win one one-and-done championship apiece. The Bulls did win six NBA titles. As we speak, the Blackhawks are in the middle of what should be a dynasty.

Still, how would you have liked to have been a season-ticket holder who spent thousands of dollars to see more of Tony Snell than Luol Deng? How would you have liked being Noah learning that you'll be playing as hard as anyone in the NBA only to lose more than you win? How would you like being Thibodeau realizing that all the hours that you invest can produce only a hollow playoff berth at best?

Bulls' management is fantasizing that European man of mystery Nikola Mirotic will become an NBA all-star, the rights to a conditional Charlotte future draft pick will become a Hall of Famer, cap room will facilitate signing a quality free agent this summer, Rose will return better than ever

Fantasyland indeed.

In exchange for Deng, the Cavaliers sent the Bulls essentially three draft choices. The Cavs received the tangible Deng, who became an intangible here by turning down a long-term contract offer. The Bulls received, well, the wording of the transaction is so muddled that it's difficult to fathom what they'll wind up with.

The Bulls get a Sacramento first-round pick via Cleveland if it isn't in the Top 12 this year or Top 10 in future years or the Top 1,000 before Thibodeau's head implodes, assuming the pick isn't hijacked in Omaha on the way to Chicago. At some point it could be reduced to a second-rounder not expected to be named LeBron.

These projected Bulls' building blocks are starting to sound more imaginary than all those prospects the Cubs are advertising as the future.

Thank goodness for the Blackhawks, who are on a perpetual building plan -- rather than a series of rebuilding plans -- intended to extend their dynasty rather than begin one.

The Hawks proved it's possible for fantasy to become reality, though for the Bulls it's becoming really difficult to imagine.

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