At the end of a tumultuous Tuesday that saw Luol Deng traded to Cleveland and then a Bulls' victory over Phoenix, Jimmy Butler was asked if it's natural for players to feel angry about management giving up a key player.
"I feel like they've done a great job of putting this team together and they're going to do what's best for us now, in the long run," Butler said. "I think they've always been great at drafting guys and putting high-character guys around each other that are going to work, compete together as a team. I feel like it was a great move."
It makes sense that Butler appreciates the Bulls' drafting prowess. After all, they chose him with the No. 30 overall selection in 2011.
But it should be a scary thought for anyone who follows the Bulls -- giving up a proven winner like Deng. The team endured five horrible seasons from 1999-2003, but after Deng arrived, the Bulls made the playoffs eight times in nine seasons. It's tough to lose a proven, successful player.
Why couldn't the Bulls find a way to keep him? Well, one underpublicized disaster came from the NBA's collective bargaining agreement of 2011: A clause commonly known as The Derrick Rose Rule.
This provision, written into the last CBA, allows a player to earn a maximum salary at 30 percent of the salary cap if the player is named MVP, voted an all-star starter twice, or is voted All-NBA twice during his first four seasons in the league.
Otherwise, a fourth-year player coming off a rookie scale contract would be eligible for a salary worth 25 percent of the salary cap.
So thanks to this rule, and Rose winning MVP in 2011, he was able to sign a five-year deal worth $94.3 million, which lasts until 2017.
If not for the new rule, Rose's extension would have been worth $78.6 million over five years. He'd be making $15.7 million next season instead of $18.8 million.
Now, raise your hand if it's clicked in how this rule helped tear the Bulls apart. If Rose was winning MVP every year (or at least finishing in the top 5), the Bulls would be in good shape. Unfortunately, he's become a full-time knee-rehabber.
The Bulls weren't the only team hurt by this rule. Oklahoma City convinced the league that it was owed a rebate on Kevin Durant's super-max contract, because he signed it before the new CBA was ratified. The Thunder still has two huge salaries with Durant and Russell Westbrook and maybe could have found a way to keep James Harden, without the rule change.
So Deng rejected the Bulls' extension offers at $10 million per season. If not for the burden of that huge Rose contact, maybe the Bulls would have offered more.
As it stands, with Deng off the books and Carlos Boozer headed for amnesty this summer (if he's not traded first), the Bulls can create roughly $8 or $9 million in cap space next summer -- more if they unload Mike Dunleavy's $3 million deal.
That's not enough to make a run at a maximum-salaried player without unloading another contract. And the majority of their cap space will go toward bringing Nikola Mirotic over from Real Madrid.
A realistic view of the Bulls moving forward would be a nucleus of Rose, Butler, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Tony Snell and Mirotic. They'd be able to sign a couple of low-cost players to build some depth and take better advantage of the NBA's trend toward 3-point shooting. Then with their own draft picks and pending arrivals from Charlotte and Sacramento, they might have enough assets to trade for another scorer. Or maybe Mirotic will turn out to be the second scorer they've sought.
With Deng gone, the Bulls' 2010 blueprint is officially over. Rose's injuries spoiled projected playoff pushes, but as it turned out, having four high-salaried players (Rose, Deng, Boozer and Noah) just didn't work and ended up purging helpful players from the roster, like Omer Asik, Kyle Korver and now Deng.
The good news for the Bulls is they're getting a nice return from relative bargains like Gibson and Butler.
Say what you want about Miami's Power Trio. Those guys didn't take a big hit, but did accept slightly less salary to play together. That didn't happen here and this is the outcome.