Yahoo! NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski reports today that Bulls forward Luol Deng says he will end contract talks with the Bulls in two weeks if nothing is agreed to before Deng leaves to play in the Olympics.
Deng is determined to come to terms on a long-term contract, but he has set an Aug. 4 deadline to reach an agreement. Once Deng, 23, leaves the country for the European Championship qualifying tournament, he will [sic] sign a one-year qualifying offer for $4.5 million and become an unrestricted free agent in 2009.
The message to the Bulls promises to be implicit: Unless the two sides come to terms soon, Deng will never again negotiate with them. He will not let the uncertainty over his future hang over another basketball season, and unless a sign-and-trade is worked out, Deng will play out his final season in 2008-09 and sign elsewhere next summer.
When reached on Sunday, Deng’s agent, Jason Levien, would only say, “We continue to talk to the Bulls and remain hopeful that something can be accomplished.”
From what I've seen and heard from Luol in the past, he is not the type of guy to just casually threaten his employer. He has been very up front with Bulls management last season despite the lack of an extension and remains one of the core players from their original youth movement.
To lose Deng in a year for nothing in return would be one of John Paxson's worst failures as GM of the Bulls, and basically a terminable offense. Unless Jerry Reinsdorf is in full control of the situation, and it appears he is not, the Bulls need to come up with a contract that satisfies Deng and keeps the Bulls in the hunt for the 2010 free agency bonanza.
I think Deng is much more valuable than Ben Gordon, who also is in his own fight for the $$, and may very well be crafting his own 2-week ultimatum as I'm typing this. Deng has shown he can ball with the best, even during the playoffs (17.7/ 7.3/ 1.7), and shouldn't be regarded as just another hired hand that the Bulls can bully into agreeing to a less than fair deal.
We'll see today if the Bulls come back with a statement on Deng's posturing but they are officially on the clock and in a situation where Deng has the majority of the leverage.