The Chicago Bulls’ future was cloudy entering the postseason. Now, after jumping out to a surprise 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics, it’s even murkier.
Or maybe it’s just uncomfortably clear.
It was safe to assume the Bulls would take a stick of dynamite to this core over the summer. The combination of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler hasn’t, for the most part, worked out, and the Bulls appeared to be tilting toward a rebuild when they flipped Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for Cameron Payne.
Granted, part of the reset was and remains out of their control. Wade owns a $23.8 million player option for next season, money he isn’t getting anywhere else; he’d be lucky to recoup that much coin over a two-year deal. But if the Bulls made it clear they were going in another direction, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that Wade would opt out and chase titles elsewhere. Throw in the fact that just $3 million of Rondo’s salary next season is guaranteed, and the Bulls, it seemed, had a clear path to a ton of cap space and the rebuild they’ve been skirting for much too long.
That’s all changed now. Will they really rebuild after playing a competitive series with the Celtics? When Wade, Butler and Rondo are starting to jell together?
Rondo, for his part, hopes not.
From The Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson:
For the first time, Rajon Rondo answered affirmatively — and without hesitation — when asked Tuesday if he hopes the Bulls pick up a team option for him to return next season.
“Yeah, I like where I’m at. I think we have a really good team,” Rondo said. “We made a big trade halfway through the season. All the things this year with 45 different lineups, we still made it to the playoffs. Right now, just try to stay consistent as possible and develop some chemistry.”
To return even if Dwyane Wade opts out of the second year of his contract…
“Yes,” Rondo said. “This team was put together in a couple months with, I think, 10 new guys. It’s hard to jell that quickly, especially if guys don’t have the right mindset. Organizations have to give guys a little bit of time to grow and learn each other.
Brace yourselves, Bulls fans. This nucleus, in all likelihood, isn’t going anywhere. Wade was always going to be hard-pressed to turn down $23.8 million, and the latest run of competence gives Chicago ample incentive to try out this trio for another season.