Pax says the trade talk is over for now. It's certainly nice that the season can begin.
But this past week has taught us some things about how Pax views his team. Clearly he did pursue Kobe Bryant, so to say he's content with this squad isn't accurate, and shouldn't be. While I have high hopes for them this season, they're not at a championship caliber yet, so there's no reason not to explore options that get you to that place. And I believe that adding Bryant as a supplement to what we have is a great way to do that.
But it's harder than Jay Mariotti thinks (as is a can opener, I'd imagine). Pax has said that despite reports, there's no untouchable on this team. Just because Luol Deng was reportedly off the table on most trade offers doesn't mean he thinks Luol is of equal value as a player to Kobe. It's because since the Bulls have no giant cap-filler contracts, any deal including Luol by definition has more value tied into it. Whether that means Thomas, Noah, or Thabo, combining those prospects, filler, and Luol Deng is too much value. That's not the same as saying Deng is untouchable.
The most clear evidence that he (and Ben Gordon) aren't safe is the lack of a contract extension. I speculated a few days ago that the Kobe rumors would possibly be used as leverage to get Gordon and Deng to sign what the Bulls had offered, and according to Gordon the Bulls didn't budge off that offer. And unless it was for that discounted rate, it's a benefit to keep them unsigned into restricted free agency. Signing now tremendously hampers what the Bulls can do in offering them for Bryant, and the sign/trade possibilities become much more viable when they're at restricted free agency.
But the biggest benefit is that the organization gets yet another year of evaluation. I tried to emphasize after opening night that one game means nothing. However, 20 games could. And while I can see some indications of possible improvements from the team, we'll know a lot more through the season if anything's different than in years past. More information means a better decision, either that they're both definite keepers on a championship-contending core, or trade bait.
And if being the subject of trade rumors really bothers them that much, then they should've taken the contract extension. Not only to be less tradeable for a couple years, but because if they're really that vulnerable (and I doubt they are, so don't shed a tear for their 'distractions'), it isn't very encouraging. I don't think it was quite necessary for Pax to stop trade talks just to make Deng and Gordon (and the whole team for that matter, since they've all been mentioned) feel better.
The likely real reason Pax cut off the talks for now is the more practical one: no deal to be made. However, in December when free agent signings become tradeable, you can add Nocioni, Joe Smith, or dozens of other players from other teams in multi-team scenarios. The options are then reassessed and Pax has even more evidence to trade for Bryant, or not.
There's no need to trade for Bryant only to need another move afterwards. This team is not only close, it'll be that way for several years to come. So they're one move away for that whole duration, until they make the move. So if it's this big, it better be good. A quality trade for Bryant now doesn't seem possible due to their team salary structure. But as we head into December, the trade deadline, and next offseason, it may be. And the rumors will keep flowing.
And if the thought of more rumor avalanches didn't make you feel bad enough, enjoy this nightmare fuel.