In roughly chronological order, what happened is:
- Bulls and Lauri fail to agree on an extension. Neither side is thrilled with each other, and likely has been for a while. Perhaps Lauri says to himself, "shit, I'd actually take less to go somewhere else". If my downside is pretty much the same kind of money, I'd rather be somewhere else.
- Bulls blow up the team at the deadline and it further cement's Lauri's lack of future here. Lauri knows it. The Bulls know it. Everyone says they're amenable to working out a sign and trade.
- The Bulls are busy tampering with Ball and Derozan, and the Spurs have signaled that they had interest in Lauri. So far, everything's good. Everyone's on track to a nice, cordial sign and trade where everyone wins and gets something they want.
- Here's where I'll start speculating, but it's speculation based on knowing the trade rules. What happened is, Derozan had agreed on a number with the Bulls. That number turned out to be $28M. To accomplish that in a sign and trade, Lauri's new contract needed to be... what? Who in the audience knows the answer to this question?
The answer is $22.3M! Yeah. Holy shit! That's a lot!
Why is it so much? Because based on the trade rules, they need to pay that much to generate enough "outgoing salary" to bring back Derozan at his asking price.
- It's easy to see why Lauri would go for this, and obviously DDR is making a mountain more than he would anywhere else. So the Bulls are being super "player friendly" here, and have probably tampered their way into an equitable arrangement for everyone. They told Lauri... "hey man, we'll work with you". They told DDR "hey man, you're a star. You want to be paid like it and we have the tools to make it happen. Lauri's on line two with his agent and we got this all worked out." <b>In short, I think it likely the Bulls had a hand in Lauri's "unreasonably high asking price". They had to have known, because they know the trade rules and thus they knew the number Lauri had to get to make Demar's number work.</b>
- Problem is, this is probably the point at which they called up Popovich to formalize everything and he fucking laughed at them and hung up the phone. Maybe he said, "hey man, I'll work with you guys. We had some interest in Lauri, and we're happy to see DeMar go get another payday. But you're asking us to pay another $10-20M just to give him a parting gift! Fuck that! Bye."
- So now, the Bulls have to scramble to keep their promise to DDR, and Pop extracts an actual better player who the Bulls didn't want to trade (Thad) as well as a first and two seconds. The Bulls do this because it would be a massive loss of face and standing with agents and players around the league to back out and screw over Derozan after he's agreed to come.
- It's also a very straightforward explanation for Lauri's behavior. He was sitting there thinking the Bulls had this shit all figured out. Then they suddenly say, "Lauri, you trusted us. You done goofed up!".
- Don't feel too bad for him, because he didn't merit the kind of money he would have gotten. It would have just been a team doing it to "grease the wheels" like many NBA teams do. Unfortunately, the Spurs are not one of those teams. So he doesn't get a windfall, and now he's looking for another deal in a market that's dried up.
Obviously there's no proof that this is what happened, but it's a straightforward explanation of both Lauri's high salary demand, the inexplicably huge sum of money that we gave DeMar, and the inexplicably huge amount of draft and player capital we gave up to the Spurs to make it happen.
And... if this is what happened, it was some really, really, bad GMing. Kind of like being dumb enough to get in trouble for tampering in a league where tampering is tacitly accepted.