All was quiet on the Tom Thibodeau front Saturday, and it likely will stay that way for a while as the Bulls look for the best way to sever ties with their coach.
Not that Thibodeau is going to be an active participant in making a divorce easy. Considering he has two years and $9 million left on his contract, he shouldn’t.
‘‘Until they tell me I’m not, I expect to be here,’’ Thibodeau said after the Bulls’ playoff run came to an end Thursday against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. ‘‘That’s the way I approach it.’’
Don’t expect that to change, either.
Thibodeau would have a veteran team coming back (likely without free agent-to-be Mike Dunleavy), still would be coaching in the weaker Eastern Conference and would have Derrick Rose at full strength next season.
While Thibodeau has little respect for the way vice president of basketball operations John Paxson tried to undermine his strengths as a coach this season, it still would be a workable situation for him.
The Bulls, though, seem to feel much differently. But knowing that Thibodeau has value, they aren’t just going to fire him, which basically would make him a free agent.
That’s why the process might be drawn-out. The Bulls will have to gauge other teams’ interest in Thibodeau, see what they could get in return and try to get a commitment from another
coach out there, whether it’s Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg or someone else.
The Bulls played 19 games without Dunleavy this season and found out how important he was, going 9-10 during the time he was injured. So re-signing him would seem to be a no-brainer, right?
Well, there’s a problem. Restricted free agent-to-be Jimmy Butler likely will get a max offer that will start at $15.8 million next season. The Bulls have said they will match any offer, but such a deal would put their payroll just shy of $80 million, with the luxury-tax line near $81.6 million.
‘‘It’s a great group of guys, a great organization, and I would love to be back,’’ Dunleavy said last week.
The problem is, the Bulls can’t afford him as things stand now. That means they either will let Dunleavy walk and hope first-round pick Doug McDermott makes huge improvements this summer or look to trade Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah this offseason.
Gibson is no stranger to trade talk, and Noah will be entering the final year of his contract. The problem with trying to trade Noah is that there would be concern about his injured left knee.
Brooks was here
Guard Aaron Brooks is another free agent-to-be, and all indications are that the Bulls won’t re-sign him. Brooks averaged only 4.5 points in the playoffs after averaging 12 points during the regular season, and he often was a liability on defense.
BULLS 2015-16 CONTRACT STATUS
F Cameron Bairstow
C/F Pau Gasol
F Taj Gibson
F Doug McDermott
F Nikola Mirotic
G E’Twaun Moore
C/F Joakim Noah
G Derrick Rose
G/F Tony Snell
G Kirk Hinrich
G Aaron Brooks
G/F Jimmy Butler (restricted)
G/F Mike Dunleavy
C Nazr Mohammed